UPDATE: Senators debated for 17 hours Wednesday into early Thursday morning to vote on five provisions sent to them from the House.
The Senate made a historic and rare move Tuesday night in order to get the vote on House Bill 2. Originally this bill was supposed to allow the admissibility of certain witness statements. Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, offered an amendment in the 11th hour which involved concurrent jurisdiction of the St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office.
The move was called a PQ (moving the previous question). This is something the Senate hasn’t done since 2017 to advance an abortion bill. Prior to Tuesday night, the PQ has only been used 17 times in the last 50 years in the Missouri Senate. This forces the end of the debate. Compared to the House that uses PQ regularly, it’s tactic not normally used in the upper chamber.
After a lengthy debate, HB 2 passed the Senate 22-8 and the bill now heads to the House, but they do not have to take up the bill. Representatives previously had a chance to discuss and crest a bill for concurrent jurisdiction but decided not to.
JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — Senators in Jefferson City spent hours Wednesday discussing the governor’s five provisions with the goal to reduce violent crime across the state.
This discussion comes after the House sent the five provisions to the Senate last week. During the discussion on Wednesday, Republican Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, offered an amendment to House Bill 2, which initially was supposed to allow the admissibility of certain witness statements. The 11th-hour addition involved concurrent jurisdiction of the St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office.
Gov. Parson expanded his call for the special session in early August, asking lawmakers to give Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office power to help with the backlog of murder cases in the City of St. Louis.
“My amendment is targeted to where the problem is, which is the circuit attorney’s in the City of St. Louis,” Onder said. “The circuit attorney’s office in the City of St. Louis that is 70% understaffed has a low conviction rate and is trying fewer and fewer cases as the murder rate and the violent crime rate is skyrocketing.”
Democrats from St. Louis spoke against Onder’s amendment.
“It’s Kim Gardner’s fault that kids are being shot down in the streets of north St. Louis?” Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, questioned. “Give me a break. She didn’t ask for your help.”
“If you want to do this tough on crime and you want to put the blame at the foot of the circuit attorney, but you don’t want to entertain any bills that deal with police reform because you don’t think it’s a problem,” Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis, said.
Even Democrats that weren’t from the St. Louis area spoke out against the amendment.
“This is a political attempt to attack a recently Democratic reelected prosecutor in St. Louis,” Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, said. “Frankly, I’m frustrated that we’re here because it’s not just Democrats who oppose this. Republicans in the House had this legislation and had the ability to bring this up during their special session and they didn’t.”
Nasheed offered amendments in response to Onder’s addition of concurrent jurisdiction. She wanted the attorney general’s office to have concurrent jurisdiction throughout the entire state.
“You know I believe in fairness and I believe that if it’s good for the City of St. Louis, it’s good for the other 114 counties in Missouri,” Nasheed said.
Nasheed’s amendments were voted down and HB 2 was not voted on. Instead, the Senate placed it on the informal calendar, meaning they moved on to other orders of business and can bring it back up if the floor leader calls the bills on the informal calendar.
The Senate passed four other provisions during their nearly 10-hour session Wednesday.
Before the long debate on HB 2, Senators passed House Bill 11, increasing the penalty of endangering the welfare of a child, House Bill 66, creation of a witness protection fund, House Bill 46, reducing residency requirements for St. Louis City public safety workers and House Bill 16, unlawful transfer of a weapon to a minor.
HB 46 and 66 are now on the governor’s desk, pending his approval. He is expected to sign both, but the witness protection fund would not be available for use until lawmakers fund the program and that could require another special session.
The measure of reducing residency requirements allows officers and public safety personal to live within an hour of the city.
Voters in St. Louis City have the chance to vote on the residency requirements on the November ballot. If the measure fails, the residency requirements are still reduced due to the lawmakers’ decision in the Capitol.
Senators changed a few minor words in House Bill 11 and now the bill goes back to the House for a final vote.
House Bill 16 also returns to the House for further consideration after the Senate voted to add back a provision the House previously removed. The provision would make it a misdemeanor to give a child a gun without a parent’s permission. The Senate also created an exception to remove the offense if the child’s relative, within the third degree, would give a child a gun without the parents’ permission.
There is no word on when the House will return to vote on the Senate changes, but according to the House schedule, the veto session starts Sept. 16.