State legislature passes crime and voting bills on final day of session

Coronavirus

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri’s legislative session came to an end Friday with some major pieces of legislation heading to the governor’s desk. One of those resulted in an early morning committee compromise. If SB 631 is signed by the governor, it would change how voting could take place during the current pandemic.

Lawmakers approved a plan to allow those with COVID-19 or those at a high risk of being infected to vote by mail. Other eligible voters who want to vote by mail would be able to do so but only with a notary. The compromise included republicans dropping efforts to include a requirement that voters show a photo id.

A crime bill was another major piece of legislation approved on the final day of the session. It creates the crime of vehicular hijacking and includes enhanced sentencing for certain crimes.

The legislation passed over objections from those who say locking up more individuals is not how to reduce crime. There were also warnings from critics who say the new law will result in a need for the state to build more prison space.

“Probation will not be allowed for most of the young adults and juveniles that we are charging,” said Rep. Barbara Washington (D-Kansas City).

Rep. Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon) said crime is a major problem in some Missouri communities and believes the legislation will help keep Missourians safer.

“We are not locking people away who are just walking down the street and happened to steal a Snickers bar,” he said.

After the session ended, House leadership spoke about an unprecedented session temporarily halted due to COVID-19 concerns.

“I think it’s an incredibly successful session for having lost six weeks in the middle of it,” said House Speaker Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield)

Democrats viewed the session differently. They felt the Republican-controlled legislature should have focused only on COVID-19 legislation once the session resumed in April.

“When Missourians needed bold actions, they got business as usual,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Crystal Quade (D-Springfield).

Haahr said he believed the most significant accomplishment was passing a budget during a time filled with uncertainty. He said tort reform, licensing reciprocity legislation, and authorizing a public private partnership for tube travel known as Hyperloop were successes from the session.

Quade said Republicans failed to do more for those affected by COVID-19.

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