First 100 days: Greitens makes good on right-to-work

Thursday, April 27, 2017

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri's new Republican Gov. Eric Greitens in his first 100 days in office has made good on a top campaign promise to sign a right-to-work law, although another pledge to strengthen ethics laws remains unfulfilled.

Progress has been made to advance two top priorities outlined in Greitens' campaign and State of the State address — economic development and supporting law enforcement. Retired Saint Louis University political scientist Steven Puro said that's partly because his objectives fall in line with longtime GOP goals that failed under former Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

"Even though he was running as an outsider in the Republican primary, most of the ideas he was expressing were consistent with what the mainstream Republican party wanted to do," Puro said.

Greitens also has taken action that was not foreshadowed during the first-time officeholder's campaign, including giving paid parental leave to state executive branch workers and reversing a rule that prevents religious organizations and schools from receiving grant money from the state Department of Natural Resources.

But many of his policy proposals, including all of his recommendations on ethics law changes, are languishing in the Legislature as the session's May 12 end nears. Here's where Greitens' priorities stand.

Economic Development

Lawmakers in the Republican-led Legislature have been eager for years to have an ally in the governor's office who aligns with GOP ideas on how to boost the economy and grow jobs. They clashed repeatedly with Nixon, who vetoed bills to ban mandatory union fees and efforts to make the legal climate better for businesses by limiting lawsuits.

Greitens' election meant new opportunities for bills at the top of the GOP's pro-business platform, although many still are working through the Legislature.

Greitens signed the right to work bill within a month of taking office, and in March signed a law to change the standard for vetting expert witnesses in jury trials, a move he touted as a way to boost the economy by improving the legal climate for businesses in the state.

Other labor- and lawsuit-related bills Greitens called for in his State of the State address are pending, including an end to minimum wage requirements for public construction and revamping the state's consumer protection law.


Greitens ran for office largely on promises to "end the culture of corruption" he claimed is in Jefferson City and on his first day as governor, he signed executive orders banning state employees from accepting lobbyist gifts. He also banned employees in the governor's office from lobbying the executive branch while he's in office.

But so far he's had no success in implementing broader ethics law changes. A bill to ban lobbyist gifts to lawmakers and other public officials, a goal shared by Republican House Speaker Todd Richardson, is stalled in the Senate. Proposals to amend the Missouri Constitution to enact term limits for all statewide elected officials haven't made it to the House or the Senate floors, and Greitens' idea to make officials wait a year to lobby for every year served in office also isn't gaining traction.

Greitens also has faced criticism about his ethics.

During his campaign he received close to $2 million from a mysterious political action committee. Since taking office, he released a list of sponsors for his January inauguration but won't reveal exactly how much donors gave.

A nonprofit, A New Missouri Inc., promotes the governor's agenda and can accept unlimited campaign donations without disclosing donors. Critics have suggested the nonprofit's purpose is to thwart Missouri's open records laws and campaign contribution limits.

"His obsession with hiding secret million-dollar campaign contributions that he's receiving is endangering a lot of the ethics reforms being championed in the Legislature," Missouri Democratic Party chairman Stephen Webber said.


Greitens, a former Navy SEAL officer, on the campaign trail promised to support law enforcement and later called for the state to adopt a Blue Alert System similar to Amber Alerts to notify the public when someone suspected of injuring police is on the run.

A bill to do so passed the House but hit a roadblock Thursday in the Senate.