Will Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens make good on his promise to clean up state government? We should know by early next year.
Greitens’ deputy chief of staff, Caleb Jones, recently resigned his position to take a job with the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, an industry group.
Jones is well known in Missouri government, having served in the legislature. But he cannot lobby the governor or anyone in the office without violating the terms of a Greitens order barring ex-employees from lobbying the executive branch.
Greitens signed the order shortly after taking office. It was meant as a signal that the governor would stop the “revolving door” of public employees cashing in on their relationships in Jefferson City.
Caleb Jones is the first test case.
The cooperatives association is deeply involved in a debate over something called “net metering.” In its simplest terms, Missourians who use solar, wind or water power in their homes or small business can now sell excess power back to their electric company.
Net metering is popular with environmentalists, many homeowners and companies that produce green power devices such as solar panels. For good reason: Net metering gives customers a financial incentive to use non-polluting, renewable power.
Some electric utilities, on the other hand, claim alternative power users aren’t paying their fair share to maintain the entire electric grid.
The Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives is one such group. This spring, it lobbied for a bill allowing some power companies to charge a “monthly grid usage fee” for customers who generate their own electricity.
The bill failed, but it will almost certainly return in the 2018 session, now just a few months away.
It will be easy for Jones to abide by the letter of Greitens’ order. He can declare he won’t lobby the executive branch.
But actions speak louder than government forms. The green-energy debate will be the test. If Greitens proposes or supports a grid usage fee, the belief that Jones played a behind-the-scenes role will be widespread, no matter what the documents say.
And voters will know it’s business as usual in Jefferson City.
If, on the other hand, the governor endorses alternative, renewable power and promises to veto additional charges for grid users, it will be strong evidence that Greitens’ promise to end improper influence peddling is sincere.
That would also make Missouri a healthier, greener state. We hope the governor delivers on both counts.