Nixon Renews Long Term Goals in Last State of State Sppech
January 21, 2016

(AP) – Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon made another push Wednesday night to tighten Missouri’s ethics laws, delivering his final State of the State speech to a Republican-led Legislature under heightened scrutiny following scandals that prompted the resignations of two lawmakers.

Nixon, who leaves office in January 2017 because of term limits, cited big checks to candidates from donors and lobbyist gifts as giving the perception of undue influence on public officials, and he criticized the current policy that allows lawmakers to hire each other as political consultants.

His speech Wednesday night echoed parts of his first address to lawmakers after assuming office in 2009, when he implored the Legislature to “pass a real campaign finance reform bill.” He has called for some kind of ethics revamp in every State of the State since.

“Missouri’s ethics laws are a disgrace, the weakest in the nation,” Nixon said. He went on to say Missouri needs to “clean up its act.”

Missouri is unique as the only state with the trio of unlimited campaign contributions, uncapped lobbyist gifts to lawmakers and a revolving door that allows lawmakers to immediately become lobbyists after leaving office.

The previous House speaker, Republican John Diehl, stepped down on the last day of the 2015 session after admitting to exchanging sexually suggestive texts with a Capitol intern. Former Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence, resigned months later amid allegations that he sexually harassed interns. He denied those claims.

While proposals are moving forward to ban gifts and close the revolving door of lawmakers becoming lobbyists, measures on contribution limits have not yet received a hearing and appear unlikely to pass. Legislative leaders have not cited curbing campaign donations among their top priorities this session.

Still, the fast pace of the proposals that have advanced could mean Nixon, after years of calls for action, will finally sign legislation to change state ethics laws.

Support from Republican House and Senate leaders, who have similarly said ethics is a top priority this session, is meaningful in a political atmosphere in which Nixon and lawmakers at times are at odds.

For example, Nixon and House Speaker Todd Richardson, who was to give the Republican response to the governor’s speech, clashed on several points during their addresses.

Where Nixon called again to expand eligibility for Medicaid health care, Richardson criticized spending on the program and promised to pass a law “requiring state agencies to fact check applicants” for Medicaid. Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, later criticized the proposed increase in spending in Nixon’s budget plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1, particularly what Schaefer called “the astronomical growth in welfare spending.”

When some House Democrats stood and applauded Nixon’s calls to bar discrimination against LGBT people, Republicans sat silent. Republican Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard after the speech said such legislation doesn’t have a chance of passing the Senate.

And while both Richardson and Nixon cited finding a way to pay for repairs to the state’s aging roads and bridges as a priority, the two had different ideas on how to accomplish that.

Richardson, according to a copy of his remarks distributed to news organizations before delivery, also more broadly criticized Nixon for what he called lack of leadership.

“Each January he comes to the General Assembly and promises to meaningfully engage on the challenges facing Missouri,” Richardson said. “With few exceptions, he has failed to deliver on that promise.”

Nixon to Lead Biofuels Coalition
January 8, 2016

Missouri Govenor Jay Nixon has been named the 2016 Chairman of the Governor’s Biofuels Coalition.

“For more than 20 years, the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition has worked in a bipartisan way to strengthen American energy independence and create jobs in rural communities,” Nixon said in a news release.

The Coalition says it’s a bipartisan group made of 33 states.

Nixon’s office says the Coalition works to “increase the use of ethanol based fuels, decrease the nation’s dependence on imported energy resources, improve the environment and stimulate the national economy.”

Nebraska Governor Pete Rickertts will serve as vice chairman.

Former Missouri Governors Mel Carnahan and Bob Holden also held the post.

Order, Ethics & Transportation May Carry Missouri Session
January 6, 2016

(AP) – Missouri lawmakers opened the 2016 session under new leadership Wednesday and saw a relatively quiet start after a tumultuous end to last year’s session.

House Speaker Todd Richardson, who took the helm after John Diehl admitted to exchanging sexually suggestive texts with an intern and resigned on the last day of the 2015 session, said changes to the Legislature’s ethics policies are a top priority.

Nixon and legislative leaders of both parties have said ethics changes and a way to pay for repairs to the state’s aging roads and bridges are needed this year. Both issues have been discussed for years in the Legislature with little success.

“This institution should not and will not be defined by the actions of a few,” said Richardson, a Poplar Bluff Republican. He added that while there is no rule or law “that can make our imperfect process perfect, we can, and we must, work to improve the environment in the people’s Capitol.”

After Diehl resigned, former Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence, left office in August amid claims that he sexually harassed interns, which he denied.

Proposed changes to ethics policies include banning lobbyist gifts to lawmakers and not allowing lawmakers to immediately become lobbyists after leaving public office. Measures to cap campaign contribution limits appear less likely to pass.

The Senate also is under new Republican leadership. Sen. Ron Richard, of Joplin, took over after former Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey resigned in August to work at a St. Louis-based lobbying firm, although he does not lobby in Missouri.

Richard is the first president pro tem to also have previously been House speaker. He said little in the chamber on the first day of session, adding that he’d leave that up to his colleagues. “Let’s get to work,” Richard said

Nixon Not Concerned About Muslim Backlash
December 4, 2015

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon does not think the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and California will trigger a back lash toward Muslims.

“I’m not overly concerned. I think as we move forward, there is a lot of great diversity that will continue,” Nixon said in Kansas City on Friday.

The Governor also said he did not think the mass shooting in California and Colorado Springs would lead to any changes in Missouri’s gun laws.

“I don’t think you’re going to see any changes in the gun laws of Missouri. I don’t think we’ll be on the cutting edge anything in that area,” he said.

Several bills have been pre-filed for the 2016 legislative session dealing with concealed weapons in Missouri.

No bills have been filed yet that directly deal with terrorism.

Earlier this week, a joint session of the Senate and House Budget committees did have a hearing on whether or not Missouri should accept any more Syrian refugees.

It is likely there may be a bill or two filed dealing with that.

On Friday, the state of Texas sued the Obama administration over the refugee issue.

Nixon Promotes–But Does Not Require Equal Pay for Equal Work
December 4, 2015

AP) – Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has ordered state agencies to identify any gender wage gaps and take action to ensure women are paid the same as men for the same work.

Nixon spoke Friday at the Women’s Foundation annual luncheon in Kansas City. He said a bill establishing best practices to address the wage gap received some bipartisan support at the committee level last session but didn’t get to his desk.

The Women’s Foundation and Institute of Public Policy at the University of Missouri have developed a preliminary set of recommendations for employers in the public and private sectors.

Nixon’s order directs state agencies determine how those recommendations can be used to address pay gaps. He said he strongly encourages private companies to use the guidelines to examine their own practices.