Republican Steve Tilley announced Monday that he is resigning from his position as speaker of the Missouri House five months early, one month before lawmakers return to the Capitol for their annual veto session.
In addition to leaving his leadership position, Tilley has resigned from his seat in the House.
Tilley said in a letter to his House colleagues that he would continue his optometry practice in Perryville and would work as a paid consultant for political campaigns.
"I will continue to practice optometry, but as all of you know, I enjoy campaigns and public policy and will be consulting on both," Tilley wrote. "I choose to leave early because I did not want to be a paid consultant while serving as the speaker of the House."
Tilley also is widely expected to become a lobbyist in Jefferson City. He was unable to run for the House again because of term limits.
Very little legislative business remains for the rest of the year. Lawmakers are scheduled to return to Jefferson City next month to consider overriding Gov. Jay Nixon's vetoes.
House Minority Leader Mike Talboy, a Kansas City Democrat who is forgoing a fourth term in the House to become a lobbyist, said Monday that there would be little practical impact from Tilley's early departure.
Republicans "are guaranteed to be down one vote on any potential veto override attempt," Talboy said. "That's about it."
Republicans hold 106 of the House's 163 seats, three votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed for a veto override.
House Speaker Pro Tem Shane Schoeller, a Willard Republican, will preside over the House in Tilley's absence. House Majority Leader Tim Jones of Eureka was chosen by his party to become House speaker in January.
Tilley served as House speaker for two years, following three years as majority leader. At one time he was considered the front-runner for his party's nomination for lieutenant governor. But he dropped out of the race last year, citing a pending divorce and his desire to spend more time with his two daughters.
"Over the past eight years I sometimes put the interest of the caucus and the House ahead of my family," Tilley said. "My decision to resign early is one I made with my daughters and that puts my family first."
Tilley pointed to several pieces of "landmark legislation" passed during his tenure as speaker, including eliminating the franchise tax, requiring drug testing for welfare recipients, imposing stiffer penalties on human trafficking and providing a permanent funding source for veterans' homes.
Talboy said Tilley's biggest accomplishment was improving the relationship between Republicans and Democrats in the House.
"Even though we disagreed on issues, he was always respectful to the minority party," Talboy said. "House decorum and the way issues were debated were something he and I worked to improve. I think we accomplished that."
Tilley's decision to resign stands in contrast to Talboy, who announced earlier this year that he would finish out his current term, despite starting a new job in June as director of governmental affairs for consulting firm Burns & McDonnell.
But differences between the powers of the minority leader and those of the House speaker make his situation vastly different from Tilley's, Talboy said.
"The speaker gets to determine the life or death of a veto override attempt and any legislation," Talboy added. "Clearly, no one in the minority party has that kind of authority. That's a significant difference."