JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —
While issues such as right-to-work, taxes and Medicaid will lead the conversation in the state Capitol this legislative session, many lawmakers have their own, lesser-known priorities.
They include constitutional protection for the right to hunt and fish, the impeachment of state judges, boosting state speed limits and even a proposal to make jumping jacks the official state exercise.
But don’t worry; government agents aren’t going to roust you out of bed every morning and require calisthenics.
Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, and Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, have filed similar bills in their respective chambers that would move the power of impeachment to the Senate from a special commission of “seven eminent jurists to be elected by the Senate” (often prominent former judges).
The legislation would apply to state judges, who account for most of the impeachment efforts in Missouri history, and to the governor.
White said: “The Senate should try it. That’s the way we used to do it.”
Before voter approval of the 1945 state Constitution, “the way we used to do it” in Missouri was similar to that at the federal level: The House of Representatives would file articles of impeachment, and the Senate would hold the trial with the chief justice of the Supreme Court presiding.
The change was slipped in at the last minute during the constitutional convention, Emery said, with the logic at the time being that because an impeachment is a “trial,” it ought to be done in a court. The problem, he said, is that the people being tried are often judges — peers of those conducting the trial.
Emery pushed similar bills for several years while he was in the House, and he introduced the measure again in the Senate last year.
“A lot of people in the Legislature would say, ‘Why bother?’ because they’re going to be tried in the Supreme Court,” he said. “I don’t mean that should be applied to the character of the current Supreme Court, but it is the sense of legislators, ‘Why would they impeach their own?’”
Missouri has changed impeachment rules four times since becoming a state in 1821 — once in 1865 after the Civil War, then in 1875 to amend some of the 1865 changes, again in 1923, and a fourth time in 1945.
Emery’s previous bills have never made it further than a committee hearing. If approved by the General Assembly, the measure would be placed on the ballot to be decided by voters in November 2014.
Rep. Mike Kelley, R-Lamar, has filed legislation that would raise the speed limit from 70 mph to 75 mph on many of the state’s highways. The bill would apply to parts of interstates and four-lane roads outside the state’s urban areas.
“Seventy-five mph is actually accepted and used in several states,” Kelley said. “There are over a dozen that have went to 75 mph. I believe it helps with the flow of traffic. Speed is not the factor in accidents people think it is. It is much more distracted driving.”
The change would be the first since 1995, when Congress repealed the 55 mph federal speed limit.
Right to hunt
“Right to life,” “right to vote,” “right to work” and even “right to farm” are among the phrases often thrown around in Jefferson City. Rep. Ron Hicks, R-St. Peters, wants to add a new one: “right to hunt and fish.”
He has filed legislation that would ask voters to consider a constitutional amendment declaring the “right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife.”
“You have people who have been attacking (hunting and fishing) in other states. I don’t want them to come to our state,” Hicks said, referring to animal rights activists who have advocated for shorter hunting seasons or, in come cases, outright bans on hunting. “They’re trying to say the animals have rights and they don’t want us hunting.”
Hicks said hunting is a multimillion-dollar industry in Missouri, noting processing businesses and outdoor stores across the state. He said he is working with the Missouri Department of Conservation on the language of the legislation.
The bill is co-sponsored by Kelley, as well as Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho, who chairs the House Agriculture Policy Committee.
Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, has filed legislation that would make jumping jacks the official state exercise. Schaaf last year carried similar legislation in the Senate that mirrored a bill being pursued by his hometown colleague, Rep. Pat Conway, D-St. Joseph.
The exercise, supporters of the measure contend, was invented by Missouri-born Gen. John J. Pershing. It was used in the late 1800s as a drill exercise for cadets when Pershing was a tactical officer at a military training school.
Schaaf put forward the bill at the request of fourth-grade students at Pershing Elementary School in St. Joseph, his office said.