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.” 

VIDEO: House members urge Missouri response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine

      Missouri House members want to respond to Russia’s Attack on the Ukraine. 

      On Tuesday House Majority Floor Leader Dean Plocher (R-St. Louis) filed House Bill 2913 which would bar all public entities or private entities which receive public funds from contracting with Russia.  The prohibition would extend to any country which occupies or attacks Ukraine, Finland, Sweden, Georgia, or a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member.

      Tuesday night a House committee advanced House Concurrent Resolution 75 filed by Representative Mike Haffner (R-Pleasant Hill). It would urge President Joe Biden (D) to take certain actions in response to the Russian invasion. This resolution could soon be debated by the full House.

      On Wednesday Representatives Plocher and Haffner participated in a media conference with Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe (R) and legislative assistant Igor Shalai, a native of Ukraine, who spoke about what his family is experiencing.

VIDEO: Representative O’Donnell promoted to Lt. Commander

Representative Michael O’Donnell (R-St. Louis) received Monday a promotion to Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy, on the Missouri House Chamber floor.  In front of his House colleagues, O’Donnell accepted the promotion in a ceremony that combined Navy traditions with House traditions. It was conducted by Representative Mike Haffner (R-Pleasant Hill), a Navy veteran.  House Speaker Rob Vescovo (R-Arnold) and Majority Floor Leader Dean Plocher (R-St. Louis) assisted in the ceremony.

House votes to require veterans courts in all jurisdictions in Missouri

Every circuit court in the State of Missouri would have to have at least one veterans treatment court in its jurisdiction under a bill approved by the Missouri House.

Representative Dave Griffith (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Treatment courts utilize an intensive program of court supervision, drug or alcohol testing, and rehabilitation to help defendants overcome substance abuse, mental, emotional, or behavioral issues and keep them from re-offending.

Veterans treatment courts specifically focus on those who have served or currently serve in the military.  Many of their needs, including drug testing, utilize the Veterans Administration’s services.

Lawmakers said there is one circuit in the state that does not have a treatment court program.

House Bill 547 would require every circuit court in the state to establish a treatment court division.  For courts in which resources are not available for a veterans court, it would allow defendants who are veterans to have their cases transferred to any court in the circuit.

The bill is sponsored by Jefferson City representative Dave Griffith (R), who served in the Army as a Green Beret.

“When a soldier, a sailor, a marine, or an airman goes into battle, that experience changes who they are, and many of them come out of that experience and that situation different people.  They make decisions they very well would not have made prior to going on the battlefield.  Many turn to alcohol or drugs and because of those choices they can find themselves on the wrong side of the law,” said Griffith.  “The veterans treatment courts throughout the state will give these men and women an opportunity to clear their names, to get a clean record, and give them a second chance at life, but more importantly it will show them that we have not given up on them.”

Griffith said passing HB 547 would help mitigate the number of suicides among veterans in Missouri.

“#22 stands for the number of veterans committing suicide every day [nationwide].  This bill will show our veterans and military that we do care and we want to give them the second chance that they deserve,” said Griffith.

The bill would specify that veterans who had been in combat would be given preference by courts in determining whether to have their cases handled by a veterans court.  That provision was offered by Pleasant Hill Republican Mike Haffner, a retired Naval Officer and decorated combat veteran.

Representative Mike Haffner (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“Let’s face it.  Men were never meant to kill men,” said Haffner.  “Every individual that goes into combat is changed psychologically.  They are never the same again, and the part that’s hard about this is the assimilation when we come back home.  For those that haven’t been in combat they don’t understand, coming into a room like this is not the same.  We’re forever changed … some can cope and some cannot.”

Some lawmakers expressed concerns about having courts prioritize combat veterans ahead of non-combat veterans, but Haffner maintains that no one who could benefit from veterans courts will be turned away.

“Given the triage priorities that they list [in the bill] I cannot think of a situation where any of the circuit courts, especially here in the State of Missouri, where this is going to be an issue given the number of vets that we have and how few of them are combat vets,” said Haffner.

Griffith thanked his colleagues for supporting the bill and said it is a further effort to honor veterans.

“When I was separated from the service my first sergeant told me not to wear my uniform home, but to wear civilian clothes.  As many of us walked through airports either returning home from deployment or separating from the service, we were cursed at, we were spit on, we were called ‘baby killers,’ and the list goes on and on.  Today when I look on Facebook and I see posts of soldiers receiving standing ovations in airports when they are making their way to their planes it brings a tear to my eye.” said Griffith.  “This bill will further support our veterans and military by giving them another resource to help them get the support they need so very badly.”

HB 547 would give courts until August 28, 2021 to establish a treatment court division.  The House voted 149-3 to send the bill to the Senate.