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Kinder questions legality of state House policy

September 04, 2001
By: Lauren Shepherd
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's legislative special session will begin today under a legal cloud with the leader of the state Senate questioning whether any bills out of the state House will pass constitutional muster.

President Pro Tem Sen. Peter Kinder said any House bills in the special session may be "constitutionally vulnerable" if the all 163 House members are not there.

Last week, House leadership told legislators they did not have to come to the first three days of the session, which begins Wednesday at noon -- a decision Kinder called "a disturbing precedent."

"It's faulty, it's flawed," he told reporters Tuesday after a press conference on prescription drugs outside the Governor's Mansion.

Kinder said the House will call a "technical session" for the first few days. He said a technical session is commonly called, usually to read bills for the first time and do "necessary housekeeping details", but not to debate legislation.

"It is potentially vulnerable, I am told by constitutional lawyers, to a constitutional attack -- that any House bill would be subject to a constitutional challenge," Kinder said.

Kinder said he has only spoken informally to lawyers who work in the Capital and has no plans to file any lawsuits or challenge the House decision.

He added that he has not spoken about the issue yet with the House leadership, including Speaker of the House Rep. Jim Kreider and House Majority Leader Catherine Hanaway.

Hanaway, however, said last week she can see both sides and that allowing legislators to stay home for a few days would save taxpayers money.

Kreider declined to comment Tuesday.

Regardless of the number of representatives taking their seats in the House chamber Wednesday, Kinder said the Senate will convene with a full quarum.

He said only two or three senators will not attend the first day.

"We, in the Senate, are going to go full steam ahead from tomorrow at noon," he added.