JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Legislative Black Caucus elected new leaders on Thursday, putting Rep. Steven Roberts at the helm.

Two incoming representatives were also elected to posts, with Rep.-elect Ashley Manlove to serve as vice-chair and Rep.-elect LaKeySha Bosley to serve as secretary. Rep. Richard Brown was voted in as treasurer.

“We have a great team put together,” said Roberts. He noted that five members of leadership in the House are members of the Black Caucus.

“One of the things I am most excited about is that, after watching what happened last session, Republicans seem to have an appetite for criminal justice reform,” said Roberts. “We passed the Raise the Age bill and there has been interesting in getting rid of mandatory minimums. We hope that we will be able to continue passing some of those criminal justice reforms that need to be done.”

Part of the criminal justice reform he would like to focus on is the current cash bail system along with mandatory minimums for some crimes and working in preventative measures.

“The one thing that is going to cut down on crime is a good paying job,” said Brown.

And vocational training along with a good education is a way together with a good paying job, according to Bosley. She mentioned that bringing trade programs back into the public school system would be beneficial to Missourians.

Workforce development is not only a priority of the Black Caucus but also a hallmark of Mike Parson’s governorship.

“I think one of the new things we are excited about is Gov. Parson and that we are not dealing with any scandal,” said Brown. “Gov. Parson has been very welcoming and inviting to members on both sides of the aisle. He is listening, he wants to actually govern the state of Missouri. So I am very excited to be able to work with him and try to pass legislation that is beneficial to all Missourians.”

Brown noted that public safety will also be a point of focus along with some “common sense” gun regulations.

“People are dying. We have to do something,” said Brown. “We are not saying ‘take guns away from people.’ We are saying ‘use common sense.’”

Brown said that it was personal. As a public school teacher, he had students killed by handguns and a friend was killed at the Pulse nightclub shooting. Manlove noted that throughout her campaign, safety was a common concern brought up by her constituents. She said high schoolers comments on being fearful of hanging out at their school.

Roberts noted instituting some safety measures moving forward wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. In 2018, he had a firearms safety bill passed out of two House committees.  

All in all, the new leadership of the Black Caucus said they were optimistic and excited for the 100th regular session of the Missouri General Assembly.

Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at alisha@themissouritimes.com.