By BRENT MARTIN
St. Joseph Post
It passed the Missouri Senate early in the legislative session, got derailed by COVID-19, then got back on track and passed the legislature on the last day of the session.
Senate Bill 600, the anti-crime measure sponsored by Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer now awaits the decision of Gov. Mike Parson.
The bill has three main provisions. One would enhance the crime of Armed Criminal Action, which is attached to charges files against anyone using a firearm to commit a felony. Another provision would make it much tougher for someone committing a serious felony to be placed on probation rather than sent to prison.
“What the change in Senate Bill 600 does is it says very simply if you commit homicide, if you commit a dangerous felony using a gun or other weapon or you’re a repeat dangerous felon, you have to spend time in prison,” Luetkemeyer tells St. Joseph Post. “You don’t get to go out on probation.”
The third main provision makes changes to the state RICO and conspiracy statutes to give prosecutors additional tools to crack down on gang violence.
Though the bill passed the Senate early, it got bogged down in a legislative process derailed for nearly seven weeks by the coronavirus pandemic. Luetkemeyer worried about its chances and looked for other vehicles which seemed to have an easier path through the session. He attached its main provisions to House Bill 1450. That bill, though, began to take on amendments which ruined its prospects of passage.
With days dwindling in the session, Luetkemeyer had to change strategies once again.
“I had a conversation with the Majority Floor Leader of the House and we decided that it was very important for us to get something done on crime and public safety this session and that the easiest path forward to do that was to simply strip back the original Senate bill to its original version that passed out of the Senate and to send it directly to the governor and that’s what we ended up doing,” according to Luetkemeyer.
Luetkemeyer says he’s just glad is passed.
“Given that we had an already abbreviated session, because of COVID-19, it was a tough year,” Luetkemeyer says. “This year, I think, we passed about 14, maybe 15, pieces of legislation that were not budget-related that went to the governor’s desk. By frame of reference, in a normal year we would probably pass 60 or more statutes. This year, we’re talking about 14 or 15 bills actually making it to the governor’s desk.”
A recent survey ranked St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield high on a list of most violent cities in the nation. St. Joseph, once prominent on the list, has since improved.