Year in Brief: Greitens pushes business agenda, meets some resistance in first year

Eric Greitens entered the Missouri Governor’s Mansion hailing himself a business-friendly political outsider, and he established attracting businesses and creating jobs as top priorities, while also pledging to reduce the influence of lobbyists and special interests in Jefferson City.

With the backing of GOP supermajorities in the Missouri House and Senate, the rookie Republican governor was quick to sign some of his party’s business-friendly priority bills into law. But he encountered opposition on other fronts and will have to try again to pass some legislation in his second year.

The Year in Brief looks at the business stories that were most important to Missouri in 2017, and that will continue to shape the state in 2018 and beyond.

One month into his tenure, Greitens signed a so-called right-to-work law, banning the mandatory collection of union fees and dues in unionized workplaces. The law, one of multiple wage- and labor-focused measures Greitens approved in 2017, was stalled by an initiative petition and will be put to voters in 2018. He also approved measures reducing liability for businesses, raising the standard for workplace discrimination suits and establishing statewide regulation of ride-hailing companies.

Greitens approved a budget that kept tax rates steady but cut higher-education funding and assistance for the disabled and elderly. He set his sights on the tax code, creating a committee to investigate tax credits and ultimately doing away with some tax credits, including one to incentivize investment in low-income housing.

That committee was one of several he launched, often in pursuit of business-focused goals. Others included a task force to spur innovation and a new website to help Missourians “aggressively cut red tape.”

He took his pro-business message to national and international audiences, making multiple trips to Washington, where he met with President Donald Trump, and speaking at a Koch network event in Colorado. He also led trade missions to Europe, Israel and Southeast Asia.

Greitens governed in a manner that was at times deemed unconventional or unprecedented. He created the position of chief operating officer for the state and assigned Drew Erdmann, a former McKinsey consultant, to the post. He showed a preference for communicating via social media, favoring filmed Facebook announcements over meetings with the media. He called lawmakers back to Jefferson City for pair of special sessions — the first to change utility regulation, the second to address abortion issues — and rankled some by doing so.

The governor also drew scrutiny for his handling of state boards, most notably Missouri’s education board, which ousted the state’s education chief, Margie Vandeven.

As the year ended, an investigation began into the administration’s use of a disappearing messaging app, which raised transparency concerns among some observers.

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