Governor’s appointments confirmed: The Missouri Senate continued to make quick work of confirming Gov. Eric Greitens’ Cabinet picks.
This week, Randall Williams received Senate approval as the new director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
Williams, an obstetrician and gynecologist, previously served as North Carolina’s public health director. Last year, a state toxicologist accused Williams in a sworn deposition of telling residents living near coal ash pits that contaminated well water was safe to drink.
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Coal ash is the waste material left after coal is burned. It contains arsenic, mercury, lead and more than a dozen other heavy metals.
Questioned about the incident during his confirmation hearing, Williams said he decided to overrule a previous state decision about the drinking water because he thought the standard that was used was too high. North Carolina, he noted, is now changing those standards.
‘Tell him to kiss my ass’: The Missouri House approved legislation this week aimed at stopping out-of-state plaintiffs from bringing lawsuits in Missouri in an attempt to get more favorable rulings.
The bill limits plaintiffs’ ability to combine lawsuits and requires them to individually establish the county or district where a case is held.
Critics say this will make it difficult, or in some cases impossible, for those defrauded by a business to join together to bring a lawsuit.
State Rep. Mark Ellebracht, a Liberty Democrat, argued that the bill is another attempt by Republicans to help a major donor whose company is facing a class-action lawsuit.
Joplin businessman David Humphreys is the owner of TAMKO Building Products Inc. and a major campaign contributor to Missouri Republicans. His company faces a class-action lawsuit alleging it sold shoddy shingles.
Ellebractht said the legislation looks like “pay to play politics.”
Asked by The Associated Press to respond to Ellebracht’s comments, Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, a Joplin Republican, said, “Tell him to kiss my ass.”
Actor lobbies the Legislature: Ed Asner, famous for his role on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” is making an effort to sway lawmakers to vote against a bill that could help bring greyhound dog racing back to the Kansas City area.
Asner, an 87-year-old native of Kansas City, Kan., has penned a letter to state lawmakers with the help of The Humane Society of the United States.
“Greyhound racing is a dying industry not only because of its cruel nature, but its economic failure throughout the country, and is illegal in 40 states,” Asner wrote. “I implore you to oppose HB 2173 and do everything in your power to keep greyhound racing out of The Sunflower State.”
The House bill could help reopen shuttered racetracks like The Woodlands in Kansas City, Kan., by boosting the amount of money locations would get from slot machines.
Legislature like March Madness? To one Senate Republican, the work in the Kansas Senate may be akin to March Madness and the annual NCAA basketball tournament.
Sen. Caryn Tyson, a Parker Republican and chairwoman of the tax committee, compared the Kansas Legislature’s struggles to the nationwide sporting event just before lawmakers voted down Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax plan this week.
“Athletes, like legislators, must prepare for the negative, the unfair whistle, the intentional foul, the missed shot, the angry coach or the poor sportsmanship,” Tyson said.
Lawmakers were vocal this week about their frustrations with Republican leaders over progress on new tax and budget plans.
“Even with these obstacles, for the love of the game, we continue to play basketball,” Tyson said. “And for the love of this state, we continue to work on legislation to protect our liberty and our freedoms, and that includes working on tax bills.”
Wagle vs. Brownback: Brownback and Senate President Susan Wagle continued to criticize each other as lawmakers struggle to find a tax plan that would either please the governor or carry enough votes to overcome his veto.
The two Republican leaders have frequently been at odds this session over tax policy and how to solve a roughly $280 million shortfall this year.
The two are clashing at a time when Brownback reportedly is talking to the Trump administration about a new job.
Brownback’s office criticized Wagle by name this week on Twitter for asking him to make budget cuts.
“We have been unified in asking him to help us, because this is a very heavy lift to put on a very new Legislature,” said Wagle, a Wichita Republican. “... I’m very surprised when I continue to be named as the sole person requesting the governor to engage and work with us and make the necessary cuts that we need to balance the budget in this shortfall.”
Some conservative Senate Republicans have been critical of their Senate leadership in recent days after the chamber killed Brownback’s new tax plan on a 37-1 vote.