Three Missouri House committees plan hearings on Monday afternoon in Jefferson City, relating to the special session on violent crime.

House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann, R-O’Fallon, and Majority Leader Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, announced earlier this week that they would simplify the process with single-subject bills to protect the integrity of the lawmaking process and to ensure the issues are thoroughly vetted.

Missouri House Judiciary Committee Chairman David Gregory, R-St. Louis County, checks paperwork at a hearing on August 10, 2020 in Jefferson City (photo courtesy of Ben Peters at House Communications)

The House Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by State Rep. David Gregory, R-St. Louis County, will hear three bills on Monday, including legislation from State Rep. Ron Hicks, R-Dardenne Prairie, that would eliminate the residency requirement for St. Louis Police officers.

The Hicks bill says that St. Louis Police cannot impose a residency requirement on their officers, more stringent than a one-hour response time. St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden has testified that the residency requirement is the greatest challenge that his department has with recruitment and retention. Opponents of the plan say it’s safer for neighborhoods to have the officers living in the city.

The Judiciary Committee will also hear a bill on Monday about witness protection. State Rep. Jonathan Patterson, R-Lee’s Summit, has filed legislation that would create a pretrial witness protection services fund, which would be administered by the state Department of Public Safety (DPS) to law enforcement agencies. The money would be used to provide security to witnesses, potential witnesses and their immediate families in criminal proceedings or investigations.

The Judiciary Committee will also hold a hearing on legislation from State Rep. Barry Hovis, R-Cape Girardeau, regarding witness and victim tampering.

The House Special Committee on Criminal Justice will hold a Monday hearing on legislation from State Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, which would allow Missouri courts to certify some juveniles as adults for violent weapons offenses.

Governor Mike Parson (R) has called for this provision, saying it’s aimed at violent crime, such as murder and rape.

But State Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, and other critics say it will lock up children and put them in prison with violent offenders and murderers. Aldridge and others protested in downtown Jefferson City this week.

“Charge them as an adult because that is how we are going to fix violence- by being tough on crime to individuals that have made a mistake and should be held accountable but you are charging our youngest babies,” Aldridge said Thursday. “When do we go to ten? When do we go to nine? What’s going to be next? Eight? Seven? We are locking up literally babies and putting them in jail with serial killers.”

The House General Laws Committee will hold a Monday hearing on two bills from Representative Schroer. One involves the unlawful transfer of weapons, and the other involves endangering the welfare of a child.

Meantime, Governor Parson spoke to Missouri House members today about the special session on violent crime. The governor hosted conference calls with House members. Parson spokeswoman Kelli Jones tells Missourinet that there have been several calls today.

There have been 167 homicides in St. Louis in 2020. The city had 194 murders in 2019. The “St. Louis Post-Dispatch” reports there have been 15 child homicides so far in 2020, which tops all of last year.

Across the state in Kansas City, there have been 124 homicides. There were 90, at this point in 2019 in Kansas City.

The governor expanded his special session call on Monday, to include a provision to allow the state attorney general’s office to take on some murder cases that haven’t been prosecuted yet by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner (D). The governor says this is about fighting violent crime.

Circuit Attorney Gardner and the bipartisan Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys oppose that plan.

A hearing on a Gardner-related bill has not been scheduled, at this time.

The Missouri Senate approved the crime bill earlier this month, by a bipartisan 27-3 vote. The full Missouri House is scheduled to return to Jefferson City on Monday August 24.

There was another development in Jefferson City on Friday, when State Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, requested that the governor expand the special session call to address absentee ballots for the November general election.

Representative Kendrick, the House Budget Committee’s ranking Democrat, wants the General Assembly to take legislative and appropriation action to ensure that every Missourian’s properly postmarked, but late delivered, absentee ballot for November will count.

Kendrick, House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, and others will address Capitol reporters Monday in Jefferson City, about the issue.

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