The Missouri House will meet today in a special legislative session called by Gov. Mike Parson to address the state’s rising crime rate. Unlike the state Senate, the House has broken proposed legislation into six smaller bills.
“Logistically, instead of making their members vote yes or no on a bill that had a lot of really bad stuff in it, breaking it up allows them to pass the pieces that they want and not pass the other pieces,” said Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield.
One proposal would remove a requirement for St. Louis police officers to live within the city. St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden said lifting the condition would help to boost recruitment. Hayden said his department has a shortage of about 130 officers at a time when violence is on the rise in his city. Sen. Jamilah Nasheed said the state does not need to get involved in this local control item, because St. Louisans will be voting on the very issue in November.
Another bill would let judges decide whether 14- to 18-year-olds should be prosecuted as adults for certain crimes using weapons. A House committee increased the age minimum to 14 instead of the Senate’s bill making the minimum 12 years old
A bill missing from today’s lineup is one that would let the Missouri attorney general get involved in some St. Louis murder cases. Parson expanded his special session call to urge lawmakers to pass the measure. The Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, however, said such measures undermine the independence and autonomy of locally elected prosecutors, and any prosecutors seeking help can reach out to the association and get the support they need.
Some Republicans have been critical of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s handling of former Gov. Eric Greitens’s invasion of privacy case and have disagreed with Gardner, a Democrat, for prosecuting an affluent couple who pointed guns at protesters walking through their neighborhood in June.
Kansas City is on pace to have its highest murder rate in history. However, the governor’s spokesperson, Kelli Jones, said St. Louis has reached a record number of murders and a growing backlog of murder cases. She said Parson’s efforts are currently to assist St. Louis.
Other bills focused on during this special session would:
- Create a witness protection fund to keep witnesses and their families safe before trial.
- Toughen the penalty for anyone who sells or gives a gun to a juvenile
- Make it a crime to assist someone 17 or younger to commit a weapons offense.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice