The proposal to separate Missouri’s Water Patrol from its Highway Patrol doesn’t seem to have broad support in the legislature’s leadership.
A House bill filed Monday would make those two separate agencies again, reversing the merger approved by Governor Jay Nixon (D) and the legislature in 2010 and completed in 2011. Nixon has said he opposes splitting those agencies up again.
The President Pro Tem of the state senate, Ron Richard (R-Joplin), says he favors preserving the merger.
“It’s a great cost saver, and I think the Highway Patrol is well-trained,” said Richard. He said the drowning of an Iowa man, Brandon Ellingson, on the Lake of the Ozarks while in Patrol custody in 2014 should not prompt splitting those agencies up.
“That issue at the Lake [of the Ozarks] was unfortunate. It shouldn’t have happened,” said Richard.
The proposal isn’t backed by Senate Democrats either.
“Splitting ’em up? I mean, we just got them together, right?” quipped Senate Minority Leader Joe Keaveny (D-St. Louis). “That’s such a complicated issue because we’re talking pensions, we’re talking times of service … It’s only been five years. It hasn’t even had a chance to work.”
The bill was filed by Republican representative Diane Franklin (Camdenton). House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) says he’s worked with her on the review of the patrol merger and whether it’s been successful.
“We’ll continue to work with the members that feel strongly about that issue to make a decision, but at this point we haven’t made a decision one way or the other,” said Richardson of whether the caucus will support that proposal.