The past month has been exceptionally busy in Jefferson City in what continues to be an unusual year. Due to an ongoing rise in violent crime, especially in St. Louis and Kansas City, Governor Mike Parson made the call for a special legislative session to address several aspects of criminal law.
The special session began on July 28 with nearly twenty witnesses testifying in support of SB1, a multiple topic bill that covered all aspects of the Governor’s agenda for the session. The bill includes removing police and public safety employee residency requirements for St. Louis; requiring courts to determine if a juvenile should be certified for trial as an adult for the unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action; allowing certain statements to be admissible in court that would otherwise not be allowed under current law; creation of the Pretrial Witness Protection Fund; and increasing the penalty for a person who knowingly sells or delivers any firearm to a child less than 18 years without the consent of the child’s parent or guardian.
After a twelve-hour debate, the measure passed the Senate by a 27-3 bipartisan vote. The bill would not have an easy path forward in the lower chamber, however, as the House Judiciary Committee failed to advance the bill over disagreements regarding the juvenile certification provision. The measure was subsequently scrapped.
The House now has plans hold hearings on six individual bills, each covering a single topic as outlined in the Governor’s original call for the special session. Also included is a bill which allows for the Attorney General to have dual jurisdiction over certain criminal cases in the city of St. Louis. This comes after the Governor amended his special session call, saying the murder rate in St. Louis is out of control. It seems unlikely the measure will advance as many legislators have already signaled their opposition.
In election news, several area races surprised political observers but none more than Cori Bush, who unseated long time U.S. Representative Lacy Clay in the 1st Congressional District. Clay has represented the district since 2001 and had succeeded his father in holding the seat. Bush is a nurse and Black Lives Matter activist. Other notable highlights in the St. Louis area include David Lenihan winning the 1st state Senate District Republican primary. He now faces Doug Beck in the General Election. Elaine Gannon won convincingly in the 3rd state Senate District Republican Primary; Steve Roberts was the winner in the Democratic primary for the state Senate District 5; Angela Walton Mosely was victorious in her Democratic primary in state Senate District 13, and incumbent Senator Bill Eigel easily beat his challengers in the 23rd state Senate District Republican primary.
Amendment 2 also passed by a 46%-53% margin on election night, meaning the Medicaid program in Missouri will now expand to cover individuals with an income level at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty level. Missouri joins 37 other states in expanding the program.
The special session on crime continues as of the writing of this report. It is expected the Governor will issue calls for additional special sessions on various other issues including spending authorization if Congress gives their approval to another stimulus bill. Also, on tap is the constitutionally mandated veto session in mid-September, where lawmakers will have an opportunity to override any vetoes issued by the Governor on bills from the last legislative session.
We will continue to keep you updated on political news in Jefferson City and around the state. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group