Legislation would change process of filling vacancy in state office

Incoming House Speaker Pro Tem Jason Smith (R-Salem) Thursday filed legislation designed to bring what he feels is an additional level of fairness to the process for filling a vacancy in a state wide office.

Smith has filed similar legislation in each of the last several sessions to require special elections to fill vacancies in the offices of lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state auditor, state treasurer and U.S. senator.

He said he believes the veto proof majorities in the House and Senate give the bill its best chance yet to become law.

“This is a common sense reform that addresses an issue we’ve seen in other states where vacant seats have been sold to the highest bidder,” said Smith. “It’s a measure the legislature approved two years ago but was vetoed by the governor. My hope is we will see a level of support this year that will propel this much-needed change into law.

“Power should be derived from people,” Smith added.

“We’re moving forward on this legislation because Missouri voters should have the opportunity to choose a leader who represents their best interest, not a leader chosen by the governor.”

Smith’s legislation, which is House Bill 110, would allow the governor to appoint a temporary officeholder to fill a vacancy until a special election is called. Currently, the governor is charged with permanently filling a vacant position.

Smith’s bill also would not allow a temporary officeholder to run for the office when a special election is called.

In addition, House Bill 110 would require the governor to call a special election to fill a statewide vacancy at the same time as a scheduled general election. Smith said the change would prevent any additional cost from being passed on to Missouri taxpayers.

“We want the people to have a voice in the process and we want a system for filling vacancies that is fair,” said Smith. “My bill provides a common sense solution to a problem that could very easily arise here if we don’t act.”