Special legislative ends with a thud in Jefferson City

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By BRENT MARTIN

St. Joseph Post

A special legislative session in Jefferson City ended with the
legislature approving only two of the seven measures sought by Gov. Mike
Parson.

State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer of Parkville acknowledges the
session had a disappointing ending.

“I think the special session certainly took a little bit longer
than most of us anticipated,” Luetkemeyer tells St. Joseph Post. “We didn’t get
everything done that was part of the governor’s call. I was a little
disappointed to see that all of the items didn’t pass, but that’s the way it
sometimes works whenever you have a bicameral legislature; some things will
pass the Senate and not pass the House or vice versa.”

The Senate put all of the proposals by Gov. Parson in one
package and passed it. The bill didn’t receive a warm reception in the House,
which split all of the proposals out individually.

A bill aimed at protecting witnesses of violent crimes did
pass. It was a piece of legislation which failed to make it through the coronavirus-shortened
regular session. Luetkemeyer sponsored the measure and says its provisions
should remove a real obstacle in the prosecution of violent crime.

“What I’m hoping it will do is it will help us solve a bunch
of unsolved murder and other violent crime cases,” Luetkemeyer says. “In many
cases, particularly homicide cases, law enforcement officers are unable to
solve those crimes, because a witness is intimidated from coming forward for
fear of retribution.”

The legislature also agreed to repeal the requirement that St.
Louis police officers and other emergency responders live within the city
limits, seen as a detriment to recruiting police officers to the St. Louis
force.

Lawmakers rejected three proposals involving juveniles. One
would have enhanced penalties for adults who attempt to pawn off firearms used
in crimes to juveniles. Another would have certified juveniles as adults in
certain violent crimes.

Parson might have had a detrimental effect on the session when
he added a proposal to authorize the state Attorney General to take over
certain murder cases in St. Louis, seen as an outgrowth of the governor’s spat
with St. Louis Prosecutor Kim Gardner, likely stemming from her decision to
file charges on two homeowners who brandished guns when protestors passed their
home on the way to demonstrating in front of the mayor’s home. When the governor
amended the special session call, House leadership decided to take the issued
individually, rather than as one large piece of legislation.

Luetkemeyer
was disappointed the House failed to approve legislation which would have
allowed witnesses who feel intimated to submit written testimony during a trial.
He saw that as a companion piece with the witness protection bill. Witnesses at
trial must present testimony in person.

Luetkemeyer agrees with one suggestion that legislative
leaders and the governor should have prepared better before legislators
returned to Jefferson City.

“I think there might have been some miscommunications or lack
of communication that should have happened between the House and the Senate,
the governor’s office, and that’s not unusual. Those types of communication
breakdowns sometimes happen even during a regular session,” Luetkemeyer says. “So,
certainly I think those things could have been done differently.”