Mo. panel approves bill for filling vacancies

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri House committee endorsed legislation Tuesday that would establish new procedures for filling vacancies in statewide elected offices.

Under the bill, governors could appoint an acting officeholder to serve as lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, auditor or U.S. senator. The office then would appear on the ballot during the next general election.

The measure passed the House Elections Committee with one dissenting Democratic vote.

House Speaker Pro Tem Jason Smith, who has sponsored similar legislation previously, said his bill also restricts appointed officeholders from immediately running for that position to mitigate the advantages of incumbency.

Missouri law currently allows governors to appoint for unfilled terms as secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, auditor or U.S. senator. But opinions differ about replacing the lieutenant governor.

Gov. Jay Nixon says he has the authority to select a replacement and has highlighted two examples from the past several decades when a lieutenant governor was appointed. Republican legislative leaders contend the governor cannot appoint the lieutenant governor.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder is seeking the Republican nomination to replace U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, who is leaving Congress next month. Kinder just started his third term.

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