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Police reform package stonewalled in conference over House provision

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A conference committee over a massive bipartisan police reform package didn’t get off to a great start Tuesday as House members stonewalled work on the legislation over one provision. 

The House and the Senate are at loggerheads a particular provision, HB 1069, which creates offenses for witnesses who fail to comply or answer questions when summoned by the General Assembly. Opponents to the measure argue it would give the Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem too much power, equating it to an attempt to turn the General Assembly into a court. The Governor’s Office has told lawmakers Gov. Mike Parson will veto the package should it contain that language, but House members refused Tuesday morning to work on the rest of the bill without assurances that provision would remain in place. 

“If the governor is inclined to veto the entire bill regardless of the benefits over one issue, I think that’s a decision for him to make,” Rep. Lane Roberts said. “It’s no different than the one we’re making here today. Without the provisions of 1069, this is not a good use of our time because we’re not going to go anywhere.”

SBs 53 and 60, sponsored by Sens. Tony Luetkemeyer and Brian Williams, has been a labor of love for the two senators this session. It would prohibit certain residency requirements for Kansas City police officers and ban the use of chokeholds — a response to George Floyd’s killing last year. 

“If for one provision, we’re willing to scuttle an entire bill that’s been worked on all session — I find myself in that position a lot, and I would hope that we would have cooler heads prevail and that we could pass what I would consider a really good piece of legislation,” Minority Floor Leader John Rizzo said. “I hope that we can progress forward on a good piece of legislation that a lot of people have worked really hard on.” 

As of Tuesday morning, another conference committee is still scheduled for Wednesday. 

“We are continuing to work with the House to find a path forward,” Luetkemeyer told The Missouri Times. “I’m hopeful we can find a solution to allow this important legislation to hit the governor’s desk.”