JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A large crime package that includes banning chokeholds is making its way through the Missouri General Assembly.
The House spent more than six hours debating Senate Bill 26 Tuesday afternoon into the evening. Throughout the debate, 40 amendments were added to the measure like allowing guns in churches, raising the age to try 17 years old as juveniles, requiring officers to take a use-of-force training, and regulating unlicensed boarding schools.
The underlying legislation, sponsored by Rep. Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon) in the House and Sen. Bill Eigel (R-Weldon Spring) in the Senate, would make it a crime for protestors to block traffic, which was the topic up for discussion for most of the hours-long debate.
“It is a direct impact on people who look like me,” Rep. Rasheed Aldridge (D-St. Louis) said. “This bill isn’t going to stop protests. Members of the body, if this goes into effect, I’m not going to stop protesting, so I hope I can continue to serve in this body when you all try to give me a felony if you all think that I’m that horrible of an individual.”
Schroer said the bill is to protect not only protestors but also drivers using the interstate.
“Is it going to stop everyone?” Schroer said. “No, no law that we have today is going to stop people outright, but this is going to detour or hopefully detour people from jumping in traffic without getting a permit first when it comes to our highways and interstates.”
The first offense would be an infraction, a second violation would be a class B misdemeanor and any other violations would be a class E felony. Added early Tuesday morning to the bill, any offense that is done during an “unlawful assembly,” which is six or more people, the first offense is an infraction, the second is a class A misdemeanor and a third violation is a class D felony.
The measure also adds a “bill of rights” for law enforcement officers by protecting officers who are under investigation by notifying him or her of the alleged violation and who would be conducting the investigation. Also, the questioning of the officer would only happen while on duty.
“I’m crying right now because the message we are sending back home to black bodies,” Aldridge said.
Kansas City-area Democrat Rep. Ashley Bland-Manlove spoke about the violence in her city over the weekend, telling members how public safety is needed in the state.
“When is the madness going to stop?,” Bland-Manlove said. “Yet, we want to have a bill that says guns are good in churches and buses. I wish we were actually talking about the good of the public.”
Rep. Justin Hill (R-Lake St. Louis) stood on the floor Tuesday night defending Republicans.
“This is the reason why Republicans have a majority in Missouri,” Hill said.
St. Louis-area Republican Rep. Shamed Dogan added an amendment to ban chokeholds. He has a bill this session that was previously approved by the House and is waiting to be heard in the Senate.
Throughout the lengthy debate, multiple members mentioned how this legislation would have to go to conference with the Senate because they would not accept the loaded bill. The Senate has before May 14 to vote on the bill.