JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri senators gave initial approval Thursday to a bill that would create another tool for lawmakers to get information from state agencies by expanding the Missouri General Assembly's subpoena power.
The House speaker and Senate presidentpro tem can issue subpoenas to compel witnesses to testify, though they are rarely used. The legislation endorsed by the Senate would expand that power to allow subpoenas for documents.
The bill's sponsor, Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, said the legislation could help lawmakers get necessary information. Mayer said state budget difficulties are prompting lawmakers to closely examine state government to look for ways to restructure and save money. He said that having the power to demand documents could help with making decisions.
Mayer said there have been instances where department officials were reluctant to bring certain documents while testifying before lawmakers, though his bill isn't aimed at a particular agency or incident.
"It's something that we need to put in our toolbox as we move forward and restructure government," said Mayer, R-Dexter.
One area where senators could use the new power is for the Senate Government Accountability Committee, which is responsible for undertaking a more intensive review of state government and how state agencies operate. The committee's chairman, Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis, said Thursday that he hoped he wouldn't need the subpoena power but that it was important to have.
The legislation needs another vote before moving to the House.