State Senator Bob Dixon (R-Springfield) wants Governor Nixon to call a special session to ask the legislature to back a pilot program for the Missouri Public Defender System and to close a loophole in Missouri’s drunk driving law.
“They are both urgent issues. We are talking about people not being convicted of a DWI on a technicality, potentially 30,000 cases. We are talking about citizens not being able to assert their constitutional rights between now and January. I think those are both very important core functions that government needs to address,” says Dixon.
The Governor withheld $3.5 million in the Public Defender office’s current budget, citing lower than projected state revenue.
“There are different opinions on how to fix it. I’m not of the opinion that we just throw money at problems. I believe we need to look at how things are functioning,” says Dixon.
Dixon, who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, recalls earmarking $700,000 in the department’s budget in 2013 and 2014 to start a pilot program. The project never got off the ground.
“It (the pilot program) would take some of those lesser offenses that are out there and parcel those out to private defense counsel in two counties, one urban and one rural,” says Dixon. “They do a good job but they need some reorganization. They do need some additional funding.”
Dixon also offered legislation during this year’s regular session to fix a typo in Missouri’s law on drunk driving cases, but the measure didn’t pass. The law must be changed to require that breathalyzers are calibrated using one level, instead of three.
The error involves cases during a 15-month period. If the mistake isn’t fixed, thousands of suspected drunk drivers could go free or they could receive a lesser charge.
Dixon is asking for the special session to be placed next to the legislature’s veto session, which begins September 14.
Governor Nixon’s office has not responded yet to Missourinet’s inquiry about whether he’ll call a special session to address these issues. This story will be updated when a response is received.