The Missouri House is in session today and is expected to take a preliminary vote on six crime bills. Gov. Mike Parson cites the state’s rising crime rate for calling the current special session.
Kansas City Democrat Ashley Bland Manlove, the Vice Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, tells Missourinet she has met with the governor about a handful of times over the past year to discuss ways to reduce crime.
“When we asked him to hold a special session last year, he said a special session isn’t enough time to address a heavy issue like violence. And then literally the next year, which unfortunately happens to be an election year, he holds a session on violence. Interesting,” she says.
She says holistic approaches like additional counseling services, surveillance cameras, education funding and social services would help to root out violence – not the bills up for debate today.
“We learned from the 80s that tough on crime does not actually reduce crime,” she says. “You actually have to treat the person and invest in the human capital.”
One of the most contentious bills being considered today would let judges decide whether 16 to 18-year-olds should be prosecuted as adults and possibly go to prison for certain weapons crimes. Another controversial measure would remove a requirement for St. Louis police officers to live within the city. One measure Bland Manlove supports would create a witness protection fund to keep witnesses and their families safe before trial.
A bill absent from today’s lineup is one that would let the Missouri Attorney General get involved in some St. Louis murder cases. Parson expanded his special session call to urge lawmakers to pass the measure.
The Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, with many being Republican members, is strongly opposed to the proposal. The group of 115 prosecutors says it has consistently fought for decades against proposals that would give the state attorney general jurisdiction in local cases.
Other legislators also oppose the plan and accuse the governor of playing political games for going after St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner. The governor has publicly condemned Gardner for charging an affluent St. Louis couple with felonies after they pulled out their guns on protesters walking along their private street.
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