Lindell Shumake said it's commonsense to remove wording that dictates where the Attorney General should live

A bill pre-filed by a Hannibal representative that would remove seven words from Missouri state statute could resolve a controversy that has simmered since the beginning of this year.

Lindell Shumake's House Bill 1347, which he pre-filed on Dec. 1, would remove the residency requirement for the Missouri Attorney General, the state's top law enforcement officer. The current wording of the statute requires the Attorney General to “reside at the seat of government and keep his office in the Supreme Court building.” The bill would strike the seven words pertaining to residing at the seat of government. The Missouri Constitution declares Jefferson City the “seat of government.” If passed, current Attorney General Josh Hawley could live anywhere in the state.

Issues over Hawley's residency came to light earlier in 2017 when the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an article about where Hawley makes his home.

Records indicate Hawley lives on the southern edge of Columbia, Mo., in Boone County, some 25 miles north of Jefferson City.

Hawley, a first-term Attorney General sworn in in January, said the residency requirement spelled out in statute doesn't apply to where he makes his home.

“A determination of the legal definition of 'reside' is not included in the specific statute governing the attorney general’s office,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Shumake said the residency requirement for the Attorney General is outdated.

“I believe that's an antiquated law,” the fourth-term Hannibal legislator said. “Because of transportation and communication nowadays, I just don't see it as necessary.”

No other statewide elected official has a residency requirement enshrined in state statute.

Shumake says it doesn't make sense for the Attorney General to adhere to a residency requirement that no other statewide official must. Since the article published in January, Hawley has reportedly rented an apartment in Jefferson City.

Shumake isn't the first Missouri lawmaker to file legislation waiving the Attorney General's residency requirement.

Nick Marshall (R-Parkville) filed the same legislation in the most recent session.

Marshall filed his bill on Jan. 31, one week after the Post-Dispatch story published.

“I'm sure that's what got his attention,” Shumake offered.

A House committee approved Marshall's bill, but the House failed to give it a final reading.

Shumake said he'll request his bill to go through the House Committee on Elections and Elected Officials, which he chairs, in hopes of moving the bill quickly.

“For any future Attorney General, it's commonsense for the future of the office,” he said.

Hawley a self-described Constitutional attorney who taught constitutional law at the University of Missouri, launched a campaign to unseat Democrat Claire McCaskill in the U.S. Senate less than a year into his first term.

Shumake is in a four-way race for the Republican nomination for Senate District 18, which encompasses all of northeast Missouri and is one of the largest districts in the state.

The next legislative session begins Jan. 3.

Reach editor Eric Dundon at eric.dundon@courierpost.com .