- Associated Press - Saturday, April 29, 2017

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - While some Republican legislative leaders say they’re glad to work with Missouri GOP Gov. Eric Greitens to make top conservative priorities law, the new governor’s involved and sometimes aggressive leadership style has also meant intraparty clashes throughout the legislative session that ends May 12.

Working with GOP allies, Greitens within weeks of his January inauguration signed a right-to-work bill banning mandatory union fees and he has been meeting one-on-one with some Republican lawmakers in order to get their shared pro-business and ethics priorities passed.

But Greitens also has been quick to use social media to criticize fellow Republican lawmakers who disagree with him, angering some and leading to tension, particularly with the GOP-led Senate.

The governor told The Associated Press he won’t “stand for any person who is going to put their own privileges ahead of the priorities of the people of Missouri.”

“If some of the special interests, lobbyists (and) career politicians are angry with the fact that we’re willing to get things done and let people know that these things need to be addressed because lives are counting on it,” Greitens said, “then so be it.”

Tensions boiled over in the Senate on Tuesday after a nonprofit that pushes the governor’s agenda launched attack ads against Sen. Rob Schaaf. The St. Joseph Republican had stalled a vote on a bill Greitens wants to create a Blue Alert system, similar to Amber Alerts, that would to notify people when a law enforcement officer is injured and the assailant is on the run.

The nonprofit, called A New Missouri, advocates for Greitens and his agenda while accepting unlimited donations and without having to disclose who is making the contributions. Greitens has said he has no day-to-day involvement in the nonprofit, but senior adviser Austin Chambers told The Kansas City Star there is coordination among the governor’s office, the governor’s nonprofit and his campaign organization.

Ads run by the nonprofit claimed Schaaf “is attempting to shut down all conservative action in the Senate because of personal political games that he is playing along with the liberals” and encouraged people to call Schaaf’s personal cellphone. Schaaf in response said he wants to work on ethics bills, including legislation that targets the pro-Greitens nonprofit, by forcing such nonprofits to disclose donors.

“We are not going to stand for this,” Schaaf said on the Senate floor. “Governor, I don’t care what your agenda is. My agenda is to do the work of the people.”

Greitens’ at times rocky relationship with state lawmakers began before he started his term in January.

The first-time elected official ran as an outsider and frequently criticized legislators as corrupt, career politicians. He vowed to clean up Jefferson City.

Saint Louis University political scientist Ken Warren said while some Republican lawmakers have publicly dismissed that as water under the bridge, there’s likely still lingering resentment.

“For a Republican who has a veto-proof Republican Legislature, he doesn’t have the best relationship with the state Legislature,” Warren said.

“People are people and they don’t forget those things,” he added. “You just don’t say these ridiculous things about fellow Republicans, for instance, and then feel that they’re just going to forget it.”

Greitens’ first clash as governor with Senate lawmakers came within weeks of his inauguration, when he sat down with some to pressure them to vote against a pay raise for themselves and other elected officials.

Republican Sens. Denny Hoskins, of Warrensburg, and Paul Wieland, of Imperial - the only two Republicans who voted to allow the raise to take effect, although several others didn’t vote - said their meetings with the governor were tense. Greitens in turn took to Facebook to slam both senators, who he said complained that he “was a bit too rough with them.” He said he wouldn’t apologize.

Another point of tension has been Greitens’ executive order to give paid family leave to state employees in his administration, a move that sidestepped the Legislature’s traditional responsibility for deciding how to spend the state’s money and frustrated some senators.

Senators delayed confirming several of his appointments until he showed up to a closed-door meeting with Senate Republicans to talk about the issue.

Despite setbacks, Greitens and Republican lawmakers have been able to work together to make some major conservative policy goals into law.

His signature on right-to-work represents a long-elusive victory for Missouri Republicans, who failed to achieve the change under former Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. Greitens has also signed legislation aimed at improving the state’s legal climate for businesses and is on board with a number of other Republican legislative goals to change labor laws.

House Speaker Todd Richardson praised the newfound “ability to work with a like-minded administration,” and Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe said Greitens has been present at the Capitol and open to building relationships.

But both acknowledged at least some lawmakers are not on the same page as Greitens.

“Sometimes people just don’t mix,” Kehoe said.

___

Associated Press writer Katie Kull contributed to this report.


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