As always, the happenings in Jefferson City these past two months have been full of twists, turns and surprises. And it is not over yet, so keep taking those motion sickness pills!
It all began back on July 15, 2020, when Governor Parson issued a proclamation to convene an Extraordinary Session on Violent Crime. Thus, even during this time of social distancing, the Legislators all converged on the capitol building.
The Senate went first. The Senate Committee on Transportation, Public Safety, and Infrastructure convened on July 28th to hear Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Doug Libla. After much debate on August 6th, and with amendments added, Senate Substitute #3 for Senate Bill 1 (SS # 3 SB 1) was Third Read by a vote of 27-3. It is important to note that ALL African American Senators voted no on that bill. The racial disparities in criminal justice and the way crime has been manipulated as a “dog-whistle racism” maneuver in election years are just two of the reasons that we issued a call to action on SS # 3 SB 1 on August 11th.
The House then took the reins and began the legislative process of the passed Senate Bill. It was during the Judiciary Committee hearing on SS # 3 SB 1 on August 10th that Gov. Parson held a press conference and added an additional subject to his list of items for the Extra Session! He called for “concurrent jurisdiction” which would allow the Missouri Attorney General to intervene in trying some crimes in the City of St. Louis. The Judiciary Committee paused for his press conference and cancelled their executive session afterward. Some legislators were heard expressing frustration about the lack of communication from the Governor’s office.
House leadership took a step back and re-evaluated how they wanted to move forward with the new topic on the table. Dozens of bills had been filed by legislators, but leadership decided to move forward with only six of them (House Bill (HB) 2, HB 11, HB 12, HB 16, HB 46, HB 66). All six bills passed out of the committees, but only five of them were actually debated on the floor of the House. House Bill 12 did not come forward for debate. Since the bill was improved during the committee process, some in the Majority Caucus saw it as “soft on crime” and not something they wanted to be on record about in an election year; thus, HB 12 died. All five of the remaining bills that were debated on the House floor passed!
Next these five bills moved over to the Senate, and two Senate committees had hearings on September 1 and moved them to the floor for debate the next day. Three of the five bills easily passed the Senate and are now moving to the Governor for signature. The other two bills, however, were amended in the Senate process and now must go back to the House. One of those bills is of special concern to Empower Missouri and our allies.
House Bill 2 now includes the subject that Gov. Parson added in his August 10 press conference, concurrent jurisdiction. This amendment was added after much debate and filibustering on the Senate side. It eventually passed only after 18 Majority Caucus Senators voted to suspend debate by calling “The Previous Question,” a parliamentary move that is thought of as “the nuclear option” in the Senate.
So that is where things stand now! And we need your help!
According to several sources, the House plans to come back to discuss HB2 on September 15 the day before Veto Session will take place. We need to let our state representatives know before that date that we do not want the House to take up HB2, and we have created this form for you to use to do this.
Empower Missouri argues that passing HB2 bill would waste taxpayer resources at a time when our state is struggling to pay for essential programs and services like K-12 and higher education, public health, and mental health. The current language in the bill is likely to be challenged in court for violating at least two provisions of the state constitution:
- Lawmakers are not allowed to amend bills onto unrelated legislation. Sen. Onder’s amendment grants the attorney general the authority to intervene in certain murder cases in St. Louis city. This was added to House Bill 2, which was originally an unrelated measure involving admissibility of witness testimony.
2) “Special laws” are banned – laws that apply to one jurisdiction only, but not others – without valid cause. This law would only affect St. Louis City.
In addition to Empower Missouri, the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Missouri have publicly announced their opposition to the concurrent jurisdiction amendment to HB 2.
We hope that you all will join Empower Missouri and the many other individuals and organizations across the state in speaking out in opposition to House Bill 2. Again, use this link to let your House member know that HB 2 should not be brought forward to the floor for debate – and that, if it is, they should vote no.
Senior Policy and Organizing Coordinator