JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Rep. Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton, filed HB 1960 Monday to undo the merger that combined the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Missouri State Water Patrol in 2011.
“We need to return to the days of a focused Water Patrol mission that is fully devoted and passionate for the water and law enforcement,” Franklin said in a statement. “This means better training, enhanced resources on the water to increase safety and improved relations with marine interests. With public safety as the very top priority, the only way we can really accomplish this is to separate the Water Patrol from the Highway Patrol. We can return to the days of a top-notch, nationally recognized Missouri State Water Patrol.”
Franklin has conducted multiple hearings over the past few years analyzing the benefits and costs of the merger, which was lauded by both the General Assembly under former Speaker Tim Jones and Gov. Jay Nixon.
Last year, she and a bipartisan group of legislators made recommendations to make the combined water and highway patrol more efficient. The late Auditor Tom Schweich stated at the beginning of last year that the merger cost the state somewhere near $900,000 in increased costs.
Evidently, after further testimony and investigation this year, Franklin has determined that the merger should simply be undone. She noted that since the water patrol acquisition, the Highway Patrol had used the extra resources to focus their attention on highways and away from lakes, rivers and other waterways.
“There seems to have been a post-merger shift in priority to the Highway Patrol’s advantage at the expense of safety and resources on Missouri’s waterways,” Franklin said. “There are 26 major rivers, 14 major lakes and 300,000 registered vessels operating on 275,000 acres of water in the state. There are 7 million visitors at these locations each year. It is reckless to diminish and deprioritize patrol and law enforcement on these high-traffic venues.”
Should this law pass, the administrative structure regarding the highway patrol and water patrol under the Department of Public Safety would be exactly as it was prior to the merger.