Missouri lawmakers to wrap up budget and other bills before special session on governor

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CHICAGO – Missouri lawmakers expect to finish work on the state’s fiscal 2019 budget early next week as the legislature moves to wrap up its current session before shifting gears to a special session that could lead to the impeachment of Gov. Eric Greitens.

House and Senate leaders announced late Thursday that a 30-day special session would begin May 18. It begins shortly after the regular session ends, allowing lawmakers to continue work on a probe of allegations against Greitens, who has mired in a sexual misconduct and ethics scandal, and to consider disciplinary action.

"This was not a decision made lightly and certainly not without great deliberation and effort," Republican House Speaker Todd Richardson said at a news conference. Republicans hold a legislative majority and the first-term governor is a Republican who has resisted bipartisan calls to resign.

A constitutionally-required three-fourths of lawmakers signed the petition calling for the special session, a first of its kind action by lawmakers. Greitens’ office did not respond to a request for comment.

A St. Louis grand jury indicted Greitens on a felony charge of invasion of privacy stemming from alleged actions tied to an adulterous relationship. His trial is set to begin May 14. Greitens has denied the accusations although he has acknowledged a consensual relationship with the woman.

He was later hit with felony charges for allegedly tampering with computer data to defraud or obtain property. Those charges stem from his alleged use of a donor list from his charity The Mission Continues to benefit his campaign.

A special legislative investigative committee has released two stinging reports. The first details the governor’s alleged intimidating behavior with the woman and finding that she was a credible witness. The most recent report supports accusations about the improper use of the donor list and testimony that the campaign lied to state ethics officials.

First, lawmakers must wrap up the budget. A conference committee will begin meeting on Monday and is expected to wrap up work as soon as Tuesday on a budget totaling about $29 billion that reconciles versions approved in each chamber, said Matt Choinka, an aide to House Budget Committee Chairman and Conference Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick.

Under state law, the budget must be approved May 11, a week before the end of the session.

The triple-A-rated state’s revenue collections for fiscal 2018 at $7.8 billion are up 2.1% from $7.64 billion last year, state budget director Dan Haug said in the latest general revenue report through April. Revenues are estimated to grow by 1.9% in the current fiscal year that runs through June 30 and 2.5% in fiscal 2019.

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