Committees and State of the State
The first full week of the legislative session is behind us. We hit the ground running with back-to-back committee hearings and gathered with our colleagues in the House of Representatives to hear the governor deliver his State of the State address.
COMMITTEE WORK BEGINS
In the Judiciary Committee, which I chair, I introduced two measures to combat violent crime in our cities. Missouri’s two largest metro areas are among the most-dangerous in America. The City of St. Louis ranks No. 5 in the nation for violent crime and Kansas City is right behind it at No. 6.
Last summer and fall, one thing became clear: There are far too many violent felons roaming our streets, in part due to lenient probation rules. In Missouri, a person incarcerated for a violent felony must serve 85 percent of their sentence before they’re eligible for parole. But a person committing the same crime might not serve a single day in prison due to laws that give judges discretion to grant probation for violent offenders.
My Senate Bill 600 closes that loophole. This measure adds second-degree murder and dangerous felonies committed with a deadly weapon to the list of offenses ineligible for probation. Another measure I put forward, attacks crime by going after gangs. Senate Bill 602, the Criminal Street Gang Prevention Act, revamps an existing statute to make it more effective in prosecuting members of organized gangs.
As a member of Senate’s Interim Committee on Public Safety, I heard testimony from chiefs of police, who told the committee violent crimes are often committed by gang members. To deal with violent crime, we must deal with organized crime. This act is similar to the federal RICO statute. It gives additional tools to prosecutors and law enforcement to remove gangs off the streets before they commit violence.
STATE OF THE STATE
The governor delivered his annual address this week and declared the State of the State to be strong. The governor reminded us of the many successes Missouri has enjoyed in the past year. New jobs, low unemployment and more companies expanding and relocating in Missouri. His message was simple—we’re on the right track. Job growth and attracting employers to our state remains his and the legislature’s greatest priority.
The governor began the policy portion of his speech by declaring his determination to tackle the alarming rise in violent crime in our cities. I was encouraged by this, as it’s my top priority for this session as well.
The governor also spoke about expanded educational opportunities in our state. Early childhood education and preschool programs will receive increased funding, thanks to a federal grant. He requested continued funding for several workforce development programs to help employees learn new skills and assist employers with job training. The governor’s 2020 budget also fully funds the education Foundation Formula and provides increased state support for school transportation costs.
Continuing his emphasis on infrastructure investment, the governor asked lawmakers to renew a $50 million cost-share transportation improvement program that began in 2019. The results of this effort have exceeded expectations. The $50 million we invested last year will leverage nearly $150 million in transportation projects, including a $400,000 upgrade in Platte County.
Finally, the governor pledged to rebuild the Buck O’Neil Bridge. This is great news for my district. Like so many residents of the Northland, I drive that bridge every day. It’s an aging structure and is desperately in need of replacement.
It is my great honor to represent the citizens of Platte and Buchanan counties in the Missouri Senate. Please contact my office at (573) 751-2183, or visit www.senate.mo.gov/mem34.