Three Missouri lawmakers are leading a bipartisan effort to criminalize celebratory gunfire. Their bills would create what is called “Blair’s Law,” in honor of 11 year-old Blair Shanahan Lane, who was killed by an errant bullet fired during a 4th of July celebration in 2011.
Captain Kari Thompson is the Assistant Division Commander for the Homeland Security Division of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department. She said the legislation would make a common sense change in the law.
Blair was hit in the neck by a bullet fired by a Kansas City man, who pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. He served 18 months in prison. Had one of these measures been in place he could’ve faced additional prison time for the charge it would create.
The Missouri House has given initial approval to five bills related to crime issues in Missouri. The bills were filed in a special session of the legislature called by Governor Mike Parson (R).
Republicans say the legislation will help address violent crime in a year when Kansas City is on pace to set a new record for the annual number of homicides, and St. Louis is in the midst of a wave of murders and other violence. Democrats decried the legislation as accomplishing nothing and said the special session was called only for political reasons.
House Bill 66 would create a fund to pay for law enforcement agencies to protect witnesses or potential witnesses and their immediate families during an investigation or ahead of a trial.
Merideth said he would still support the bill, but also expressed concern that the offer of state money to pay for a potential witness’ room and board could be used to incent false testimony and lead to wrongful convictions.
The House voted 147-3 to send HB 66 to the Senate.
House Bill 11 would increase the penalty for endangering the welfare of a child from a misdemeanor to a first-degree felony. Bill sponsor Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon) said criminals are taking advantage of juveniles by giving them guns and encouraging them to participate in violent crime.
House Bill 16, also sponsored by Schroer, would define the unlawful transfer of a weapon to a minor as the lending or sale of a firearm to a minor for the purpose of interfering with or avoiding an arrest or investigation. It would change current law to allow such transfers to be a felony even if done with parental permission.
The House also approved 133-11House Bill 2, sponsored by Representative Barry Hovis (R-Whitewater), which aims to clarify current law on the admissibility of witness statements when a witness has been tampered with or intimidated. If a court finds a defendant tried to keep a witness from testifying and the witness failed to appear, an otherwise inadmissible statement from that witness could be allowed into evidence.
All of these except for HB 16 were passed with a clause that would make them effective immediately upon being signed by the governor.
The Missouri House has given initial approval to a bill addressing issues with implementing a medical marijuana industry approved by voters in 2018. This comes as its Special Oversight Committee continues to explore problems in the issuing of cultivation licenses.
House Bill 1896 would give the Department of Health and Senior Services authority to review criminal background checks to ensure no workers in the medical marijuana industry have committed a disqualifying felony criminal offense. Article 14 of the Missouri Constitution, passed in 2018 by Missouri voters, includes the authority for DHSS to conduct criminal background checks, but the FBI does not share that information with non-law enforcement entities.
HB 1896 would give DHSS statutory authority to satisfy the FBI’s concerns. It would also make it a Class-E felony for a state agency to share data about medical marijuana card applicants with the federal government.
The House on Thursday added a provision to the bill that would require a medical marijuana card applicant to meet in-person with a Missouri doctor in order to be certified.
The House also added a provision to require DHSS employees involved in medical marijuana regulation to disclose any “actual or perceived” conflicts of interest to the Department.
Another favorable vote would send the legislation to the Senate.
The House Special Committee on Government Oversight has held several hearings into apparent inconsistencies in the approval of licenses to cultivate marijuana for medical use in the state. More such hearings are expected as early as next week.
The second bill the Missouri House has sent to the Senate would increase penalties for trafficking a dangerous drug, the use of which can easily result in overdoses. Opponents worry the change will cast too broad a net, putting more users in prison for long terms.
The House voted to making it a class-B felony to knowingly distribute, make, or attempt to distribute or make, more than 10 milligrams of fentanyl or its derivatives. This would carry a penalty of five to 15 years in prison. Making or distributing 20 or more milligrams would be a class-A felony, carrying a sentence of 10 to 30 years in prison.
Law enforcement advocates have told lawmakers that fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is being trafficked frequently in Missouri – particularly illegally made – and is often mixed with other drugs like heroin or cocaine, often resulting very easily in overdose deaths.
An effort by state legislators to give a chance at parole to a man sentenced to 241 years in prison has led to a broader effort to offer parole to all Missouri inmates facing similar situations.
Bobby Bostic committed a series of crimes in 1995 when he was 16 and was given a series of consecutive sentences. A 2010 Supreme Court ruling that people under 18 who did not kill anyone could not be sentenced to life without parole doesn’t apply to him because he was not sentenced to life. He would not be eligible for parole until the age of 112. All judicial avenues to offer Bostic an earlier release have been exhausted.
