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Second special session begins in Senate with questions of Greitens’ motives


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The second extraordinary session of 2017 may have been called for drastically different reasons than the first, but the two began the same way: with several senators voicing their displeasure for the governor’s tactics in calling such a session.

But in the end, Sens. Bob Onder, Jason Holsman, Rob Schaaf, Bob Dixon and Andrew Koenig all filed legislation for the special session to move forward. Onder, Dixon and Koenig’s bills dealt more within the scope of the call, while Schaaf offered ethics legislation once again. Holsman offered his resolution to make the Missouri General Assembly a session that meets for 180 days out of the year, rather than just the current 73.

Onder’s bill will be the one to watch on the abortion front. He offered a wide-ranging piece of legislation on abortion regulations during regular session, and Onder, R-St. Charles, said he was in communication with Gov. Eric Greitens’ office when the federal court ruling declaring Missouri’s ambulatory surgical center and abortion provider admitting standards were struck down in April.

The St. Charles senator did not speak much on the bill, but found himself on the defensive for much of his time on the Senate floor Monday evening. Silvey and Holsman each laid into him verbally when he appeared to renege on an offer that he would be happy to see anyone carry the bill. When Dixon did just that, he apparently wanted to still carry the legislation.

Onder told the two senators the bill “is not about me,” but given his time spent on the subject he wished to maintain the lead sponsor of the legislation.

“I’ve worked on this bill,” he said. “I feel most comfortable with myself as the handler of that… We need to restore sensible regulations.”

However, Silvey and Holsman both picked up on a phrase Onder used when describing his sudden change of heart. Onder said it was a “rhetorical device of overstatement.”

Sen. Jason Holsman
Sen. Jason Holsman

Silvey and Holsman have each made their opposition to this special session known repeatedly. Silvey said Greitens reminded him of the Pharisees of the Bible when last week he reportedly asked a crowd at one of his rallies to pray for “career politicians.” The Pharisees believed themselves more pious and religious than all others to their detriment, in the New Testament. Holsman repeatedly asked several senators, including Senate leadership, if the governor had been in communication with them. Onder said he had been communicating with members of his office, while Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard and Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe both said the governor had not spoken to them about the bill.

Holsman’s said his legislation itself was a critique of Greitens’ apparent inability to get legislation passed in a supermajority legislature of his own party. He criticized the chamber for seemingly kowtowing to Greitens’ demands and the governor’s desire to bolster his stance with the anti-abortion segment of the Republican party, which he had a complicated relationship with during the election.

“Are we lemmings or are we elected representatives of the people and an equal branch of government?” Holsman said on the floor. “That’s what everyone in here should be asking themselves. Right now Senator, our branch of government is slowly diluting and deluding itself. What we should be telling this governor is no. It doesn’t matter what your vanity subject is.”

Silvey, while he reiterated his anti-abortion stances and votes on legislation in the past, called the session unnecessary, though he said he would likely vote in favor of a bill that would institute more abortion regulations.

Schaaf echoed Silvey’s dilemma while using his new nickname for Greitens.

“I don’t know if there’s anything special about this,” Schaaf said. “We can deal with this in January. All we’re doing is trying to burnish the pro-life credentials of the Great Seal of Missouri.”

Schaaf later said he did not believe Greitens deserved the title of governor, and thus, the new nickname.

Even Dixon, who also noted his anti-abortion stances, said he found the “political shenanigans” surrounding the special session were “hogwash.”

The Senate Seniors, Families and Children Committee will hear Onder, Koenig and Dixon’s bills tomorrow morning, and the Senate body is set to receive them in the afternoon.