JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —
While Gov. Jay Nixon was in Nevada, Mo., on Wednesday, a Missouri House panel led by Republicans began hearing arguments on three measures calling for impeaching him. Nixon has downplayed the proceedings as a legislative “publicity stunt.”
One resolution, sponsored by Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, is critical of Nixon for waiting several months to call special elections to fill three vacated House seats. One seat was open for seven months. Special elections now are set in all of those districts, one in St. Louis, one in Salem and the third in Southeast Missouri.
Nixon also has yet to call a special election for the open seat in the 22nd Senatorial District, which was vacated by Ryan McKenna, a Democrat from Crystal City, when he was appointed director of the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations on Dec. 13.
Moon is alleging that the governor’s office has violated a law requiring that he act “without delay” in calling special elections.
“The statute I refer to does require the governor to act with haste,” Moon said. “In this legislative session, laws have been debated and passed, all while more than 200,000 Missouri citizens haven’t had their voices represented.”
Officials with Nixon’s administration noted that there are no strict guidelines defining how long the governor has to call a special election.
The committee also heard from Rep. Nick Marshall, R-Parkville, who filed an impeachment resolution alleging that Nixon violated the Missouri Constitution and state law when he issued an executive order allowing the Missouri Department of Revenue to begin accepting joint tax returns from same-sex couples.
“To be valid and recognized in this state, marriage must be between a man and a woman,” said Marshall, referencing a 2004 voter-approved amendment to the state constitution banning marriage for gay couples. “You must be husband and wife in order to file a combined return under Missouri law.”
Missouri in 2004 became the first state to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage after the Massachusetts high court permitted gay marriage there. The measure was approved by 70 percent of the voters.
Nixon said his order was in line with an order from the Internal Revenue Service that said it would begin accepting joint tax returns from same-sex couples regardless of where they are from.
Democratic committee members said the issue should be determined by the courts before the Legislature considers possible impeachment.
“This is a disagreement in legal theory, which shouldn’t be an impeachable offense,” said Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis.
Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, filed an impeachment resolution charging Nixon with failing to discipline state employees who were involved with sharing confidential conceal-carry permit information with the federal government. His resolution states, “The delay in government agencies in revealing these violations, and the lies told by government agencies surrounding these violations, demanded swift investigation and decisive action by Gov. Nixon.”
No votes were taken in the committee hearing.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, said the hearing would resume next week and that no potential votes would be held until after it concludes.
For Nixon to be removed from office, the Judiciary Committee and the full House would need to adopt one of the articles of impeachment. The Senate then would need to select a panel of “eminent jurists,” who would try the case and determine whether removal was warranted.
The Missouri Constitution allows elected officials to be impeached for “crimes, misconduct, habitual drunkenness, willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude or oppression in office.”
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS contributed to this report.
FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE JUDY MORIARTY was the last state official to be impeached and removed from office. She was convicted of backdating her son’s candidate-filing paperwork in 1994.