I first met my state representative, Rep. Derek Grier (R-100), when he was canvassing in my neighborhood prior to the 2016 primary elections. He seems to have sussed my proclivities, or, perhaps, realized that the formerly right-wing suburbs were changing. His argument to me was that he was a common sense moderate, far less extreme than Mike Allen, his GOP primary opponent and the husband of the former, term-limited incumbent, Sue Allen.
Grier won the primary, ran unopposed, got elected and that was about the last I heard from him apart from periodic “newsletters” that rarely did more than list new legislation or an occasional slap-dash constituent “opinion” survey. However, in a year that saw the success of right-to-work-for-less legislation, tax cuts for the rich, inroads against women’s reproductive rights, failed efforts to regulate legislators’ lax ethical behavior, and secure adequate funding for infrastructure and education – not to mention the resignation of a Republican governor on grounds of moral turpitude, I heard not a peep from Rep. Grier about where he stood on any of these contentious issues.
So imagine my surprise this week when I received a card listing the “accomplishments” of Rep. Grier’s two years in office, gathered under the rubric of “promises made, promises kept.” My first response: what promises? Could it have been that implicit promise he made during the 2016 primary to moderate the far-right agenda espoused by so many members of Misouri’s GOP?
Certainly, if one looks closely at Rep. Grier’s accomplishment list, at least two of the three highlights he selected to campaign on, such as the anti-human-trafficking bill, HB 1246, emphasize bipartisan appeal. What’s even more interesting is what he’s not drawing attention to. He certainly isn’t boasting about the fact that his legislative voting record in its entirety lines up almost perfectly with the destructive far-right, anti-worker agenda of the state’s GOP majority. Evidently, he doesn’t want to dwell on votes that indicate support for right-to-work-for-less. Or his support for restrictions on reproductive freedom – the list is long and not at all bipartisan.
Nor, do all of Rep. Grier’ selected legislative activities stand up well under scrutiny:
— The main jewel in Rep. Grier’s crown, HB 1719 and HB 1710, legislation which he himself authored, in his words, “eliminated regulations [i.e. licensing standards] on professionals in Missouri.” The bills would respectively recognize professional licenses issued in other states, and change minimum age requirements for some professions. Unfortunately, the first bill also contains a provision that forbids any private licensing entity from using the words “certification” or “registration,” a provision that excited the ire of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFPB) and the Financial Services Institute. These groups pointed out that this provision could invalidate the credentials of many certified financial planners in Missouri. The Center for Association Leadership broadened the complaint, asserting that it would have a serious negative impact on a much larger range of professionals, including doctors, lawyers, etc. Sloppy, sloppy.
— Rep. Grier co-sponsored HB 2540 which he claims “provided a tax cut to citizens and businesses.” It did cut taxes. For rich folks. Already I’m hearing complaints about ballot initiatives, etc. that would raise sales taxes that have already reached 10% or more. These taxes are being levied in order to pay for services that used to come out of general funds. And here’s Rep. Grier bragging about beggaring the state and forcing citizens to choose between regressive taxes or loss of vital services?
— Although he did not include it among his list of accomplishments but added it as an aside, Rep. Grier also takes credit for voting “to fully fund the education foundation formula.” That’s not much of a boast, though, given that the GOP-controlled legislature voted to change the formula to conform better to the amount of spending that they deigned to allocate to schools, rather than allocate the amount required by the earlier version of the formula.
I recently watched on Netflix an episode of the Australian TV series, Rake, which presents the misadventures of a dissipated, renegade lawyer, Cleaver Greene. Greene asks at one point about an American politician, “So he’s a moderate Republican? He’s just a little bit pro-life, a little bit pro-gun, a little bit anti-gay?” What this series of rhetorical questions imply is that in the real world, when decisions have to be made, folks usually have to break one way or another, and I would suggest, based on his total voting record rather than campaign flim-flam, that Rep. Grier breaks to the not so moderate right whenever it really counts.