Missouri Lawmakers Return to Work Under Greitens Cloud
Missouri lawmakers head into the final weeks of this year's legislative session with allegations of sexual misconduct against Gov. Eric Greitens threatening to distract from Republicans' legislative agenda.
Lawmakers still must pass a state budget for the upcoming fiscal year, and Republicans are pursuing tax changes, new abortion restrictions and an end to special minimum wages now used for public construction projects. They have five weeks before their May 18 deadline to pass bills.
While Republicans control both chambers in the state Legislature, Democrats in the Senate have floated the idea of blocking any bills from going to Greitens' desk after a special House investigative committee's report last week detailed allegations of physical violence and an unwanted sexual encounter during the extramarital affair.
"We should give him no legitimacy," Democratic Sen. Jamilah Nasheed of St. Louis said Monday, when lawmakers were off. "The only thing he should be doing now is packing up and resigning."
Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh said Democrats will meet Tuesday to decide how to proceed.
The Republican governor has been under a cloud for most of this year's legislative session. On Jan. 10 — the same day Greitens gave his State of the State address — KMOV-TV in St. Louis reported that Greitens had an extramarital affair with his hairdresser in 2015, before he took office. The governor acknowledged the affair but denied allegations that he had threatened to release a compromising photo of the woman if she disclosed the relationship.
The scandal grew when a St. Louis grand jury indicted Greitens in February on a felony invasion-of-privacy charge for allegedly taking a nonconsensual photograph of the woman while she was partially nude.
Lawmakers then opened their own investigation, and a report from a special House investigatory committee released last week detailed multiple instances in which the woman testified that Greitens spanked, slapped, grabbed, shoved and called her derogatory names during a series of sexual encounters.
Greitens has denied any criminal wrongdoing and says allegations of violence or sexual assault are false. His criminal trial on the invasion-of-privacy charge is set to start May 14, during the final week of the legislative session.
Republicans have said they'll continue working regardless of what's going on with Greitens.
"I'm hoping that we always put the people ahead of anything right now," Republican Rep. Tim Remole said Monday. "It's important that we do the business of the people first and foremost."