Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer’s Legislative Column for Sept. 3, 2020

Moving Toward a Safer Missouri

The extra legislative session called by the governor reached a major milestone this week as the Senate approved five bills aimed at combating violent crime in Missouri. The five measures passed by the Senate contain most of the legislative proposals advanced by the governor on July 15 when he called the General Assembly back to the Capitol.

The First Extraordinary Session of 2020 began on July 27. At that time, the governor’s original six legislative requests were contained in a single measure, Senate Bill 1. That bill cleared the upper chamber and was referred to the House of Representatives on Aug. 7. Three days later, the governor expanded his call with an additional request for legislation granting Missouri’s attorney general authority to prosecute murder cases in the City of St. Louis when the local prosecutor fails to bring charges. The House of Representatives eventually divided the Senate bill into individual provisions and passed separate bills advancing five of the governor’s six requests. It was those five bills the Senate voted on this week.

Among the measures approved by the Senate this week was House Bill 66. This measure creates a “Pretrial Witness Protection Services Fund,” and is similar to Senate Bill 857, which I introduced during the 2020 regular session. I was proud to be the Senate handler for HB 66 and carry the bill to final passage. The fund created by this legislation will enable law enforcement agencies to provide pretrial security for witnesses in criminal proceedings and ensure juries hear testimony that will help convict criminals and remove violent offenders from our streets.

The witness protection fund legislation was one of two bills “truly agreed and finally passed” during a marathon Senate session that lasted until the wee hours of the morning. House Bill 46 also received final approval. This measure addresses a chronic shortage of police officers in St. Louis by temporarily lifting a residency requirement for the city’s public safety employees. Both bills are now headed to the governor’s desk for his signature.

House Bill 11 expands the definition of endangering the welfare of a child, making it a crime to encourage or cause a child to commit a weapons offense. A related measure, House Bill 16, makes transferring a weapon to a child to avoid arrest or prosecution a felony. The House will need to look at both bills again, due to changes made in the upper chamber.

The final measure approved by the Senate this week, House Bill 2 expands admissibility of hearsay evidence when a defendant has taken steps to intimidate witnesses or prevent witnesses from appearing in court. This bill was amended to include the “concurrent jurisdiction” authority the governor sought for Missouri’s attorney general. The House will have to approve the addition of this provision before the bill can become law.

The five bills approved by the Senate this week will not end violent crime in Missouri. But together with my Senate Bill 600, which was signed by the governor in July, I believe we are moving toward a safer Missouri. The legislation passed by the Senate this week, once enacted, will provide prosecutors and police new tools to help them more effectively address the alarming level of violence our state has experienced in recent months.

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