Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) feels confident that state lawmakers will restore $6.8 million in funding from his office’s consumer protection fund. Hawley tells Missourinet his office was not aware a House budget committee was considering an amendment Tuesday night to strip away that funding.
“We didn’t know anything about it and we sent someone as soon as we heard and that’s one of the reasons we were so surprised,” says Hawley.
Hawley says the fund protects initiatives including veterans, seniors and funds the no-call list. He says the law requires that the funds be devoted to consumer protection.
“I think the legislature will follow the law. I think at the end of the day, they won’t strip this money away from those who are most at risk in this state,” says Hawley.
House budget committee chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) tells Missourinet the group voted to give the funding to the public defender system’s budget.
“There was nobody there to represent the attorney general when the amendment was offered,” says Fitzpatrick. “As a result of that, I think that probably is a large part of the reason the amendment passed. If they weren’t aware, I don’t know what to tell them about that. Anybody who wanted the amendment packet could’ve gotten it starting probably about 8:30 yesterday morning. We didn’t vote on that one until sometime between nine and ten o’clock last night.”
The state’s 370 public defenders are handling more than 80,000 cases per year. The Missouri Public Defender System has requested $67 million for next fiscal year’s budget. Governor Greitens (R) has proposed $44 million.
“I’m not saying what we did is good or bad. I’m just saying when there’s a lack of information to oppose something and the public defender was there and the public defender came up and said what he would do with the money. The circumstances surrounding the offering of the amendment were unfavorable to the attorney general right at that point,” says Fitzpatrick.
Missouri public defender system director Michael Barrett submitted the following written statement to Missourinet:
“Everyone interested in their budget picked up the amendments at 8:15 am and then spent the long day in markup,” said Barrett. “From one office head to another – perhaps less time handing out raises and more time performing unglamorous tasks such as attending budget meetings.”
Lawmakers continue to work on the state budget that begins in July and could move that funding.