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Missouri governor outlines budget in State of the State speech

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is applauded by Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe as he delivers his State of the State address at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is taking steps to temporarily hand over power to the state’s No. 2 officeholder later this month when he travels to Europe for a trade mission and a vacation.

Under a plan that is still taking shape, the Post-Dispatch has learned Parson is planning to cede his gubernatorial powers to fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe during the vacation portion of his overseas trip from June 23 to July 2.

The maneuver will allow Kehoe to sign legislation on Parson’s behalf, including a proposal that will transfer oversight of the Missouri Arts Council from the Department of Economic Development to the lieutenant governor’s office.

He also will have the ability to create a task force on food and beverage manufacturing in Missouri and appoint members to a Route 66 centennial commission.

As acting governor, Kehoe won’t have the ability to pardon prisoners, commute sentences or many of the other powers given to the chief executive, administration officials said.

Parson intends to resume his duties when he and first lady Teresa Parson return, officials said. Details of their vacation were not immediately available.

The governor, who was appointed to the post June 1, 2018, after the resignation of scandal-plagued former Gov. Eric Greitens, is relying on a clause in the state constitution that allows the chief executive to grant his powers to the lieutenant governor.

Under that provision, he must submit a letter to legislative leaders declaring he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.

Such moves are not common. But, Parson and Kehoe are from the same party and Parson appointed Kehoe to the No. 2 post after Parson took over as governor.

The last time the event occurred was in 2005 when then-Gov. Matt Blunt ceded power to former Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder for a short period of time.

In 2016, Kinder, a Republican, sent former Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, a letter demanding Nixon grant him gubernatorial powers as Nixon was preparing to leave on an overseas trade mission.

Kinder said the state needed a chief executive in the wake of violence against law enforcement officers, including a Ballwin police officer.

“I believe MO needs a leader with the authority to defend her,” Kinder said in a tweet at the time.

Nixon cancelled the trip and did not address Kinder’s request.

The rules governing who’s in charge when a governor is traveling vary from state to state.

For example, a provision of North Carolina’s constitution automatically elevates the lieutenant to acting governor when the full-time chief executive is absent from the state.

A similar scenario has been in California law since 1849. It says a governor must be within the state borders to have the powers of the office.

Parson departs for France Saturday as part of a trade mission to Europe that includes stops in Germany and Switzerland.

In what will be his first overseas trip since taking off last year, the Republican will retrace the steps taken by his predecessors during a visit to the Paris Air Show.

Nixon and Blunt also attended the air show to highlight Missouri’s aerospace industry, which includes Boeing Co. and its St. Louis-made F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets.

Greitens was scheduled to go in 2017, but canceled after he called lawmakers back to the Capitol for a special session.

The air show is set to get underway on Monday.

Costs of the official portion of the trip will be shared between state taxpayers and the Hawthorn Foundation, a public/private partnership created by then-Gov. Kit Bond to help fund gubernatorial travel expenses.

Parson’s vacation will not be funded by taxpayers.

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Kurt Erickson is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch