An eastern Missouri state lawmaker who sponsored legislation eliminating the residency requirement for St. Louis police officers credits House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, for getting the bill passed in the recent special session.
State Rep. Ron Hicks, R-Dardenne Prairie, says Haahr’s support was key.
“When I brought him the research and everything, he said we will get this done and we at one point thought we had lost it (the bill) and then it came back, and he made sure this was pushed and continued,” Hicks says.
The bill also eliminates the residency requirement for St. Louis firefighters and EMS personnel.
Missouri Governor Mike Parson (R) signed the bill into law this week. The governor made the issue a top priority during the special session, and Hicks praises him as well.
Governor Parson says the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is currently short by about 140 officers, and says the bill can help fill that gap.
Hicks says he’s been working on the issue for years.
“Originally started this because families had reached out to me, children and wives had reached out to me,” says Hicks. “And some husbands even had reached out to me about the requirements of them having to have their children go to school there in the city and to have to live in the city and not be able to branch out into more affordable housing or better schools for that matter.”
The Missouri Senate approved the Hicks bill 25-5 and the House approved it on a 117-35 vote.
Bill opponents say St. Louis residents feel safer with police officers living in their neighborhoods. Other opponents note that Hicks doesn’t represent St. Louis City in the Legislature, and is from St. Charles County.
Hicks tells Missourinet this is not about politics, noting that he’ll be “done in two years,” referring to legislative term limits for the House. He says this is about giving back to officers who have been putting their lives on the line for citizens.
He also says St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden’s testimony put a spotlight on the issue. Chief Hayden traveled to Jefferson City during the regular and special sessions this year, to testify for the bill. Hayden says his department desperately needs more officers due to the surge in violence.
St. Louis has had 198 homicides this year.
Governor Parson canceled Wednesday’s ceremonial bill signing in St. Louis, after he and the First Lady tested positive for COVID. The event is expected to be rescheduled.
Click here to listen to Brian Hauswirth’s five-minute interview with State Rep. Ron Hicks, R-Dardenne Prairie, which was recorded on September 22, 2020:
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