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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Missouri working to reduce violent crime

From State Representative Patricia Pike

Lawmakers continue to work toward a legislative solution that will help stem the rising tide of violent crime in Missouri, but last week the members of the Missouri House decided to hit the reset button on the special session called by the governor. Members of the General Assembly will now spend the next few weeks carefully considering the individual components of a plan put forth by the governor to make Missouri communities safer.


The special session called by Gov. Parson officially began on Monday, July 27. Last week the Missouri Senate approved an omnibus bill (SB 1) that contained all six provisions the governor asked the legislature to pass. While the original plan was for the House to take up and pass the bill this week, the governor expanded his call as a House committee was considering his original proposal. The committee finished its hearing without passing the bill, and House leadership then met to discuss the best way to advance the governor’s expanded plan.


Rather than try to add the new provision to the bill passed by the Senate, House leadership decided Missouri citizens would be better served by ceasing work on SB 1 and starting the process over with individual bills for each provision requested by the governor.
The individually-filed bills in the House will contain provisions requested by the governor that will:
Eliminate the residency requirement for St. Louis law enforcement so long as the officer lives within an hour of the city. It would also prohibit requiring any public safety employee for the city of St. Louis to be a resident of the city. 


Require the court to determine if a juvenile should be certified for trial as an adult for the offense of unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action. 


Allow certain statements to be admissible in court that would otherwise not be allowed under current statute. 


Create the Pretrial Witness Protection Fund. 


Modify the offense of endangering the welfare of a child for a person who encourages a child to engage in any weapons offense.
Increase the penalty for a person who knowingly sells or delivers any firearm to a child less than 18 years of age without the consent of the child’s parent or guardian.


Address the backlog of murder cases in St. Louis by authorizing 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.


The bills being considered by the House will receive committee hearings the week of Monday, August 17. The bills are then tentatively scheduled to be debated on the House floor on August 24 and 25. Bills that receive House approval will then move to the Senate for consideration.


Missouri Prepares for School Reopening –The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has worked closely with the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to address key questions regarding school reopening. The departments released a document providing information on the strategies that Missouri schools should be prepared to address upon reopening. It addresses issues such as what to do if a student or staff member becomes symptomatic at school, how to handle positive cases of COVID-19 in the school community, and how to best prepare to assist local health officials with contact identification and tracing. The document can be viewed at this link: https://dese.mo.gov/sites/default/files/COVID-MO-K12-Reopening-Guidance.pdf.
The state is also working to provide school districts with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). The State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) has made 1.8 million cloth masks available to school districts. DESE and SEMA are working to develop a plan to distribute the masks. DESE and DHSS have also released a document providing guidance on PPE use for school nurses. The document is available online here: https://health.mo.gov/living/healthcondiseases/communicable/novel-coronavirus/pdf/ppe-school-guidance.pdf.


To provide additional assistance to schools, the state is allocating $7.5 million of the Coronavirus Relief Fund to a cost-share program with local counties to help schools cover the costs of PPE. The funds will also help schools cover the cost of cleaning and medical supplies for school buildings and buses. Schools will also be able to utilize Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief Funds provided under the CARES Act for any COVID-19 related expenses, including PPE costs.