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Columbia Missourian

Missouri leader removes fellow Democrat from committees

By Chris Blank/The Associated Press
January 24, 2013 | 7:40 a.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri House Minority Leader Jake Hummel removed fellow Democratic Rep. Penny Hubbard's committee assignments after she joined Republicans on Wednesday in supporting an immediate effective date for elections legislation.

Hummel said he replaced her on four committees with other Democrats because of her actions Wednesday and additional past issues that have included her office space and other votes. The elections bill passed the House on Wednesday and heads to the Senate. It includes changes to the process for filling vacancies in statewide elected offices.

Hubbard of St. Louis voted against the bill but joined majority Republicans in supporting an immediate effective date. A Republican lawmaker opposed an earlier effective date, and Hubbard's support gave House leaders the necessary margin. Other House Democrats voted against allowing the bill to take effect before the standard date of Aug. 28.

"When a Republican staffer asks her to change her vote when all her Democratic colleagues are voting the opposite way and we lose by one vote, I think that's the wrong thing to do," said Hummel, who is from St. Louis. "And she stabbed the Democratic caucus in the back for the last time."

Hubbard said she plans to fight the removal. She said she has Republican and Democratic friends, and that during a conversation with a colleague, she was asked if it would matter if she supported the immediate effective date. Hubbard said it did not, so she switched.

"It wasn't a big deal," she said.

House rules allow the minority leader to appoint members of his or her caucus to slots on the chamber's regular standing committees. Hubbard is one of two Democrats who were given a committee leadership post in the Republican-controlled chamber. She had been the chairwoman of the Urban Issues Committee and served on the Small Business and Corrections committees. She also served on a budget panel focused on public safety and corrections.

In addition Wednesday, Hubbard sent a letter to the House Ethics Committee complaining about Hummel.

Hubbard said she learned about her removal from the committees after sending the letter. Hummel said he did not know about Hubbard's letter until contacted by a reporter and after he had removed her from committee spots.

In the letter to the Ethics Committee, Hubbard said Hummel has been unprofessional and his actions have made her uncomfortable and fearful for her safety because she is uncertain how far he would go. She also wrote that he might be "lashing out" against her because she is an African-American woman.

"I just wanted the matter to be resolved and to stop," Hubbard said. "I just don't think any human being should have to be subjected to someone bullying them."

Hummel said he has never threatened Hubbard and noted the assistant House Democratic leader, who is an African-American woman, had agreed with the step of removing Hubbard from her committees. Hummel said Hubbard needs to be held accountable and that she had retaliated by "fabricating these charges."