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Missouri lawmakers jettison at least two parts of governor’s crime package

Missouri lawmakers jettison at least two parts of governor’s crime package

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Missouri House of Representatives

The Missouri House of Representatives resumed deliberations on crime legislation proposed by Gov. Mike Parson at the Capitol on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020 (screenshot of live streaming house.mo.gov)

JEFFERSON CITY — The fate of at least two pieces of Gov. Mike Parson’s election-year anti-crime initiative remained in limbo as the Missouri House returned to action Monday.

Meeting in an emergency special session called by the Republican governor last month, lawmakers avoided debate on a controversial plan to let judges decide whether juveniles should be prosecuted as adults for certain crimes using weapons.

And, there was no action taken on the future of a proposal to allow the attorney general to have jurisdiction in some St. Louis murder cases — an 11th-hour proposal that has drawn the ire of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner and the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

Parson called the GOP-led Legislature back to town in July, saying an increase in murders in St. Louis and Kansas City needed to be immediately addressed.

It also comes against the backdrop of a surge in violence and mayhem in downtown St. Louis. Cars and motorcycles racing through downtown streets amid gunfire triggered city officials to close the Eads Bridge and barricade various streets to alter traffic patterns heading into last weekend.

But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have balked at some of the former sheriff’s tough-on-crime proposals, which come at a time when there are nationwide protests about police brutality.

Initially, the juvenile legislation would have allowed children as young as 12 to be certified by a judge to stand trial as an adult. The latest version, known as House Bill 12, moved the age limit to 16, but the measure nevertheless has stalled.

There also have been disagreements between the House and Senate on the mechanics of how to handle Parson’s request, resulting in a legislative slog that is expected to last into September.

While the proposals regarding juveniles and the attorney general appear to be on the scrapheap, the House moved forward on a plan to end St. Louis’ residency requirement for first responders.

The measure, sponsored by state Rep. Ron Hicks, R-Dardenne Prairie, removes the requirement for police as well as other emergency responders, such as EMS personnel and firefighters, and would expire in three years unless the Legislature extended it.

St. Louis voters, meanwhile, are set to vote Nov. 3 on whether to remove the residency requirement for police and other city employees in an attempt to widen the recruiting pool.

Although the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is down 143 officers, some St. Louis-area lawmakers say the issue should be decided by local voters, not state lawmakers.

“This is the business of the people of the City of St. Louis,” said Rep. Wiley Price, D-St. Louis.

Lawmakers also advanced legislation Monday that would:

• Create a witness protection fund to keep witnesses safe before a trial.

• Increase penalties for someone who gives or sells a gun to a juvenile.

• Make it illegal to assist someone age 17 or under to commit certain violent crimes.

The House could give final approval to the package of legislation as early as Tuesday.

The Senate, which earlier vetted each of the provisions, is not scheduled to return to the Capitol until Friday.

Parson is not scheduled to spend much time in the Capitol in the coming days. On Monday, he was in St. Charles County to hand out face masks to school kids.

On Tuesday, he is in Springfield, Poplar Bluff and Sikeston. Wednesday’s schedule includes stops in Columbia, St. Louis and St. Charles Community College.

The legislation is House Bills 66, 46, 11, 16 and 2.

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