JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Legislature will be headed to a special session to hold possible impeachment hearings against Republican Gov. Eric Greitens starting May 18th.
In a historic move, and just one day after the release of a second report by the House’s Special Investigative Committee on Oversight, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in the Missouri House gathered 138 signatures to call themselves into special session. Members of the Missouri Senate met behind closed doors on Thursday afternoon for hours discussing the matter, before finally turning in 29 signatures.
“The power to discipline elected officials is the most serious of legislative powers,” Speaker Todd Richardson said. “In recognition of this fact, the House and the Senate agree that the committee should have the time it needs to conduct a fair, thorough, and timely investigation.”
According to the petition, lawmakers will return to session to consider the findings and recommendations of the House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight’s work regarding Gov. Eric Greitens, “including, but not limited to disciplinary actions” against the Republican executive.
Under Missouri law, three-fourths of the House and Senate members must sign a petition to call themselves into a special session. That means 123 of the 163 House members and 26 of the 34 senators must sign.
The decision to call themselves into a special session marks the first time the legislature has ever done so, ranging back to 1988, when Missouri voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing lawmakers to call themselves into a special legislative session when deemed necessary.
The special session would begin immediately after the General Assembly concludes its regular legislative session on May 18, just four days after the start of the Governor’s criminal trial on May 14.
The petition, signed by members of both chambers, was sent to the Secretary of State’s office Thursday evening.
“This path is not the one that I would have chosen for Missourians or my colleagues. I had hoped from the beginning of this process, that the committee would find no wrongdoing so that we could bring this investigation to a close and put all of our attention on the issues that most matter to Missouri families,” Speaker Richardson said. “Unfortunately, this is where the facts led. We will not avoid doing what is right just because it is hard or not the path that we had hoped to travel.”
Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard also said that they had started considering their role, as well. The Senate would need to select seven eminent jurists to rule on the case if the House moves forward with articles of impeachment against Greitens.
“We will at some outset need to pick seven eminent jurists, and I will tell you that we’ve contacted some people on the bench that are retired asking for process and how things would proceed, but all we have talked about is the process,” Richard said.
They have not considered vetting potential judges at this time.
“Make no mistake about it; today’s actions ensure that there will be a conclusion to this process,” Richardson stated, ensuring everyone that they would do their work within the required 30-day period.
The special session will commence at 6:30 pm on Friday, May 18, 2018.
Here’s some reaction from state lawmakers regarding the decision.
“The process has monumental consequences, and the gravity of what we are commencing is not taken lightly,” President Pro Tem Ron Richard said. “I believe we should give the House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight more time so they can continue their investigation and make sure they have all the facts. The House and Senate both have different roles in this process; however, the Senate stands ready to do our constitutional duty if it becomes necessary.”
“Eric Greitens should have resigned weeks ago. Unfortunately, he has refused to do the right thing,” Senate Democratic Leader Gina Walsh said. “That’s why members of the Senate Democratic Caucus have joined our Republican colleagues in calling the Missouri General Assembly into Special Session immediately following the conclusion of regular business to consider the impeachment of the governor.”
“In the 30 years since Missourians granted the General Assembly the constitutional authority to call itself into special session, it has never before exercised that power. Given the high threshold for lawmaker support required, successfully doing so was long considered all but impossible. But with the alleged crimes committed by Eric Greitens and his refusal to do the honorable thing and resign, the impossible became possible,” House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty said. “The House investigative committee has done outstanding work to date, but as we near the end of the regular legislative session, it is clear the committee needs additional time to finish building its case and prepare articles of impeachment for the House to consider. Pursuing impeachment against a Missouri governor is history none of us wants to make, but Eric Greitens’ actions have made it unavoidable.”