After being pulled from her committee assignments because of a dispute with party leaders, Democratic state Rep. Penny Hubbard of St. Louis appears to have found an ally in Republican House Speaker Tim Jones.
Jones announced today that he is creating a set of special committees to replace the committees Hubbard was removed from – allowing her to effectively keep her chamber assignments, despite an ongoing spat with House Minority Leader Jake Hummel over a vote she cast this week.
“I want all members, regardless of their party, to have a voice in the process,” said Jones, R-Eureka. “Rep. Hubbard does not agree with me or my party on many issues, but that should not deny her the opportunity to serve on committees that deal with issues that are important to the people in her district.”
Jones created, and appointed Hubbard to serve on, the House Special Standing Committees on Urban Issues, Corrections and Small Business. Hubbard will chair of the Special Standing Committee on Urban Issues. Jones said he plans to treat the new special standing committees as the official committees for each of the issue areas they cover.
Hummel had pulled Hubbard, who has been in the House since 2010, from the committees following a vote on an elections bill on which she sided with Republican lawmakers.
Hummel said Jones decision to set up new committees makes a “mockery of the House rules” because the minority leader is supposed to be able to select Democrats for committees. Meanwhile, the issue can be seen as a win-win for Jones, who got the Democratic vote he needed from Hubbard and managed to protect her from caucus retaliation.
With an eye toward preventing the governor from appointing a new lieutenant governor, the GOP-controlled House passed the bill Wednesday to clarify how some elected officials would be replaced if they leave office early.
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican who just started his third term, is among about a dozen people seeking the GOP’s nomination for Missouri’s 8th Congressional District opening. The bill isn’t directly tied to the vacant Congress seat, but it is a key motivation for the legislation to be fast-tracked at the Capitol.
It’s unclear how the lieutenant governor’s office would be filled if Kinder leaves early. Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has said he has the authority to appoint someone to the post. Others argue that the seat should be filled by special election or left open.
The House-approved bill would require that openings in most statewide offices be filled through special elections. In order to become law, the bill must also be approved by the Senate and signed by the governor.
Several Democrats voted in favor of the bill, but Hubbard was the only one who voted for an “emergency clause” that adds an immediate effective date to the legislation, rather than the standard Aug. 28 date.
The emergency clause was one vote short of passage when Hubbard changed her “no” vote to a “yes.”
Hubbard said she voted with Republicans because she didn’t have a hard stance either way on the bill and a Republican who she considers a friend asked her to switch her vote.
“The moment I changed my vote Jake Hummel ran up to my seat and got to lashing me on the floor, telling me that that’s why nobody likes me – all in front of the other members on the floor,” she said. “I was shocked.”
Hummel, who is also from St. Louis, said Wednesday’s vote wasn't the sole motivation for pulling her committee assignments. Past issues have included her vote to override the governor’s veto on Missouri’s new congressional district maps that effectively cut a Democratic seat.
Hubbard also chose to take a better-situated office on the Capitol’s third floor with Republicans, rather than move to another floor and be with other Democrats, he said. She shares a suite with House clerk Adam Crumbless.
“There’s a pattern there,” Hummel said. “We’ve had enough of being stabbed in the back.”
Hubbard filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee alleging that Hummel’s actions “make me feel very uncomfortable and fearful for my safety as I am uncertain how far he will go with his constant harassment and threatening behavior.”
“My take on this is that I’m in Jeff City to serve my constituents. I don’t feel like I have to be subjected to that behavior or him disrespecting me in the way he did,” she said. “I just don’t think that anybody should be followed down the hall with a person screaming and hollering at them.”
Hummel said Hubbard’s complaint is “absolutely absurd.”
“She’s done that in retaliation,” he said. “This is her way of trying to get back at me.”