For the first time in state history, Missouri lawmakers will meet in a special session to possibly impeach the governor.
At a press conference Thursday, House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, announced that leadership in both the House and Senate believe they have the commitment of enough lawmakers to force a special session.
“This was not a decision made lightly, and certainly not without great deliberation and effort,” Richardson told reporters Thursday.
Thus far, 138 of the total 161 members of the House and 29 of the 33 senators have signed the petition to allow the special session.
If both chambers formally approve the session, it will begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 18, just 30 minutes after the regular session is constitutionally mandated to end.
Locally, State Reps. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, Nathan Tate, R-St. Clair, Kirk Mathews, R-Pacific, and State Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, have all agreed to the special session.
State Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Washington is the only lawmaker representing Franklin County who did not sign the petition.
Curtman did not return a call from The Missourian for comment before press time.
Alferman said he’s in full support of the special session, but stressed it doesn’t mean impeachment is imminent, but it’s looking like that may be the case.
“Yes, I signed the petition,” he said. “I signed it the first day we were eligible.”
He added because of the gravity of the situation, he wants to withhold comment on his feeling toward impeachment as to not aid either side.
“There is an overwhelming amount of evidence to look over,” Alferman said. “I don’t want anyone to think I have a biased opinion going into the special session.”
Tate says signing the petition of special session is good for the governor and the people of Missouri.
“I was under the impression if we didn’t sign for the special session, the impeachment process may have already started,” he said. “It’s good for the people to know who is influencing politics at the highest levels of the state. This will give the committee more time to work.”
As far as his thoughts on the charges against the governor, Tate is still staying in the middle of the road.
“I see both sides and I’m not really sure what to think right now,” he said. “The criminal case will be going at the same time as the special session so there is that to consider also. Right now, we need to focus on the regular session and getting the bills we have been working on all year passed.”
On the Senate side, Schatz said he signed the petition to give the committee time to work, which also will give the governor the best opportunity for a fair process and to make his case.
“Without the special session, the entire process would be rushed through in the last two weeks of session,” he said. “The petition required 75 percent of the Senate to approve and we far exceeded that number.”
Schatz explained once the special session convenes May 18, most lawmakers will go home and only be called to Jefferson City for formal votes needed by the House investigative or other committees operating in the investigation.
As far as his opinions on impeachment, Schatz said he maintains a wait and see approach.
“I’m going to stay in my lane on this one,” he said. “There is a lot of information to digest and it looks very problematic. But, when we get all the facts and the governor gets to give his side maybe some things can be justified.”
Schatz said since most legislators are going through the impeachment process for the first time, there is much to learn.
“I’ve never done this before,” Schatz said. “It won’t be in my hands to make the final judgments on anything.”
Once the investigative committee is finished, it will deliver the findings to the full House for possible articles of impeachment.
Eighty-two votes of House members are required to impeach Greitens.
The matter would then go to the Senate, which would elect seven “eminent jurists” to try the governor. At least five of those seven must agree for him to be removed from office.
Schatz said Senate leadership is already in the process of screening circuit court and appeals judges as possible jurists to place before the senators for selection.