JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Legislation shifting impeachment hearings from the Missouri Supreme Court to the state Senate advanced Thursday.
With a vote of 25-8, state Sen. Ed Emery’s SB 9 and accompanying SJR 2 advanced out of the Senate and is headed to the House. The proposal would grant the Senate the ability to try impeachments if approved by voters through a constitutional amendment.
The change would require a two-thirds vote in order to impeach judges and three-fourths vote for other statewide officials. The chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court would preside over impeachment trials regarding the governor or lieutenant governor.
Additionally, Emery’s bill narrows the scope for grounds of impeachment to corruption or crime in office. Emery said he’s not entirely on board with changes to this language but considered it a compromise with other members.
Emery has pushed for variations of this bill for multiple years throughout his legislative tenure.
“Impeachment is not a judiciary product; it is a political process,” Emery previously told The Missouri Times. He said history shows “impeachment does not happen in a courtroom, no one goes to jail, no one gets a fine; it is simply a process of removing an offender from office.”
The proposal caused some consternation on the Senate floor earlier this month with some Democratic lawmakers insinuating Republicans didn’t push enough for similar legislation during the previous gubernatorial administration.
Then, Democratic Sens. Jason Holsman and Jill Schupp pushed to raise the threshold to three-fourths for elected officials.
“I tend to trust this chamber, and so I don’t necessarily have a deep-seated problem with doing that, but I want to put some protections in place to make sure that politics don’t rule the day if that were to ever happen,” Holsman said.
Schupp, however, still voted against the bill.
“I personally believe the courts were the right place to finalize the impeachment process,” she told reporters after the vote. “I think that is a fair and reasonable way to hold one branch of government accountable.”
Schupp also took issue with narrowing the scope of impeachment just to actions that occurred in office, pointing to allegations of misconduct levied against former Gov. Eric Greitens that included the time before he was elected to office.
Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden told reporters neither Emery’s bill nor the tweaks made to it would have changed how Greitens’ case played out in the legislature last year before he ultimately resigned from office.
On Thursday, Democratic Sen. Scott Sifton noted he wouldn’t vote for the bill but praised Emery for how he handled putting together the proposal and pushing it through the Senate.
“I appreciate the process of the Senate that you’ve facilitated on this legislation,” Sifton said. “I know it took a while, and you’re happy to get here, and just appreciate the process.”
If passed, the House would still have the responsibility of impeachment. Under current law, Missouri is unique in that the state’s Supreme Court has the power to try impeachments of certain officials due to a constitutional amendment ratified in 1945; the governor and lieutenant governor are tried by a special commission.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a reporter with The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in March 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City. Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S. and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa. She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Contact Kaitlyn at email@example.com.