CAPITOL REPORT FROM REPRESENTATIVE EVANS
Wed, 07/29/2020 - 11:03am admin
Governor Mike Parson has called us back (the Missouri House and Senate) into summer session beginning the week of July 27. He has limited the issues of this session to battling the rise of violent crime in Missouri. This is an issue that I’ve been working on for several years in a special task group, and I look forward to digging deeper into the issues this summer.
Before focusing on the Governor’s proposals, it’s interesting (at least to me) to note a bit of trivia. Under our Missouri Constitution, there are two different ways of being called back into session. Most folks, including me, generally refer to any session called after regular session as a “special session.” But technically, only the House and Senate can call a “special session.” Under Article III, Section 20 (b) of our Missouri Constitution, the House and Senate can call a special session but only if requested by petition approved by 3/4ths of all members of both the House and Senate. Because of this tough 3/4ths requirement, this process is rarely used.
On the other hand, the Governor can by proclamation order an “extraordinary” session. As set out in Article IV Section 9 of our Missouri Constitution, “On extraordinary occasions he may convene the general assembly by proclamation, wherein he shall state specifically each matter on which action is deemed necessary.”
Today, it’s more common to hear “special session” being used to describe any session called for a special reason after the regular session, but to most of us it’s tomato/tomahto -- either being ok.
As mentioned, the special reason Governor Parson has called this session is to combat violent crime. Our two largest cities, St. Louis and Kansas City, consistently have had 2 of the highest annual homicide rates in the country, but anywhere violent crime occurs, it must not be tolerated.
We’ll be working on several proposals. The goals of this special session are to 1) reduce violent crime, 2) to protect and support victims and witnesses of violence, and 3) to support local law enforcement.
First, we’ll be looking at providing greater protective services to victims as well as increased funding for witness protection. In the last few years, it seems that there is much too much attention being given to how violent crime impacts the criminal rather than how we should be helping victims and witnesses of crime and protecting the victims from further trauma. This legislation will turn the focus back to where it belongs, helping victims and protecting society.
Another serious problem facing St. Louis is its inability to hire and retain law enforcement officers to work in its communities. Over the last several years, the City of St Louis has been about 150 officers down from what it needs each year to meet its growing safety needs. This proposal would eliminate the residency requirement mandating that the St. Louis officer must both work and live in the city limits of St. Louis. This change would only require the officer to live within a 1-hour commute of the precinct. During regular session, we heard a very similar proposal in the House Judiciary Committee, and the Mayor, City Administrator, and Police Chief of St. Louis all testified in favor of changing the residence requirement. In regular session, we passed a similar proposal out of the House, but it didn’t make it across the finish line. We’ll see in special session if the Senate agrees to get it passed.
Another bill targets the exploitation of juveniles by criminals. A common complaint heard from many in law enforcement is that our juveniles are being forced into crime by their older peers, sometimes as the price of entry into a group. This proposal would strengthen the penalties for unlawfully providing weapons to minors if the intent of the adult is that the juvenile uses the weapon to commit other crimes.
And lastly, the Governor is proposing a change in the admissibility of certain evidence in criminal cases. If the facts of a case establish that a witness to a crime has been intimidated or otherwise prevented from testifying against the perpetrator by or on behalf of the perpetrator, this change in law would allow the court to admit certain written or recorded statements from the witness again if the witness is unavailable to testify because of the perpetrator.
If you have thoughts about how we can better support our law enforcement officers in Missouri and how we can reduce violent crime in this state, please contact me during this upcoming session. Although this special session is limited to violent crime issues, it is expected that we’ll have another special session this fall taking up other issues. Among other things, I’d expect that we’ll be further debating how to best address in Missouri the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
If you have other concerns and suggestions, please let me know. I look forward to going back to session representing the common sense, conservative values of the Ozarks. If you would like to schedule a specific time to meet locally, please call Sarah in my office at 573-751-1455, or please contact my office by email at email@example.com.
Missouri State Representative