Addressing the increasing violence in St. Louis and Kansas City is a priority for Missouri House Republicans and Democrats during the 2020 session, which began Wednesday in Jefferson City.
House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, tells Capitol reporters that the cities need support for witness protection.
“When you have a city like the size of St. Louis facing almost 200 homicides a year, both the police force is sort of overwhelmed and their investigatory unit is sort of overwhelmed,” Haahr says.
There were 194 murders in St. Louis in 2019, along with 148 homicides in Kansas City.
U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison has said that St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield are three of the top 15 most violent cities in the nation, on a per capita basis.
As for House Democrats, they are outnumbered this year in the Missouri House 114-48, with one vacancy. House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, is also focused on increased support for witness protection. But she also tried to draw a distinction between the two parties, during her opening day press conference.
“We will not accept that children dying from gun violence on a weekly basis is the price that we pay for freedom,” says Quade. “And we will demand that common sense be restored to Missouri law to make it harder for the bad guy with the gun to get the gun in the first place.”
At least 13 children were killed in St. Louis City shootings in 2019.
Quade says House Democrats want to punish crime, not poverty.
The Missouri Senate Interim Committee on Public Safety is expected to come up with recommendations to address gun violence, for the 2020 session. The committee is chaired by State Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff.
Speaker Haahr and Leader Quade held back-to-back press conferences at the Statehouse, on opening day.
Meantime, the Missouri House Special Interim Committee on Gaming released its report in December. The committee views the legalization of sports betting as a “legitimate opportunity to increase state revenues” for education and other programs.
18 states will have implemented sports wagering by this year.
Speaker Haahr tells Missourinet there’s a lot of discussion about sports wagering legislation at the Capitol.
“I don’t think any of that discussion particularly falls along party lines,” Haahr says. “I think it sort of cuts across both caucuses and so, we’ll consider those bills as they are filed.”
The House Special Interim Committee on Gaming’s report concluded that Missouri would likely lose revenue if it doesn’t remain competitive with other states.
Major League Baseball (MLB) representative Jeremy Kudon traveled to Jefferson City in November to testify before the gaming committee. He testifies that Missourians are expected to wager $5.5 billion annually on sports, if it’s legalized.
The House has adjourned for the week, and they’ll return to the Capitol on Monday. Next week’s schedule will be light, except for Governor Mike Parson’s State of the State Address on Wednesday.
Speaker Haahr says about 800 House bills have been filed, adding that about 100 will be referred to committee this week. He expects House floor debate to begin during the week of January 20.
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