Missouri House condemns attack on Ukraine in unanimous vote

      The Missouri House voted unanimously today to condemn the Russian attack on Ukraine and to urge the federal government to respond prudently. 

Representative Mike Haffner (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      It approved House Resolution 3658 which says the members of the House, “Stand alongside Ukraine, its people, and its leaders during this horrific and unnecessary war and vow to support Ukraine and hold Russia fully accountable for its catastrophic decision to invade.”

      It was carried by Representative Mike Haffner (R-Pleasant Hill), a decorated combat veteran who retired from the U.S. Navy as a Commander. 

This invasion is not about land.  It’s not about oil.  It’s not about natural resources.  It’s about freedom.  Ukraine has embraced the definition of American freedom as it is defined very clearly in the Declaration of Independence because that freedom results in unprecedented opportunity for all people,” Haffner said.

      Representative Michael O’Donnell (R-St. Louis) is a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve.  He said he’s been watching the coverage of Russian forces entering Ukraine equipped not to destroy military targets or equipment, but to kill people.  He’s marveled at the response of the Ukrainian people.

      “We have to look at the bravery of these people.  Would we have behaved any differently?  Would any of us have acted any differently?  Most of us aren’t capable of serving in the military anymore but we would’ve done something.  We would’ve done anything to protect our friends and our families,” said O’Donnell.

      Lee’s Summit representative Keri Ingle (D) said the people of Ukraine are much like the people of Missouri in what they want for themselves and their loved ones.

      “We must support democracy across the world or it will be lost here as well,” said Ingle.

(Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Some representatives said the House’s action today isn’t just about what’s happened in the last week, but what will come if Russia doesn’t stop or isn’t stopped.  Representative David Tyson Smith (D-Columbia) said, “We need to take a stand against oppression and tyranny and we all know that if Russia takes Ukraine it’s not going to stop with Ukraine.” 

      St. Charles Republican and member of the National Guard Adam Schnelting added, “It’s very important that we stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine not just for Ukraine but also so that Europe does not digress into centuries of darkness.”

      The House voted 143-0 to support the resolution which states, as Rep. Haffner read, “we proudly stand alongside Ukraine, its people, and its leaders during this horrific and unnecessary war and vow to support Ukraine and hold Russia fully accountable for its catastrophic decision to invade this sovereign nation.

      “We condemn Vladimir Putin’s violent attack on the people of Ukraine and we have introduced this legislation to implore the President of the United States and the United States Congress to reaffirm our country’s unwavering support for Ukraine’s freedom and sovereignty.” 

Anti-doxing bill would protect Missouri first responders

      Missouri House members are being asked to protect law enforcement officers and other first responders and their families by protecting the personal information of those individuals.

      House Bill 59 has been called the “First Responders Protection Act.”  It would bar counties from disclosing the address or personal information of law enforcement officers and first responders, upon their request.  This would be directed at county clerks, collectors, treasurers, auditors, and recorders of deeds. 

Representative Adam Schnelting (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications, 03-10-2020)

It would also make illegal the “doxing” of those individuals; that is, the posting of such information on the internet with the intent of causing harm to them.

The bill’s sponsor, St. Charles Republican Adam Schnelting, said such information has been used to target law enforcement officers and their loved ones.

      “Our first responders and our law enforcement officers leave their families every day to protect our own, so I think the least that we can do is to back them up, protect them so that there’s one less avenue through which their families can become a victim,” said Schnelting. 

      Dale Roberts with the Columbia Police Officers Association said Columbia officers have been targeted by those they’ve arrested.

      “They track our officers down.  They called our officers after being arrested and said, ‘I know your daughter, Amanda, goes to Grand Elementary School.  I know you live at 309 Pine Street,’ and threaten the officers and their families,” Roberts told the House Committee on Public Safety.

“We go to work every day and we understand the responsibilities, the duties, and the dangers of our job,” said Missouri Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police president Rick Inglima.  “A bill like this would be paramount in helping our officers protect themselves, to keep their information undisclosed – either online or by going through the county records, to keep our officers and their families safe.”

Backers said the legislation could save local law enforcement agencies money that is expended to protect officers who have been targeted due to access to their personal information.

The Recorders Association of Missouri testified against the bill.  Speaking for the Association, Jessica Petrie stressed that it supports the intent of the legislation but implementing it wouldn’t be practical.

“Under Missouri statute recorders do not redact records.  We don’t have the processes, we don’t have the software, we don’t have the systems in place to redact,” said Petrie. 

      She said the bill’s prohibition on the release of any data related to an officer’s address could interfere with the sale of property.

      “If you redact parcel numbers or legal descriptions you might interfere with title searches, which is a big function of our office, and if people can’t prove that they’re the only ones with claims to a title that makes the chain of property ownership very messy.”    

      Petrie said with the range of capabilities and technologies across Missouri’s 114 counties and the city of St. Louis it is hard to predict what it would take – especially in terms of cost – for all of them to get software or other items necessary to comply with the requirements of HB 59.

      The Missouri NAACP also opposes the legislation, saying it would create crimes and penalties redundant to current Missouri law.  Sharon Jones with the Association joined the Recorders Association in suggesting that many of the bill’s goals could be met by extending to law enforcement officers the Safe At Home Program, which allows survivors of domestic violence and other crimes hide their address. 

The bill’s supporters note that Safe At Home’s protections are not retroactive, so records already available through county offices would stay that way.

      The committee has not voted on HB 59.