It loses votes, but still passed as the House sends the Senate a bill that would hand control of the St. Louis Police Department back over to the city.

A governor-appointed board has managed the St. Louis Police Department since the Civil War. A bill passing the House on a 109-to-46 vote would place the department under local control.

Rep. Tim Meadows (D-Imperial) argues against the move, claiming it would drag local politics into police work. Meadows acknowledged the issue’s controversy during House floor debate.

“You know, there has been a lot of bickering back and forth and a lot of half-truths and a lot of hatred welled up over this,” Meadows said. “And it shouldn’t be about that.”

House Speaker Steven Tilley, a Republican from Perryville, took the unusual step of speaking from the floor during debate.

“But I would like each and every member, before they vote on this, to make a decision. How could they in good conscience be willing to fight for something to protect their citizens but not be willing stand up for the citizens of the city of St. Louis?” Tilley asked. “I think it’s a fair question. It’s a reasonable question and it was a driving principle behind me to supporting House Bill 71. And I’ll be honest with you; I’m honored to support this.”

The issue failed badly last session. An influx of new members and the push from House leadership might have made the difference this year, though the bill lost support between preliminary approval on Thursday and final approval on Tuesday. After the amendment process Thursday, the House gave tentative approval to the bill on a 123-to-34 vote. Debate on Tuesday brought out more critics than before and support of the bill slipped. The final vote was 109-to-46. The bill now moves to the Senate where its fate is much less certain.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:60 MP3]

AUDIO: House floor debate on HB 71 [1 hour MP3]