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Holden responds to Republican allegations of 'gag order'

March 03, 2003
By: Heather J. Carlson
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Bob Holden Wednesday sidestepped Republican leaders' call for a directive authorizing state employees to speak openly with lawmakers about budget cut ideas.

House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, R-St. Louis County, asked for the directive last week after a Department of Natural Resources memo surfaced that warned state employees they could be fired for talking with lawmakers about budget cut ideas.

Holden backed away from issuing a statement affirming employees' rights to share ideas with lawmakers. Instead, he said employees can answer lawmakers' budget questions -- at least those related to his budget proposal.

"I have not encouraged any employees to stay mum," Holden said. "What I have said is I laid out the budget plan for my administration and they are to answer all questions if people question those priorities."

But Republican leaders say the governor needs to do more.

Hanaway said the governor must address whether a gag order was imposed and also empower state employees to talk freely with legislators about the budget.

"What we really want to know is, in the expert judgment of these people that have a lot of research at their disposal, what they think are the least essential programs in their departments," Hanaway said.

If the governor does not take these steps, Hanaway said she is considering issuing subpeonas to state employees requiring them to testify before a House committee.

Before taking that step, however, Hanaway said she hopes to meet with the governor to discuss the matter.

Regardless of whether a meeting is held, Hanaway said "this week there will be a decision as to whether to issue subpoenas."