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Lawmakers warn of second special session as House approves anti-crime bills

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — As the House finished its approval of the extraordinary session crime bills, rumblings in the Capitol’s halls about a second special session to fund the witness protection bill have begun.

HB 66 creates a pretrial witness protection fund, but the legislation did not include appropriations for the fund. 

“Why is there not an appropriation bill paired with this?” Rep. Peter Merideth, a Democrat, said. “It’s the bill that would have the most actual impact on the problem — this bill that has the best argument for actually helping — and yet it’s the one bill that can’t actually do anything until we come back for a later session, and you still call it an emergency?”

Merideth argued the legislature would likely need to convene for a second special session to fund the proposal — which Republican House Budget Chair Cody Smith also confirmed to The Missouri Times.

Democratic leadership also decried the focus of the legislature.

“From all the things [the governor] asked for, we saw very little actually make it across the finish line, one of those being the witness protection fund,” House Minority Floor Leader Crystal Quade said following adjournment. “But as you might have heard this week on the floor, we may have passed it, but we have no way to fund the witness protection fund. We tried to have a discussion around if this is truly an emergency, then we need to actually fund it. The budget chairman himself and members of the Republican caucus said we’ll just come back and do it in January.”

Quade called the time spent reconvened in the House a “political special session that truly does nothing.” 

Bill sponsor Rep. Jon Patterson could not be immediately reached for comment. 

The House third read and passed its versions of the violent crime bills on Tuesday, with five of the six provisions included in the governor’s initial call heading to the upper chamber. The House refused to take up the bill regarding juvenile certification, essentially killing it. 

The governor expanded the call of the session to include concurrent jurisdiction in the city of St. Louis, but no bills on the subject were assigned to a House committee. 

The five bills given the green light by the House — regarding St. Louis residency requirements, the illegal transfer of a firearm, creation of a witness protection fund, admissibility of witness statements, and endangering the welfare of a child — now move to the Senate for consideration.