Governor Parson pleased with special session on crime; wants House to approve Gardner legislation

Governor Mike Parson

While Missouri’s governor is pleased with the special session on violent crime, he’s calling on the House to approve his proposal involving St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office.

GOP Governor Mike Parson told Capitol reporters last week that he will meet with House leaders about it.

“We’re encouraging them to pass this to be able to give law enforcement the tools they need to fight (violent crime). I’m not sure what they’ll do, again we’ll have a meeting with them to discuss that,” Parson says.

The Senate has approved the governor’s proposal, which would allow Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s (R) office to take on some murder cases that haven’t been prosecuted yet by Gardner’s office. Circuit Attorney Gardner, a Democrat, and the bipartisan Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys oppose that plan.

Governor Parson is also praising the General Assembly’s bipartisan passage of witness protection legislation, a key component of his special session call on violent crime. The governor thanks the two bill sponsors: State Rep. Dr. Jonathan Patterson, R-Lee’s Summit, and State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville. He says the bill will help fight crime.

“Which creates a pretrial witness protection fund, in which law enforcement agencies can provide resources for the security of victims, witnesses, and their immediate families,” says Parson.

The fund would provide security in criminal proceedings and investigations. The Senate approved the bill 29-0, and it passed the House on a 147-3 vote.

Meantime, legislation eliminating the residency requirement for St. Louis police officers, firefighters, and EMS personnel is also on the governor’s desk. St. Louis has recorded 192 homicides this year, and the governor says the residency bill will improve public safety.

“The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is currently down by more than 140 officers, and this legislation can help fill that gap,” Parson says.

St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden has traveled to Jefferson City multiple times during the special session to testify for the bill, saying his department “desperately needs more officers” due to the surge in violence. Chief Hayden says the city has been averaging more than nine homicides per week. St. Louis had 32 homicides in June and 53 in July.

The Missouri Police Chiefs Association and the St. Louis Police Officers Association testified for the legislation, which is sponsored by State Rep. Ron Hicks, R-Dardenne Prairie.

Bill opponents say St. Louis residents feel safer with police officers living in their neighborhoods.

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Brian Hauswirth began as Missourinet news director in July 2016. He anchors daily newscasts, simulcasts and special reports from the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City, where he primarily covers the Missouri House and numerous legislative committee hearings.