Ex-lawmaker defends nomination to Missouri parole panel

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 | 12:05 p.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — A former Missouri lawmaker said Tuesday that he will defend his appointment to the state parole board in the face of opposition from some senators who remain upset that he voted against an income tax cut sought by Republican leaders.

Dennis Fowler was a Republican House member from southeast Missouri when he was appointed to the Board of Probation and Parole in December by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. He has begun working on the board but must win Senate confirmation to remain in his job.

Several Republican senators have said they intend to block Fowler's confirmation. They note that Fowler was one of 15 House Republicans who split from party leaders and voted in September to sustain Nixon's veto of an income tax cut bill. They also note that Fowler's appointment left Republicans with 108 House seats — one shy of the two-thirds majority needed for veto overrides.

Fowler said Tuesday that he is meeting this week with senators to try to gain support for his appointment and has no plans to withdraw his name from consideration.

"I'm getting a lot of support from my folks down here," he said, referring to his hometown of Advance and the 151st House District.

Fowler also issued a written statement defending his vote against the income tax cut legislation by highlighting its flaws, including an apparent drafting error that could have caused sales taxes to be charged on prescription drugs. He said he had heard concerns from local voters about the bill, including from a friend who had a kidney transplant and was on a costly medication.

"Now we are into the punishment and revenge part of the political atmosphere that we find our State and Country in. I did not vote as the Party wanted so I must be punished," Fowler said in the written statement.

He added: "If you want me to vote strictly Party lines, send a monkey, it's cheaper."

Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, who is chairman of the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee, said he has not decided whether to join some of his GOP colleagues in opposing Fowler's confirmation to the parole board.

Dempsey told reporters Tuesday that there are concerns not only about Fowler's vote against the tax cut but also about his decision to resign after less than a year in office.

Fowler is a Navy veteran who worked 38 years in law enforcement before winning election to the House in November 2012 and taking office in January 2013. Nixon has defended Fowler as well qualified for the parole board.

"My concern is someone who decided after a year of serving the people of his House district that he was no longer interested in that and wanted to seek an appointment," Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said.


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