Attorney general residency rule gets pushback in Missouri
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri lawmakers could change a law that sparked controversy over where the state’s attorney general lives.
The House Elections and Elected Officials Committee heard two nearly identical bills Wednesday that would eliminate the requirement for the attorney general to reside in Jefferson City, the Columbia Missourian reported .
Democrats said early last year that Attorney General Josh Hawley was violating the law by living in nearby Boone County. Hawley responded by renting an apartment in Jefferson City. He said the apartment would be his legal residence while he continues to live in Boone County.
Hawley voted in Boone County in the August special election, which led to a resident filing a complaint against him. Boone County Clerk Taylor Burks decided in September that Hawley was qualified to vote in the county.
The attorney general is also being sued in Cole County over his split residency. Former Cole County Democratic Party chairwoman Donna Mueller sued Hawley in November for violating the residency requirement.
Republican Rep. Lindell Shumake said the law is outdated, dating back to the 1800s.
“In 1875, we didn’t have Twitter, we didn’t have Facebook, we didn’t have FaceTime, we didn’t have all of the modern means of communication that we have now,” said Shumake, who sponsored one of the bills.
Shumake said that it might have made sense at the time to require the attorney general to live in Jefferson City, where legal issues involving the state would likely come up. But modern technology in travel and communication has made it so that the attorney general could live anywhere in Missouri and still complete the assigned duties.
Republican Rep. Nick Marshall sponsored the second bill, saying that the attorney general still would be required to keep an office in Jefferson City. But he said the person in that position does not need to live in the city.
“He can commute from wherever,” Marshall said. “I don’t care where the office-holders live, so long as they’re here doing their job at the seat of government.”
Information from: Columbia Missourian, http://www.columbiamissourian.com