HOUSE APPROVES BILL ON REPLACING STATEWIDE OFFICIALS
The Missouri House of Representatives on Jan. 23 voted 115-45 in favor of legislation that would modify how vacancies in statewide elected offices are filled. The bill, HB 110, now goes to the Senate for further debate. The bill contains an emergency clause so that if it clears both chambers and is signed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, it would become law immediately instead of Aug. 28, as is usually the case with most legislation.
At present, the governor appoints someone to serve out the term when a vacancy arises in the office of lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor or attorney general. Under HB 110, the governor could still fill a statewide vacancy via appointment, but the appointee would only serve until the next general election in the event that more than two years remain on the original term, at which point a special election would be held to select someone to serve the remainder of the term. If less than two years remain on the original term, the appointee would serve out the term. The bill would prohibit an appointed officeholder from running for the post at the next election.
Republicans are moving quickly on the bill due to the possibility that Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder might resign later this year. Kinder is one of several Republicans seeking his party’s nomination to run in a June 4 special election in Missouri’s 8th Congressional District. The seat became open on Jan. 22 when U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, resigned to become president and chief executive officer of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Emerson had announced her intention to leave Congress in December, just a month after winning re-election. The local Republican and Democratic committees for the 8th District will select candidates for the special election in the coming days.
NIXON PICKS EX-JUDGE FOR UM BOARD OF CURATORS
Gov. Jay Nixon on Jan. 17 nominated former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ann Covington for the University of Missouri Board of Curators, the governing authority of the four-campus University of Missouri System. Covington, a Republican, is the third person Nixon has nominated for the board in recent weeks, the others being attorneys John Phillips of Kansas City and Michael Ponder of Cape Girardeau, both Democrats. All three nominees face Senate confirmation.
Covington, a 1977 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Law, became the first woman on the Missouri Supreme court when Republican Gov. John Ashcroft appointed her to the bench in 1989. Covington retired from the court in 2001 to return to private practice.
APPEALS COURT QUESTIONS CONSTITUTIONALITY OF SIF CAP
A panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District on Jan. 22 ruled 2-1 that a lower court had no authority to order the state to pay an outstanding claim against Missouri’s insolvent Second Injury Fund. But the court also expressed concerns about the constitutionality of a 2005 state law that has caused the fund to go broke and unanimously ordered the case transferred to the state Supreme Court.
The SIF encourages employers to hire previously injured workers by providing an exclusive legal remedy should a worker suffer a subsequent job-related injury, thus protecting employers from individual liability. The SIF is financed by a surcharge on workers’ compensation insurance premiums paid by employers. Although the surcharge traditionally had fluctuated based on liabilities against the fund, the Republican-controlled General Assembly capped the surcharge at 3 percent in 2005. As a result, the fund in recent years has had insufficient revenue to cover all claims.
Because of the shortfall, the state stopped paying new SIF awards in 2011. A lawsuit was filed on behalf of injured workers seeking to compel the state to pay the benefits due to them. Although Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce ordered the state to pay up, the appeals court reversed that ruling, saying that the state can’t be required to spend money it doesn’t have.
However, the majority opinion written by appellate Judge Cynthia Martin questioned the validity of the surcharge cap since it has made it impossible for injured workers to collect from the SIF, while state law leaves them with no other legal remedies. “We express reservations, but no opinion, as to the constitutionality of the General Assembly’s cap on the Surcharge given the General Assembly’s mandate that an injured employee’s ability to recover for the preexisting portion of the second injuries is restricted to the SIF,” Martin wrote.
But Martin further said that the constitutionality of the cap was a question for the Supreme Court, not the Court of Appeals. The case is Raymond Skirvin v. State Treasurer.
Category: Weekly Capitol Update