Date: January 23, 2024

To: Chairman Hovis and Members, House Pensions Committee

From: Gwen Smith, Criminal Justice Policy Manager, Empower Missouri

RE: HJR 92

As the largest and oldest anti-poverty non-profit in our state, Empower Missouri is committed to improving the quality of life for all Missouri residents through advocacy. Since our inception, Empower Missouri has focused on the criminal justice system and its impacts. Our Community Justice Coalition consists of community advocates and organizations from across the state who work with those who have been impacted by the criminal justice system. Many coalition members are formerly incarcerated or have currently incarcerated loved ones, and all are connected by a vision for a future without mass incarceration. 

HJR 92 proposes a constitutional amendment that, upon voter approval, would provide for the levying of costs and fees as part of the “administration of justice” to be used specifically to support salaries and benefits of law enforcement personnel, including sheriffs and former sheriffs and current and former prosecutors. Research shows that fines and fees are not the most effective way to fund law enforcement, for multiple reasons outlined below. Low-income individuals and families are already overburdened by court costs, and we are wary of imposing any additional fees that would disproportionately impact this population. For these reasons, we urge the committee to oppose HJR 92. We should look to alternative funding sources instead, including the existing retirement plans in place for other local and county government employees, such as Missouri LAGERS and Missouri CERF. Sheriffs and prosecutors aren’t currently included in these local pension plans.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.

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