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Parson signs off on violent crime bills

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Mike Parson officially signed the two bills that came out of the special session on violent crime Monday afternoon. 

“We have a serious problem with violent crime here in Missouri, and we have seen it escalate even more in recent months,” Parson said. “HB 66 and HB 46 are valuable tools that will build on our efforts to combat violent crime, support law enforcement officers, and make our communities safer.” 

HB 46 eliminates the residency requirements for police and other public safety officers in St. Louis. Proponents said in committee that these requirements are the main obstacle to recruitment, while opponents raised concerns over community relations.

HB 66 will establish the “Pretrial Witness Protection Fund.” Proponents said the fund would protect those willing to testify in court and help put violent offenders behind bars, while opponents noted no funding source was attached to the measure during its time in the legislature.  

Parson told reporters last week that another special legislative session to fund the witness protection piece will take place at some point in October. 

“If we are to change violent criminal acts across our state, we must work together,” Parson said. “We must support our law enforcement officers, and we must start prioritizing the prevention of violent crime. These two pieces of legislation are a great step in the right direction.”

Parson first called the special session in mid-July, noting higher homicide rates in Kansas City and St. Louis compared to the same time in previous years. As of Sept. 18, there have been 195 murders in St. Louis so far this year compared to 194 in 2019, according to the Governor’s Office. 

The session concluded last week with three of the five bills that made it through a contentious day in the Senate being ignored on their return to the House. Those bills would have covered the admissibility of witness statements, the offense of endangering the welfare of a child, and the illegal transfer of a firearm to a minor. 

Parson will hold ceremonial bill signings later this week.