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Parson Pares Economic Development Department’s Portfolio To Sharpen Focus

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson holds a press conference on Jan. 17, 2019, with members of his cabinet.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson holds a press conference on Jan. 17, 2019, with members of his cabinet.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is scaling down the agencies and employees the Department of Economic Development oversees in an effort to better target its mission.

Parson signed several executive orders moving agencies away from the Department of Economic Development. Among other things, that includes transferring:

  • The Department of Energy to the Department of Natural Resources.
  • The Department of Workforce Development to the Department of Higher Education.
  • The utility-regulating Public Service Commission to the newly named Department of Commerce and Insurance.

During a press conference in Jefferson City on Thursday, Parson said this will allow the Department of Economic Development to zero in on his goals laid out in his State of the State speech — which include training people for certain jobs and having economic-development plans more tailored for certain regions of the state.
“I think it will make a huge difference in how we operate,” Parson said. “The main thing is [the Department of Economic Development director] gets to focus on economic development. You’ve got a lot of other agencies in there with a lot of other employees that’s taking up daily space, I want to say.”

Higher Education Commissioner Zora Mulligan said giving the agency more responsibility over workforce-development programs will be a boon for transitioning people into an ever-changing jobs environment.

“From my perspective, they also send a really important national signal that Missouri is in it to win it,” Mulligan said. “We’re not going to be at the back of the pack anymore. These are major changes that people around the nation are going to take very seriously.”

The General Assembly could potentially object to Parson’s executive orders. But the governor’s press release announcing this move featured supportive quotes from House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, and Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan.

“Missouri’s growth depends on our workforce,” Haahr said in his statement. “Other states aren’t waiting for us to catch up. They’re moving forward, and the states that figure these problems out are going to win more jobs and more business for their citizens.”

Parson is also calling for lawmakers to pass legislation transferring the Missouri Arts Council to the lieutenant governor’s office. (St. Louis Public Radio gets a small amount of funding from the council.)

If the General Assembly doesn’t take action, Parson’s executive orders go into effect in 60 days.

Follow Jason on Twitter:@jrosenbaum

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Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.