The Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee for Public Safety and Corrections has filed three bills for the 2017 session dealing with public safety issues. She said one would, in part, help prevent incidents such as the drowning of an Iowa Man while in patrol custody in 2014.
That bill would increase by $1-million the amount collected from boat title and registration fees that would go to the Water Patrol Division of the State Highway Patrol.
St. Charles Republican Kathie Conway said that division does more than put boats and troopers on Missouri’s waterways.
“They have to take care of docks, they have to take care of emergency equipment, they have to have trucks and SUVs that have ability to go four-wheel-drive and into places that some of their other vehicles can’t get, so it’s not just simply, ‘Well instead of a car they have a boat,’” said Conway. “The $1-million will go a long, long way, and it comes in fees so it’s not the taxpayers’ money. It’s the people who are actually using our waterways and registering their boats that will be contributing this extra money.”
Conway believes additional funding for the Water Patrol division will also lead to continued improvements in training of its troopers, and that will help prevent incidents such as the drowning of an Iowa man, Brandon Ellingson, while in patrol custody on the Lake of the Ozarks in 2014.
She said when the Water Patrol became part of the Highway Patrol in 2011 there was, “some confusion and some overlapping, and there wasn’t, I don’t think, the best opportunities to train everybody to the highest degree.
The state recently agreed to pay $9-million to Ellingson’s family as part of a settlement agreement.
Another bill would extend to the state’s community colleges the ability that colleges and universities have for their police departments to control traffic on streets maintained by those institutions.
Conway says community colleges were left out when colleges and universities were granted that power under a bill that became law several years ago.
She said such authority would also make community colleges eligible to apply for federal money for training – money they are not eligible to apply for now.
A third bill filed today by Conway would close what she called a “loophole,” in how money in the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control Fund can be used. Conway said Governor Nixon’s Administration has used money in that fund to pay for the core expenses of the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco.
“That money is to be used strictly to hire and maintain field investigators so that the public is assured that when we issue a license to an entity to sell alcohol … that the laws governing them are enforced and that those that don’t are punished or have their licenses revoked,” said Conway. “I think so much of the crime we see can be traced back to alcohol and drugs, so if we’re going to give somebody a license to sell alcohol I feel as a state we’re responsible to make sure that they follow the rules for selling alcohol.”
Conway said the number of field agents has declined and she believes the work of those agents has fallen to local law enforcement officials.
“Police officers aren’t trained in everything involved in having an alcohol license. It’s like having a real estate license. You don’t expect a cop to know everything that a broker should know to sell real estate,” said Conway. “It’s our responsibility. The city didn’t necessarily issues that license that we did and collected fees on. I just think that we’ve gotten very lax in it and I think we’ve been doing a big injustice to the public.”
Each of these measures was filed as legislation in the 2016 session, and each passed out of the House with 138 or more votes.