JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – After long debate throughout session and much input from municipalities across the state, SB 572 – dubbed “SB 5, Part 2” – is being sent to Gov. Jay Nixon for his signature.
The final passage was immediately praised by sponsor Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale.
— Eric Schmitt (@Eric_Schmitt) May 12, 2016
The bill was first voted out of the Jobs, Economic Development and Local Government Committee in January, making it one of the most extensively vetted bills to pass the General Assembly. The first committee vote on the bill attracted the attention of the Missouri Municipal League and mayors across the state who wanted a seat at the table.
The bill was contentiously debated, admitted by House handler Rep. Robert Cornejo, R-St. Charles, who said in closing that some thought the bill went too far while others thought it didn’t go far enough. Cornejo also addressed longstanding concerns from municipalities.
“People can still be put in jail if they fail to show up in court,” Cornejo said. “We’re not going to allow these excessive fees and fines going forward.”
The fine reform concerned many municipalities, who wanted to be sure they could crack down on chronic offenders through retaining jail time for ordinance violations and maintaining a fine schedule. One mayor, Mayor Eileen Weir of Independence, prioritized those two reforms to the original bill.
“We have a lot of landlords who own multiple buildings who don’t bat an eye at fines,” Weir said. “Lowering the fine, we felt, was not much of a deterrent to some of our most blatant offenders of our property code violators. The ability to retain the option for jail time for chronic offenders who simply do not demonstrate any willingness to correct their problem, and implementing an escalated fine schedule, which is what we have in Indpendence, was vital.”
After the bill was amended on the House side, it gained the support of many mayors.
“We put a lot of effort in working with the legislature and making some reforms,” said Independence Mayor Eileen Weir. “It would be very gratifying to see this be accepted and passed.”
However, Weir said that the city is feeling the impact of SB 5, to the tune around $900,000 in lost revenue and a strained municipal court.
“It’s not about using our citizens to generate revenue, it’s about protecting people who aren’t breaking the laws,” Weir said. “It’s about ‘how do we deter crime when people don’t have to pay a fine and aren’t going to get their driver’s license taken away and aren’t going to spend a couple hours in jail?’”
Weir’s concerns were alleviated in the legislative process.
The House truly agreed and finally passed the second CCR, sending the bill to the governor, on a 98-46 vote.