JEFFERSON CITY – After weeks of debate about her stance on illegal immigration, the Missouri Senate approved St. Louis lawyer Linda Martinez as director of the Economic Development Department by a voice vote on Tuesday.
Her work against the Valley Park ordinance – which fines businesses that employ illegal immigrants – led some senators to question whether she was right for the job.
In the past week, Sen. Scott Rupp, R-St. Charles County, filibustered on the Senate floor, blocking any vote.
Rupp said that because of his actions against Martinez's confirmation, Gov. Jay Nixon's office called St. Charles officials and pressured them into asking Rupp to stop filibustering.
Although Rupp said he would no longer filibuster Martinez, he aimed heavy criticism at Nixon.
"You know, you may think you can intimidate me because you're the governor, but you're wrong," he said. "I'm standing here on principle, and I am standing here on the belief for the basic, fundamental right that my constituents believe that Missouri jobs are for Missouri families and not for those that are here illegally in this country."
On Friday, Missourians Against Illegal Immigration filed a request under the Missouri Sunshine Law for any contact Nixon's office has had with St. Charles officials. Janet Renner, president of the organization, said that nothing has been found.
Rupp also addressed allegations made by Sen. Robin Wright-Jones, D-St. Louis City, who said during a session last week that she believed Rupp was blocking Martinez because of her gender.
"We have the governor's representatives coming out on the floor and saying the only reason we're standing up is because Ms. Martinez is a female," he said. "And yet, we have already approved numerous females on this floor."
Discussion also centered on the Senate's role in vetting the governor's appointees.
Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Jackson County, said the senate should look more closely at whom the governor chooses to direct state departments.
"My bet is that the governor is going to get the economic development director that he wanted," he said. "But my bet also is that she will be watched very carefully in the way in which she handles her job from the perspective of illegal immigration, and you know what? That's pretty good because that's a problem on her resume."
Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County, said the Republican majority is holding Nixon to a higher standard than past Republican governors.
"It's pretty convenient when we've got a governor of the other party coming in so that you can decide now is the time to make things right," she said.
Nixon spokesman Jack Cardetti stated in an e-mail that Martinez's confirmation as director of the Economic Development Department was an important step in giving Missouri businesses the tools to grow and create jobs.
"Missouri businesses and communities have a tremendous amount to gain by the confirmation of an economic development director of this caliber who is already working to create jobs," he stated.