Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens signed four new laws and defended his recent veto of a bill to create an arts campus in Kansas City during a visit to the Northland on Wednesday.
Greitens, who was flanked by Republican lawmakers and workers at JPI Glass in Kansas City, signed a bill to establish four new adult high schools and signed three pieces of legislation meant to tighten restrictions on lawsuits against businesses.
“We’re doing things differently. And is that going to upset some of the insiders? Absolutely,” Greitens said about disputes with members of his own party. “I didn’t come to join the system. I came to beat that system.”
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The governor repeatedly touted his efforts to grow jobs in the state and pointed to the creation of adult high schools, a program that had success in Indiana, as a key example of that. The schools are designed for students over age 18 who don’t have high school diplomas.
“I bet almost every one of us who is here can remember an important high school teacher who helped to shape the course of our lives. And these adult high schools do the same thing. They allow opportunities for education, certification, mentorship,” Greitens said.
He said that more than half a million Missouri adults lack a high school diploma.
“That’s more than one in 10 Missouri adults, and more than half of those adults are on food stamps and supporting children. So this is going to make a difference, not just for adult learners, but also for their families,” he said.
None of the adult high schools will be in the Kansas City area. The bill states they will be established in St. Louis, Greene, Boone and Butler counties, according to the bill’s fiscal note.
Greitens railed against trial lawyers for “chasing businesses out of the state” as he signed three pieces of legislation that place new restrictions on lawsuits, including Senate Bill 31, which limits the amount of medical damages a plaintiff can seek to actual costs paid.
Jay Benson, the immediate past president of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, said the bill favors the insurance industry and limits “Missouri citizens’ constitutional right to trial by jury.”
The governor’s visit to Kansas City came a week after he vetoed a bill to provide $48 million in bonds for the construction of a new arts campus in downtown Kansas City for the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Greitens had panned the project as a “conservatory for dancers and arts students” in his veto message last week.
“I like the arts. I did lots of documentary photography when I was doing international humanitarian work,” Greitens said when asked if arts education was a priority.
“That’s a wonderful priority for UMKC to work on with private, philanthropic donors,” Greitens said about the arts campus. “I think that when we look at all of the priorities that we have in the state of Missouri — funding K-12 education, funding adult high schools, making sure that we’re taking care of the most vulnerable citizens in the state of Missouri — we have to make tough choices.”
Greitens faced criticism from lawmakers last week for his decision to veto a bill that was meant to prevent cuts to in-home care services for seniors and disabled Missourians.
Sen. Ryan Silvey, a Kansas City Republican, opined last week that the governor either misunderstood the bill or was deliberately misrepresenting the impact of the legislation that would’ve enabled the governor to tap surplus funds to pay for in-home care services.
Greitens repeated his view that the bill was unconstitutional and chastised its backers as career politicians.
“I didn’t come here to make career politicians happy. I came here to fight for the people of the state of Missouri. They elected me as a Navy SEAL, as a conservative outsider, to do things differently,” Greitens said.
Silvey said in a message Wednesday that it is a shame the governor “continues to attack ‘career politicians’ instead of taking responsibility for his own actions.”
“I don’t need a governor to make me happy, in fact, I haven’t served with a governor able to do that yet. I need a governor who will fight for our most vulnerable citizens instead of repeating talking points and fighting bogeymen,” Silvey said. “The sooner Gov. Greitens quits trying to govern by soundbite, the better off Missouri will be.”