Missouri lawmakers vote to end residency rule for St. Louis City first responders

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ST. LOUIS – Missouri lawmakers make history by giving final passage to a bill that would allow first responders in the city of St. Louis to live outside of the city limits. 

This issue has been hotly debated for years.  In fact, St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden was in Jefferson City earlier this week pleading for passage of the bill. 

Hayden and others say lifting the residency requirement will help the city hire and keep first responders.  The state Senate approved House Bill 46 Wednesday by a vote of 25-5 during the special session on crime. 

That vote followed the House passage of the bill. 

The bill says no police or public safety workers shall be subject to a residency rule for at least the next three years.  First responders have been required to live in the city for at least seven years.  

Chief Hayden says the residency rule has been the number one barrier to filling open jobs at the police department. 

The St. Louis Police Officers Association says the police department is short by about 185 officers…Mayor Lyda Krewson  puts that number closer to 145. 

Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson says his department is down about 15 firefighters and around 24 EMS workers. 

Mayor Krewson spoke about the importance of getting the bill passed. 

“It is hard right now to hire police officers and that’s for a number of reasons. But when you’re the only department who has a residency requirement and you can’t recruit outside of that geography, it puts you at a competitive disadvantage.  So, this levels the playing field,” said Krewson. 

Missouri Governor Mike Parson is expected to sign the bill.  Some believe that the residency rule should be left up to local voters to decide. 

The issue is on the November 3rd ballot in St. Louis city.  But if the Governor enacts the bill it will make the local vote basically moot. 

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