Representative Chris Kelly (D-Columbia), standing among fellow lawmakers and others who worked on the first rewrite of the state’s criminal code in more than 30 years, expressed his frustration Tuesday morning.
“We have literally begged the State of Missouri to evaluate our work with a fine-toothed comb, and we still hope for that kind of evaluation,” says Kelly.
Kelly and other lawmakers want Governor Jay Nixon (D) to sign the criminal code legislation, SB 491. They say his signature would set into motion a review process that would continue until the bill would take effect January 1, 2017.
Nixon has cited concerns about the bill being too large and thereby leaving too much room for error. He has said he wants the bill to be broken into pieces that can be handled separately.
Senator Jolie Justus (D-Kansas City) says that is the only message the legislature has received from the Governor, but says she learned on Thursday of last week that the Nixon Administration’s Department of Public Safety sent a fax to an outside party, expressing concerns with the criminal code.
“If these were real concerns they would have sent it to us,” says Justus.
Asked whether Nixon’s motivations are political, Justus says that is a good question to ask him. She says she hasn’t heard from his office since the legislation was passed last week.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving on Monday sent Nixon a letter saying the bill could make evidence difficult to admit in cases of driving while intoxicated. Kelly says that letter stems from a memo from the Department of Public Safety.
“They are consistent with political rather than professional communication,” says Kelly, “but I don’t have any specific evidentiary reason to believe that the governor is the starting point for that political as distinct from evidentiary communication.”
Justus expressed her frustration during budget debate in the Senate by proposing an amendment to add $150 for the Department of Public Safety for the purchase of a fax machine so it can better communicate with the legislature.