JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The governor’s special session on violent crime will enter week seven starting Monday.
It’s a session that has lasted much longer than lawmakers thought it would. For 40 days the House and the Senate have been debating and changing bills. Originally Governor Parson asked for six provisions then expanded the special session for concurrent jurisdiction over St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, but lawmakers aren’t done yet.
After long week of debate, discussion and some resolution inside the Capitol with a late addition that caused major uproar in the Senate. Senators debated for 17 hours Wednesday into early Thursday morning.
Republican Senator from Lake St. Louis Bob Onder offered an amendment Wednesday which would allow the attorney general office to prosecute murderer cases in St. Louis 90 days after the crime or by request of law enforcement. Senators spent hours on House Bill 2 debating this late addition.
FOX4’s Chief Capitol Bureau Reporter Emily Manley asked Parson about his thoughts on the special session during a press conference Thursday at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
“I think St. Louis is in a critical stage where there needs to be a little help there,” Parson said. “The only way that the attorney general could come in is if the local authorities would ask him to come in.”
After several hours of debate, the Senate made a historic and rare move early Thursday moring in order to get the vote on House Bill 2. The move was called a PQ (moving the previous question). This is something the Senate hasn’t done since 2017 to advance an abortion bill. Prior to Tuesday night, the PQ has only been used 17 times in the last 50 years in the Missouri Senate. This forces the end of debate. Compared to the House that uses PQ regularly, it’s tactic not normally used in the upper chamber.
Senators passed HB 2 just before 3 a.m. after the PQ was called.
“Jurisdiction has gotten into another political issue but the bottom line is this, when you don’t have the resources, you don’t have the resources to try homicides cases then it’s okay if somebody comes in and help,” Parson said.
Democrats in the Senate have said multiple times Gardner never asked for help, but Parson said it’s law enforcement who asked.
“I want to be clear, it’s law enforcement that are going to have to ask for that,” Parson said. “So, it’s going to be a local decision. This is an unusual time for homicides rates, people are dying, kids are dying.”
The Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys released a statement Thursday after the Senate passed the bill.
“The issues of the city of St. Louis are many and there are differing opinions on their cause but wresting control from a prosecutor recently reelected by her constituents is certainly not the solution. In the entire history of Missouri’s statehood, the attorney general has never had the power to prosecute homicide cases without the request and consent of the local prosecutor.”
The House had the opportunity to take up this topic last week but didn’t. House leadership has not responded if they will vote on this topic during this special session.
“We ought to do everything we can to take murderers off the street and I’m going to do everything I can do that and I’m going to do everything I can to support law enforcement,” Parson said.
Before the long debate on House Bill 2, Senators passed House Bill 11, increasing the penalty of endangering the welfare of a child, House Bill 66, creation of a witness protection fund, House Bill 46, reducing residency requirements for St. Louis City public safety workers and House Bill, 16, unlawful transfer of a weapon.
HB 46 and 66 are now on the governor’s desk pending his approval and he is expected to sign both. Some Democrats had issues about the witness protection fund because the bill’s sponsor said the fund would not be available until lawmakers fund the program and that could require another special session.
Senators changed a few minor words in HB 11 and now the bill goes back to the House for a final vote. HB 16 also returned to the House for further consideration after the Senate voted to add back a provision the House previously removed. The provision would make it a misdemeanor to give a child a gun without parents’ permission. The Senate also created an exception to remove the offense if the child’s relative, within the third degree, would give a child a gun without the parents’ permission.
As for the cost of this long special session, according to the chief clerk of the House, the House has spent nearly $160,000 so far this session. That’s $15,000 more than what was estimated for this session. The Senate could not give any official numbers at this time, but with their estimates added to the House, this special session could now cost up to nearly $200,000 by the time it’s over.
There is no word on when the House will return to vote on the changes from the Senate but according to the House schedule, the veto session starts Sept. 16.