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Special session on violent crime convenes with bevy of other bills filed

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The special legislative session on violent crime got underway Monday, although a handful of senators spent the first few days introducing legislation not fully consistent with the outline previously put forth by the governor.

Republican Sen. Doug Libla is tasked with carrying legislation to tackle the multi-faceted agenda to address violent crime the governor laid out earlier this month. His Transportation, Infrastructure, and Public Safety Committee will hear the bill Tuesday afternoon. 

SB 1 includes an end to residency requirements for St. Louis police officers and other public safety personnel, certification to try certain juveniles as adults, witness statement admissibility, creation of a pre-trial witness protection fund, modification of the offense of endangering a child, and an increased penalty for illegally transferring a firearm to a minor. 

Libla also has those provisions broken out into three other bills: SB 2 deals with residency requirements, SB 3 is related to the weapons offenses, and SB 4 tackles the witnesses’ portion of the initial bill. 

Only SB 1 is scheduled to be heard before a committee; the other three are on deck for a “worst-case scenario” situation. 

From concurrent jurisdiction to protections for schools during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, here’s a look at what bills senators introduced during the first week of the special session on violent crime.

Other bills

Despite the special session narrowly tailored to address certain violent crime measures, other bills were introduced from the Senate floor Monday when lawmakers convened. But Gov. Mike Parson has stressed his administration is “narrowly focused” on his priorities, and it isn’t likely any of the other bills will see a committee hearing. 

— One bill in particular, from GOP Sen. Andrew Koenig, was much anticipated as Republicans continue to criticize St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner: establishing concurrent jurisdiction, giving the attorney general the ability to prosecute homicides and vehicle carjackings in St. Louis. 

“Too many murder cases are going unsolved in St. Louis,” Koenig told The Missouri Times of SB 5. “If we want to grow as a region, be a place for people to move to and raise a family, start a business, we have to get a handle on our crime problem. The Attorney General’s Office has the resources, character, and discipline to step in and deliver justice for the families of victims.” 

Even before the special session got underway, Democratic Sen. Karla May vowed to stop any concurrent jurisdiction legislation, calling it a “game-changer.” 

“That bill will not go anywhere if I have anything to do with it,” May said during Sunday’s episode of This Week in Missouri Politics. “People have elected their prosecutor all across the state. They elected the person they want to serve as their circuit attorney. … We have an election coming up Aug. 4; the people have an opportunity to unelect or re-elect the person that has been elected for that office.” 

“The attorney general, if he wanted to be prosecutor, he should have moved to the city of St. Louis and ran for the office,” she said. 

— Sen. Brian Williams introduced a legislative package Monday including a myriad of police reform measures. SB 16 modifies when no-knock warrants, force, or chemical agents could be used by law enforcement officials. It also addresses sexual misconduct by police, written policies for law enforcement agencies, and training provisions for peace officers, among other things. 

— Sen. Bill Eigel introduced the most bills Monday. His SB 6 would abolish residency requirements for municipal police; SB 7 creates a “Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights;” SB 9 establishes the offense of unlawful traffic interference, including a Class D felony for an individual who blocks a street or highway as part of an unlawful assembly. Additionally, Eigel’s SB 10 would make a diagnosed mental impairment established while a first responder is on active duty an occupational disease

Eigel, a member of the Conservative Caucus, also put forth legislation tackling abortion. SB 8 prohibits public funds, including MO HealthNet money, from going to any clinic, office, or another establishment where abortions are performed — with the exception of hospitals. SJR 1 would prevent the General Assembly from appropriating funds to establishments that perform abortions pending voter approval.   

SB 11 from Democratic Sen. Jill Schupp would require the sale or transfer of a firearm to be done with a licensed dealer involved with background checks completed. 

Schupp also urged the governor to expand the extra session to include school safety during the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis. Her SB 12 would provide certain resources, equipment, and experts to school districts grappling with the pandemic and ensure students still receive meals through the federal free or reduced-price lunch program when schools are closed. 

“We must take action now to protect students, teachers, and families from contracting and spreading COVID-19 from the classroom to the community,” Schupp said. “The state should have stepped up to help districts months ago instead of leaving each district to fend for themselves.” 

— Sen. Bob Onder introduced a handful of bills Monday tangentially related to the McCloskey situation. His SB 13 would ensure individuals have a right to use deadly force for protection against death or serious injury or in the case when someone unlawfully enters or remains on an individual’s private property. SB 15 would give the governor the authority to remove a circuit attorney from office for crimes, misconduct, corruption, incompetency, or willful neglect of duty. 

Additionally, Onder proposed SB 14 to allow for the concealed carry of firearms on public transportation. 

— May introduced two bills on the second day of the legislative session. SB 17 would require a minor’s waiver of his or her right to counsel to be made in open court, be recorded, and made in writing. Her SB 18 modifies the POST Commission’s training standards and includes other police reform measures.

For more on the special session, click here. 

This story has been updated. It was originally published on July 27. Cameron Gerber contributed to this report.