The Missouri House voted Tuesday in Jefferson City to give final approval to five bills that are key components of Governor Mike Parson’s (R) special session call on violent crime. The five bills received initial House approval on Monday.

Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, gavels the House into session on August 24, 2020 in Jefferson City (photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

Meantime, House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, confirms that juvenile certification legislation that has drawn criticism from state lawmakers in both parties will not be taken up by the House, and is dead.

“There’s no consensus about moving a juvenile certification bill, so at this point we’re going to let the law remain where it is,” Speaker Haahr told Missourinet late Monday morning, during an interview in his Capitol office in Jefferson City.

Earlier this month, the Missouri Senate approved legislation that would allow Missouri courts to certify juveniles 14-18 as adults for violent weapons offenses. Governor Parson called for the provision, saying it’s aimed at violent crime like murder. But State Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, and other critics say it would lock up children and put them in prison with violent offenders and murderers.

The Missouri House Special Committee on Criminal Justice amended the bill last week, changing the ages to 16-18.

“You know I always had concerns with it. Senate Bill One came over and there was some concerns about a variety of parts. We thought it was better for the House to break them down and analyze them separately,” says Haahr.

The five bills given final approval by the House today include witness protection legislation and legislation eliminating the residency requirements for St. Louis police officers, firefighters and EMS personnel.

The bipartisan witness protection bill was approved today by a 147-3 vote. The legislation from State Rep. Jonathan Patterson, R-Lee’s Summit, will create a pretrial witness protection services fund, to be operated 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.

We learned Monday that a second special session will be called to fund the program. House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, told colleagues on the House floor that if lawmakers approve the Patterson bill, Governor Parson will call the second special session to fund the program.

State Rep. Ron Hicks, R-Dardenne Prairie, sponsored the legislation that eliminates the residency requirements for St. Louis police officers, firefighters and EMS personnel. It has a three-year sunset clause. Today’s final House vote was 117-35.

State Rep. Barry Hovis, R-Cape Girardeau, sponsors the legislation that increases penalties for witness and victim tampering. The vote was 133-11.

The other two crime bills are sponsored by State Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon. The Schroer bills passed 117-33 and 103-45.

Neither the Senate nor House has held a hearing yet on the governor’s amended special session call involving St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner (D). Speaker Haahr says he’s been in touch with his Senate colleagues.

“The (special session) call was sort of expanded in the middle of the special session. We’ve been in constant dialogue with the Senate. Neither side seems to be prepared at this point to move forward yet on that issue. So I think we are going to try to put these other ones (crime bills) to bed before we figure out what to do with that,” Haahr says.

The governor wants to allow the Missouri Attorney General’s office to take on some murder cases that haven’t been prosecuted yet by Gardner’s office. Circuit Attorney Gardner and the bipartisan Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys oppose that plan.

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