Vacancies on state boards and commissions

June 19, 2013 

One of the best ways Missourians can influence our state government is to serve on one of the more than 200 state boards and commissions.

Some of these boards serve as a watchdog for Missouri consumers. Others license, regulate and discipline professionals, and still others ensure the disabled, the poor and the elderly are being served by those agencies created as a social safety net for our state’s most vulnerable residents.

Despite the crucial role these boards play, the vast majority of them have vacancies or members whose terms have expired but have not been replaced. In fact, there are more than 1,000 vacancies or expired terms on the state’s boards and commissions.

Gov. Nixon has let this problem fester and grow, resulting in dysfunctional boards and frustrated citizen volunteers.

I recently received a letter from a constituent who serves on one of these boards.

“It was supposed to be a four-year term,” the constituent wrote. “But Nixon’s office has not appointed any new members in over two years, I believe. No explanation has been offered. I’ve basically resigned, but that leaves the board with the minimum number. If anyone can’t make a meeting, then there’s not a quorum and the meeting is pointless. So they keep asking me to come to meetings and (my employer) is tired of it.”

Here we have an engaged, civic-minded Missourian willing to give up his time and energy to help his state. For this he essentially is being punished because the governor won’t give proper attention to this part of his job. Citizens are understandably frustrated.

The constituent’s story is, in microcosm, what’s occurring across the state. What happens when these boards are unable to produce a quorum because of vacancies or worn out volunteers whose long-expired terms affect their attendance? Vital services are jeopardized.

Here are some examples.

•  Governor’s Council on Disability: This board works to promote employment of people with disabilities and otherwise support and assist people with disabilities. Twelve of the council’s 21 seats are vacant or expired.

• Mo HealthNet Oversight Committee: This group is charged with overseeing MO HealthNet, which purchases and monitors health care services for Missouri’s low-income and vulnerable residents. Ten of 12 seats are vacant or expired.

• State Committee of Psychologists: This board protects the public from incompetence, misconduct, negligence and fraud by licensed psychologists. All eight seats are vacant or expired.

• Committee for Professional Counselors: This committee protects the public from unlicensed, negligent, incompetent and dishonest mental health services provided by counselors. Five of the six seats are either vacant or expired.

• State Board of Senior Services: Seven of seven seats are vacant or expired.

These boards and commissions help to protect some of Missourian’s most vulnerable residents. There are dozens of examples of similarly neglected appointments. When boards and commissions that license, regulate and discipline medical professionals are unable to produce a quorum, it can compromise Missourians’ health and welfare. For example:

• State Board of Nursing: This board protects the public by development and enforcement of state laws governing the safe practice of nursing. The board is responsible for issuing and renewing nursing licenses and disciplining nurses who violate the Nursing Practice Act. Six of nine seats are vacant or expired.

• State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts: It registers, licenses and regulates all physicians and surgeons in the state. Eight of nine seats are vacant or expired.

• State Board of Pharmacy: It issues licenses and renewals to pharmacists and pharmacies. Five of seven seats are vacant or expired.

By Lt. Governor Peter Kinder. This data was compiled from the Governor’s “Boards and Commissions” website and might not be completely up to date. But clearly this is a problem that needs addressing. These boards and commission serve a vital function in the state. By neglecting his appointments, Gov. Nixon is derelict in his duty to the people of Missouri.

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