Tue. Nov 28th, 2023
A wide-ranging public safety bill advances out of the Missouri House and is now in the hands of the Senate for its consideration.
Sponsored by Joplin Representative Lane Roberts, House Bill-301 would allow the governor to appoint special prosecutors in areas of the state with an excessive homicide rate, defined as more than 35 cases per 100-thousand people.
One supporter of the bill, Representative Bill Hardwick of Waynesville, was able to get several gun control amendments removed from the bill.
“I look forward to supporting a bill that addresses what I think the problem is, and I want to remind people what the problem is, that people who commit acts of violence aren’t being held accountable and it’s contributing to a serious crime problem in our state, so this is hopefully going to be a part of the solution. There’s definitely some things we want to come here and compromise on, but for each of us there’s something we can’t compromise on, and all of us have to decide when that point is, you know, what value are you not going to not compromise. That’s for each of us to decide.”
The bill passed out of the House by a vote of 109-35 and has, since, been read once in the Senate.
JEFFERSON CITY – It was during his opening day address, House Speaker Dean Plocher told his colleagues they “cannot be bystanders as unchecked crime causes the systematic destruction of our proud state.” House Bill 301 is a wide-ranging public safety bill that includes a key provision that would allow the governor to appoint a special prosecutor in areas of the state with an excessive homicide rate. The bill specifies the governor would be empowered to appoint a prosecutor in any circuit or prosecuting attorney’s jurisdiction that has a homicide rate in excess of 35 cases per 100,000 people and where the governor determines there is a threat to public safety and health. The special prosecutor would be appointed for a period of up to five years. Plocher said HB 301 represents a good faith effort by the legislature to provide assistance to areas of the state such as St. Louis where violent crime has run rampant.
Representative Bill Hardwick (R-Waynesville), who serves on the Committee on Crime Prevention and Public Safety, worked diligently in the crafting process of the bill. During the committee process, several amendments were introduced including a wide range of proposals such as requiring individuals to register to purchase ammunition, making it illegal for anyone under twenty to purchase a semiautomatic rifle and criminalizing someone under the age of 18 for possessing a firearm on public land. Rep. Hardwick successfully moved to have the gun control language stripped from the underlying bill and continued to work with the committee to help compose the special prosecutor language.
The bill was debated on the house floor for over three hours. The discussion quickly moved to the issue of the Second Amendment. Rep. Hardwick spoke to the issue on the floor “There’s definitely some things we want to come here and compromise on, but for each of us there’s something we can’t compromise on, and all of us have to decide when that point is, you know, what value are you not going to not compromise. That’s for each of us to decide.” Representative Hardwick went on to say that he will not compromise on the right to bear to arms.
“As someone who is from St. Louis and who cares deeply about the families and businesses who call our part of the state home, I want to do everything we can to ensure we have safe communities where kids live without fear and criminals know they will be prosecuted for their violent actions,” said Plocher. “However, with hundreds of murders each year and thousands of unprosecuted criminal cases, we see a St. Louis that is anything but safe and that drives people and employers away from our area. I’m confident HB 301 can give us an important tool to restore law and order to St. Louis or any part of our state where violent crime has grown out of control.”
On the House Floor, Hardwick spoke in favor of the special prosecutor provisions saying “I look forward to supporting a bill that addresses what I think the problem is, and I want to remind people what the problem is, that people who commit acts of violence aren’t being held accountable and it’s contributing to a serious crime problem in our state, so this is hopefully going to be a part of the solution.”
HB 301 specifies that the prosecutor appointed by the governor would have exclusive jurisdiction to initiate and prosecute offenses specified in the bill. The state will provide funding to the special prosecutor, who would be authorized to hire up to 15 assistant special prosecuting attorneys and up to 15 staff members.
HB 301 also contains several other provisions designed to improve public safety in Missouri. The bill would establish the Peace Officer Basic Training Tuition Reimbursement Program to help address the shortage of police officers in some parts of the state. The bill would also ensure the Department of Corrections to implement a policy to help offenders apply for Medicaid and obtain vital documents such as a birth certificate or Social Security card. Additionally, the legislation establishes factors for a judge or judicial officer to consider when setting bail, includes protections for a judicial officer’s personal information, and creates Blair’s Law.
HB 301 passed the House by a vote of 109 – 35. It now goes to the Missouri Senate for consideration.