Missouri House passes crime bills, sending them on to Senate in special session

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JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — The governor’s special session to address violent crime cleared a major hurdle Tuesday after five of the provisions passed the Missouri House. 

It’s now the Senate’s turn to take up the five pieces of legislation, but one of the items on Parson’s list will not move forward.

The bill containing juvenile certification is now dead. This legislation could have mandated hearings on whether juveniles charged with certain weapons crimes should be tried as adults.

The measure passed out of committee last week, but was never heard on the House floor. 

“This is a piece of legislation that would’ve made Missouri better and safer and provided more opportunities for juveniles who make a mistake and have a second chance, yet that one bill, that piece of legislation that had broad bipartisan support did not make it to the House floor this week,” Rep. Steven Roberts, D-St. Louis, said.

Other bills like House Bill 46, which reduces the residency requirements for St. Louis City public safety employees and police, caused tension to rise during Tuesday’s debate. 

“Local control is a good thing, unless the city is out of control,” said Rep. Justin Hill, R-Lake St. Louis. “So now we, the state legislature, have to fix their malfeasance.”

Democrats from St. Louis fired back saying residents should get to decide the requirements on the November ballot. 

“We did not allow or let an opportunity for the citizens who live in St. Louis City to have the final say,” Rep. LaKeySha Bosely, D-St. Louis, said. “You wouldn’t want me as a St. Louis representative to come in Jasper or Howe and dictate what’s happening with your local government. You would fight back at me tooth and nail.”

As homicides rates soar across the state, lawmakers said they’re hoping to find answers. 

“And that’s why I firmly believe this is one more tool in the tool box to help combat this violent crime,” said Rep. Nick Schroer, R-St. Charles. 

Schroer is the sponsor of two of the provisions that passed, including increasing the penalties for adults who endanger a child.

After changes to the original bill, House Bill 11 now makes it a felony to give firearms to children if the person is trying to avoid felony arrest or criminal investigation. The bill was modified so family members would not be charged for taking a child hunting without parent permission. 

Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove, D-St. Louis, asked her colleagues to remember who these laws affect. 

“Even though the crime rates might seem crazy high in Kansas City and St. Louis, we’re not animals,” Bland Manlove said. “We’re people who have been left out of the system. We are making these laws, especially these today for the special session on violence. Let’s pay attention to not being scared but really finding solutions.”

The state of Missouri could soon have their own witness protection program, but the concern about the program is how to fund it. 

“Since we passed the bill, we would likely meet an extraordinary session to run concurrently with veto session,” bill sponsor Rep. Jonathan Patterson, R-Lee Summit, said. “There’s no appropriation now so when we come back you could appropriate $1 million because that hasn’t been done yet.”

Democrats offered an amendment for federal funding Monday, but Republicans voted it down. 

“And now it’s an emergency to establish a program that still won’t exist after we pass this bill because we haven’t funded it yet,” Rep. Peter Meridith, D-St. Louis, said. “If we really believe this was an emergency, wouldn’t we be funding it right now?”

“We may have passed it, but we have no way to fund the witness protection fund,” House Minority Leader Rep. Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said. 

House Budget Chair Rep. Cody Smith stressed Monday there would need to be another special session to address the appropriation for the program. 

Dozens of protestors interrupted Tuesday’s debate by shouting, “Criminal justice reform not rhetoric” and “No justice no peace.”

The group was part of the “Expect US” group from St. Louis. Members were seen wearing a white shirt covered with red hand prints. 

Quade argued the governor only called the special session for his own campaign. 

“You’re hearing from both sides of the aisles, from both chambers that folks are frustrated with what the governor’s call has been, and I think that’s why you’re actually not seeing these things move quickly,” Quade said.

“What this session has been is really just the governor creating an opportunity for him to run a tough-on-crime campaign for the fall, when in fact we’ve done nothing to be tough on crime or prevent it.”

Quade mentioned how the Black Legislative Caucus and the House Democrats called on the governor to address violent crime last summer but ignored their request. 

“The regular session came and went and we didn’t have that conversation,” Bosley said. “We didn’t do anything that could have helped and now we have bodies laying in the street a year later that could have been prevented a year ago.”

The Senate is expected to take up the House Bills 2, 11, 16, 46 and 66 starting next Tuesday. 

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