Bill seeks limits on acting department directors

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Openings for the top job at Missouri state agencies no longer could mean an extended reign by a temporary leader under legislation proposed in the state Senate.

Permanent department directors chosen by the governor require state Senate confirmation while acting leaders do not. Sen. Bob Dixon said legislative approval of the officials running state departments is an important check on executive power.

"They need to be confirmed by the Senate. They need to be brought forward, they need to go through the background check, go through the confirmation process and be fully vetted by the Missouri Senate," said Dixon, R-Springfield.

Under Dixon's legislation, department directors would file a designation with the governor and the Legislature naming a deputy director who has the authority to exercise the director's powers during a vacancy. Acting directors could serve for 120 days.

Missouri governors select the director for nearly a dozen departments. Two agencies now are led by acting officials after Gov. Jay Nixon this past week announced he was elevating two other acting directors to permanent positions that require Senate confirmation. The announcement included one department leader who has been acting director since December 2012. That leaves the Revenue and Social Services departments as the agencies without a permanent director.

John Mollenkamp has been acting revenue director since this past April's resignation of the department's director amid controversy over the handling of documents for concealed gun permits and driver's licenses. Brian Kinkade has been acting social services director this past May, which is the second time he has held that position for Nixon.

Nixon said finding the right person for a top post sometimes takes time and that governors need the authority to decide who will hold a Cabinet-level job. He said there is a process to be sure an acting director understands his or her responsibilities and that the person is the right leader.

"We should have the prerogative to put the folks that we trust, that we feel have significant knowledge in those areas, in those positions," Nixon said. "And sometimes that takes longer than others."

In addition to dealing with department directors, the Senate legislation would require governors within 30 days set a special election date to fill openings in the Legislature and would change the process for filling openings in several statewide elected offices.

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Associated Press writer David A. Lieb contributed to this report.

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Department directors is SB507

Online:

Legislature: http://www.moga.mo.gov

Nixon: http://www.gov.mo.gov

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