Greetings Friends of the 144th!
I began preparing this report a couple of days earlier than normal because tomorrow morning I will be heading to summer caucus and then to Jeff City for special session. Caucus will include several meetings to discuss special session, veto session, and the upcoming 2021 session and what our priorities will be. Times are very different right now and I do not even want to guess what may or may not happen in these upcoming sessions.
House Committees Advance Bills to Crack Down on Violent Crime
House committees met this week to review the individual components of the governor’s plan to address the growing problem of violent crime in Missouri. In total, the committees took public testimony on six bills. While some of the bills received changes, all six were approved and are now set to be debated on the House floor.
The legislature had been on track to approve the governor’s recommendations as a single bill. However, after the governor expanded his special session call last week, House leadership decided to take a more deliberative approach to the process. By considering single-subject bills rather than a single omnibus piece of legislation, House leaders said they will be able to “craft the kind of policy that will better protect Missourians from the scourge of violent crime.”
The six pieces of legislation now headed to the House floor for discussion next week include:
HB 2 – In order to better ensure violent offenders are put behind bars, the House has advanced legislation that would allow certain witness statements to be admissible in court that would otherwise not be allowed under current statute. In effect, the bill would ensure a witness is able to submit testimony in situations where the defendant has engaged in wrongdoing to prevent the witness from testifying.
HB 11 – In order to protect the wellbeing of young people, the legislature is considering this legislation to expand the existing offense of “endangering the welfare of a child.” The current statute applies to drug offenses. The bill would expand the crime to include a person who knowingly encourages, aids or causes a child under the age of 17 to engage in any weapons offense.
HB 12 – This bill would require the court to order a hearing for the certification of any child between the ages of 16 and 18 alleged to have committed certain felony offenses, including the felony offense of armed criminal action. The certification hearing is used to determine if a young person should stand trial as an adult. The bill also requires the court to first hold an evidentiary probable cause hearing to determine if probable cause exists to proceed. Additionally, the bill repeals the provision that a child is required to have a certification hearing for the offenses of distribution of drugs or the manufacturing of a controlled substance. The bill also provides that correctional treatment programs for juvenile offenders must include physical separation of offenders who are younger than 18 years old and must include educational programs that award a high school diploma or its equivalent.
HB 16 – To further protect young people from those who would endanger their welfare, the legislature is working to approve this legislation to ensure children under the age of 18 do not possess guns without the consent of their custodial parent or guardian. The bill would increase the penalty for a person who knowingly sells or delivers any firearm to a child less than 18 years without the consent of the child’s parent or guardian. Law enforcement believe the bill will provide them with additional tools to utilize when they encounter minors in possession of a firearm.
HB 46 – This legislation is meant to help the City of St. Louis to fill the more than 140 open positions it currently has on its police force. The bill would eliminate the residency requirement for St. Louis law enforcement so long as the officer lives within an hour of the city. This proposal would also prohibit requiring any public safety employee for the city of St. Louis to be a resident of the City. The elimination of the existing residency requirement would last until September 1, 2023. Supporters say the bill is needed to put more “boots on the ground” to help the city address its rising homicide rate.
HB 66 – In order to strengthen efforts to protect witnesses so they can provide key testimony, this piece of legislation would create the Pretrial Witness Protection Fund. The bill would allow the Department of Public Safety to disburse money from the fund to law enforcement agencies for the purposes of providing for the security of witnesses, potential witnesses, and their immediate families in criminal proceedings or investigations. Supporters say the bill would help protect witnesses so they can provide testimony that can help solve murders and other violent crimes.
If approved next week, the bills will move to the Senate for consideration. The House and Senate have not yet moved a bill to address the governor’s expanded call to authorize the attorney general to prosecute the offense of murder in the first or second degree, as well as any other offense that was part of the same course of conduct, in the City of St. Louis.
Missourians Encouraged to Provide Comment on Law Enforcement Training and Discipline
Missourians are being asked to provide feedback on the current training curriculum and disciplinary process for law enforcement officers. The Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission and the Missouri Department of Public Safety (DPS) are inviting citizens to participate in an online survey that will be open through August 26 at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LETraining_Public.
The POST Commission will also hold two virtual listening sessions to solicit additional input. The sessions are scheduled for Aug. 31 and Sept. 2 at 2 p.m. Those who wish to participate can either call in or provide comments via email. The phone number and email address for the listening sessions will be provided on the POST Program webpage: https://dps.mo.gov/dir/programs/post/
The Missouri POST Commission is responsible for the curriculum for law enforcement officer basic training and continuing education in Missouri. Law enforcement officers must complete 24 hours of continuing law enforcement education each year to maintain their licenses: 2 hours in Legal Studies; 2 hours in Technical Studies; 2 hours in Interpersonal Perspectives; 2 hours of Skill Development involving firearms; 6 hours of electives in any of the preceding core curriculum areas; and 1 hour of racial profiling awareness training.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have. As your Representative, I am here to assist you however I can. I can be reached by email at Chris.Dinkins@house.mo.gov or by phone at 573-751-2112. Please do not contact me via social media. These messages are easy to overlook and may not be responded to in a timely manner.