Legislation filed by an area lawmaker that seeks to clarify how vacancies in statewide offices are to be filled was approved by the Missouri House of Representatives, but not before it was amended.
House Bill 110, sponsored by Speaker Pro Tem Jason Smith (R-Salem), passed out of the House Wednesday by a bipartisan vote of 115-45. The legislation was given initial approval Tuesday on a voice vote.
The piece of legislation now moves to the Missouri Senate for consideration.
“After five years of working to provide openness and accountability to the process for filling our statewide vacancies, I’m excited to take an important step closer to making these special elections a reality,” said Smith.
“All too often governors across the country have used their appointment powers to entrench individuals as permanent state officers – ‘public’ servants who have never stood before the people of the state they represent and asked for their vote,” he said.
Added to Smith’s bill during the perfection process were several amendments to streamline elections and reduce costs to the state of Missouri.
One of the amendments added to the elections bill requires that special elections to fill vacancies in the state legislature be held within six months of the seat coming open.
Another amendment would move back Missouri’s presidential primary from February to March, as well as lower the threshold at which election returns would trigger an automatic recount.
Both changes lower costs and bring Missouri’s recount procedures in line with modern practices and technology.
“I think everyone can agree that the ‘non-binding’ presidential primary Missouri held last February was $7 million that could have been better spent,” said Smith. “The hard-earned tax dollars of Missourians were used to put on what news outlets termed a ‘beauty contest’ because Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a bill in 2011 that would have moved the primary back a month. When our February primary was deemed to be too early to count, our state parties were forced to use a caucus process.”
The senate bill (SB 282 in 2011) that contained the fix for Missouri’s presidential primaries also contained Smith’s language to require special elections for statewide vacancies.
At the time of his veto, Nixon claimed that he disapproved of the special elections measure because of the associated $7 million cost of running special elections.
HB 110 is written this year to have no fiscal note, so the governor’s cost concerns should be alleviated, according to Smith.