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.