Last week, the legislature gathered for two different reasons on the same day. After nearly two months of work, lawmakers finished their effort on legislation to combat violent crime in Missouri.
The governor called for the first extra session of the second regular session of the 100th General Assembly back in July to address the increasing rates of violent crime in our state.
Since July 27, the legislature has been back to Jefferson City a number of times while making sure to socially distance and meet as safely as possible during this ongoing pandemic.
In the end, lawmakers sent two measures to the executive branch. House Bill 46 will temporarily relax the residency requirement for police officers in the city of St. Louis.
According to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the city police force is short more than 140 officers. I believe the shortage of officers in St. Louis has a direct effect on the violent crime experienced by the city. By eliminating this requirement, we are allowing the city to cast a wider net when it comes to recruiting qualified police officers.
House Bill 66 creates a statewide witness protection fund. This would allow law enforcement agencies to receive money to provide security for witnesses, potential witnesses and their immediate families during criminal proceedings or investigations. This way, witnesses can feel safe in reporting crimes and providing vital information to help solve those crimes.
Sept. 16 also saw the annual veto session come and go. The governor vetoed two bills this year, plus several line items in the budget. The Missouri House of Representatives voted to undo one of those line item vetoes, but the Missouri Senate did not follow suit.
As chair of the Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee, I believe we have to account for every cent we spend in this state, and we have to be especially careful when it comes to spending taxpayer resources during a pandemic. Any of the concerns about the budget right now can be addressed when lawmakers return to the Capitol in January.
With only a few months left in 2020, much of my time will be spent looking ahead to next year, the next budget and those needs most important to the citizens of the great northwest part of our state. There will be a lot of work to get done in 2021, and I look forward to working with everybody along the way.