Missouri senators passed legislation to make it harder to impeach top officials, less than a year after former Gov. Eric Greitens resigned in the face of potential impeachment.
The proposal, passed March 28 and sent to the House on a 25-8 vote, would limit criteria for impeachment to “corruption and crime in office.”
Republican Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden said nothing in the legislation “would have changed the process and how it played out with Gov. Greitens,” adding that Greitens resigned before a House investigatory committee could vote on impeaching him.
But if the proposed constitutional amendment had been in place last year, it would have stopped House members from weighing whether to impeach Greitens over allegations of sexual misconduct and campaign finance violations that occurred before he assumed the governorship in January 2017.
“Not accounting for things that we learned about prior to that person’s tenure in office doesn’t make any sense to me,” said Democratic Sen. Jill Schupp, of the St. Louis suburb of Creve Coeur. “Greitens is a perfect example.”
Republican sponsor Sen. Ed Emery, of Lamar, said Greitens’ case did not influence his work on the measure. He’s worked for years on the original focus on the bill, which is to shift the responsibility for conducting impeachment trials to the Senate instead of judges and would raise the threshold needed to remove an impeached executive branch official.
But he said he worked with Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer to tighten the grounds for impeachment.
Impeachment under the current proposal is “essentially confined to criminal behavior: crime or corruption,” Emery said. “So you almost have to go to jail to be impeached, which I’m not completely satisfied with.”
Luetkemeyer has previously said he was concerned that lawmakers could have used the broader, current criteria to try to remove judges from office for rulings with which they disagreed. The Parkville Republican was elected to the state Senate months after Greitens resigned in June, although his wife worked as an attorney in the former governor’s office.
The constitutional amendment now goes to the House, where Republican Speaker Elijah Haahr said it will be considered but gave no further indication of its chances at passing.
If passed by the full Legislature, the measure would be subject to a statewide public vote.