Only two bills pass both Missouri House, Senate during special session on violent crime

Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 3:07 PM CDT
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KY3) - After Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, signed off on two bills to receive Governor Mike Parson’s final approval, the special session on violent crime came to an end in both the Missouri House and Senate Wednesday afternoon.

“You’re not going to hit a home run every time in this building,” Parson said during a news conference Wednesday. “Anything we can do to help law enforcement, to help victims in this state to fight violent crime is a win no matter how small or how big it is.”

The two bills Parson will sign into law set up a pretrial witness protection fund, and allow St. Louis police and other first responders to live outside of the city limits.

Three of Parson’s other proposals died on the House floor without debate Wednesday after being passed by the state Senate in early September.

“It is shocking for me and for the rest of the House Democratic Caucus when we look at the Republican’s control over the Governor’s mansion and super majority powers in both chambers that when the Governor put forward this special session, he has gotten very little in return,” said House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield.

The three bills killed Wednesday would have increased penalties for those who give or sell a gun to a child, made it a crime to help anyone 17 or younger commit a crime with a weapon, and the last bill would have allowed the state Attorney General to step in and help the St. Louis Circuit Attorney prosecute homicide, something the governor wanted because of a backlog of cases in St. Louis.

Those three bills join a fourth that was killed in late August that would have allowed judges to try teenagers between the ages of 16 and 18 as adults for certain crimes committed with weapons.

Quade called the special session a waste of time and taxpayer money during the coronavirus pandemic.

“After over $200,000 spent in a well over month long special session right before the election, he still didn’t get his proposals across the finish line,” Quade told reporters during a news conference. “So I continue to ask, why are we even here when we have so many Missourians who are currently suffering with this virus?”

Parson called her claims ‘political hype.’

“It’s the least of my worries what the legislature’s, what it costs to get them in here,” Parson said. “It’s about trying to protect people in this state right now, and that’s more important than trying to make a political statement like that.”

Despite passing it, lawmakers did not establish how the pretrial witness protection fund will be paid for.

KY3/KSPR’s Andrew Havranek asked Governor Parson what options the state has to do so. Parson said the state will look at several, but said a special session on a supplementary budget will be called, likely in October.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s contested proposal to give the Missouri attorney general the power to intervene in St. Louis homicide cases failed Wednesday when the GOP-led House finished a special session focused on curbing violent crime without taking action on the bill.

The bill would have allowed the attorney general, currently Republican Eric Schmitt, to prosecute St. Louis homicides if the local prosecutor’s office didn’t act on those cases within 90 days and if police asked for an intervention. Parson said the goal was to help reduce violent crime in St. Louis, but the proposal was widely seen as criticism of the city’s first Black prosecutor, Kim Gardner, who is a Democrat.

“You’re not going to hit a home run every time in this building,” Parson said. “We’re very content with what we got moving. Anything we can do to help law enforcement, to help victims in this state (and) to fight violent crime is a win, no matter how big or small it is.”

Parson had asked lawmakers to pass the measure midway through the special session, which he had called.

In Missouri, the attorney general has limited power to prosecute most crimes, a task typically left to local prosecutors. Prosecutors now can request help from the attorney general if needed.

Senators put a three-year expiration date on the measure, meaning it would have expired a year before Gardner and Schmitt are up for reelection.

Republican critics of Gardner blamed her in part for a recent surge in homicides in the city. But Democrats accused Parson and other Republicans of trying to undermine the recent primary election that Gardner won. She’s expected to win in the general election in the overwhelmingly Democratic city.

Republicans including President Donald Trump also criticized Gardner after she charged a white couple with felony unlawful use of a weapon for displaying guns during a racial injustice protest outside their mansion in July.

Parson has said he spoke with Trump about Gardner’s decision and told the president that it’s difficult to remove an elected official from office in Missouri, though he didn’t say if Trump had asked if Gardner could be removed.

The proposal to give Schmitt the power to prosecute St. Louis homicides didn’t gain traction in the House, where the measure never received a committee hearing.

The issue highlights divisions between the Republican governor, Republican-led Senate and Republican-led House.

House members also ended work without passing a bill on giving firearms to children.

Parson had asked lawmakers to increase penalties for giving guns to minors. Instead, the House voted to ditch that law and only make it a felony to give firearms to minors if the intent is to avoid arrest or criminal investigation. Senators undid that change, and the House in response let the bill die.

Ultimately lawmakers passed only two of Parson’s proposals: legislation allowing St. Louis police to live outside the city and a bill creating a fund for witness protection services, which lawmakers didn’t put money into.

House leaders in a joint statement said they were excited to pass “several significant measures to provide additional resources for law enforcement officers and protect the witnesses against violent criminals.”

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