Last year more than 100 state lawmakers signed a letter to Governor Mike Parson (R) asking him to consider Bostic’s petition for clemency. They joined those victimized in Bostic’s crimes and the judge who sentenced him in saying Bostic has reformed himself, and deserves a chance at parole.
O’Fallon representative Nick Schroer (R) has worked to bring attention to Bostic’s situation and has led the effort to drum up support. He said he knows that the Parson administration is sifting through thousands of clemency requests. While that process continues, he has filed House Bill 2201, which aims to give people sentenced to long terms and life as a juvenile a chance at parole.
A judge who sentenced a man to more than two centuries in prison now says that man deserves to be freed. Judge Evelyn Baker is joined by numerous House members and others lobbying for clemency for Bobby Bostic.
Judge Baker traveled this week to Jefferson City to meet with Representative Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon), who earlier this year began gathering lawmakers’ signatures on a letter asking Governor Mike Parson (R) to grant clemency to Bostic. About 50 legislators have signed that letter and Schroer said more have committed to, but he put the effort on hold while the clemency process is advancing.
Bostic was 16 in 1995 when he and an accomplice robbed a group of people delivering Christmas presents to the needy. He shot one victim who sustained a minor wound. The pair then carjacked and robbed a woman.
Baker said Bostic has turned his life around in prison. He obtained his G.E.D. and a paralegal diploma, took a victim advocate course, and completed a course in non-profit management and grantsmanship. He’s written four non-fiction books and 8 books of poetry.
Schroer has talked to the governor and First Lady Teresa Parson about Bostic’s case and said they are both receptive. He also hopes that in this effort to see Bostic be granted clemency, it will open doors for others in Missouri’s prisons who have similar arguments to be made.
Schroer said he learned that the governor’s office has a stack of clemency requests that date back to the administration of Governor Bob Holden (D), who left the office in 2005. He hopes to see those examined.
HB 1094 would block late payment penalties on tax debt owed to the state by individual taxpayers through the end of this year. It would also waive any interest owed on such debt until May 15. For those who might pay penalties before the bill would become law, it would require that those Missourians receive refunds.
The bill is a bipartisan response to an issue with the Department of Revenue’s tax tables that resulted in many Missourians being faced with greater debt than expected. Lawmakers heard stories of individuals who anticipated a tax refund from the state instead getting hit with bills for hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars.
Republicans, including Noel representative and oversight committee member Dirk Deaton, maintain that while some Missourians could see greater tax bills this year, changes in the federal tax code mean their overall debt is down.
The Missouri House has proposed strengthening the state’s trafficking laws to include the potent pain reliever fentanyl and its derivatives, as well as Rohypnol or GHB – both commonly known as “date rape” drugs.
House Bill 239 would make possession or trafficking of those drugs a felony. Penalties range from three years to life in prison, depending on the amount of the drug involved. Missouri laws against trafficking do not include any of those substances.
Lawmakers heard that the abuse of fentanyl steadily increased between 2013 and 2017, and doctors said many people are being treated in emergency rooms because they took heroin mixed with fentanyl.
Bill sponsor Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon) said there is a hole in Missouri’s trafficking law, so prosecutors often must charge for whatever drug fentanyl is laced with. He said more and more it’s being trafficked by itself, as it’s becoming more popular to abuse.
Schroer anticipates some in the Senate might try to make additions to HB 239 and then send the bill back to the House. He is optimistic that Governor Mike Parson (R) would sign the bill if it gets to him.
The Missouri House has voted to enact a number of ethics reforms for local officials, but support for the bill was tempered by an amendment that creates exemptions to the state’s open records, or “Sunshine,” law.
House Bill 445 extends to local officials the ethics policies that state lawmakers and statewide officials are now subject to. It would bar lobbyists from making expenditures for local government officials, superintendents, or members of school boards or charter school governing boards. Such expenditures could also not be made for those officials’ staffs or specific members of their families.
The bill would also keep elected or appointed local officials from becoming lobbyists for two years after leaving office. It would limit to $5 per day the amount a gift to such officials can cost, and cap at $2000 any campaign contributions for municipal, political subdivision, and special district office races.
A previous year’s version of Dogan’s bill received 149 votes when the House sent it to the Senate. This year’s version passed out of the House on Thursday, 103-47. Democrats said the lessening of support was due to an amendment to Dogan’s bill that they say “guts” Missouri’s open records law that has been in place since 1973.
The amendment, offered by Representative Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon), would add to exemptions from the Sunshine law any personal cell phone numbers, social security numbers or home addresses; records of constituent case files including any correspondence between an elected official and a constituent; and any document or record “received or prepared by or on behalf of” an elected or appointed official “consisting of advice, opinions, and recommendations in connection with the deliberative decision-making process of said body.”
A growing body of Missouri legislators wants to ask Governor Mike Parson (R) to act on behalf of a man in state prison with a sentence that they feel far exceeds his crimes.
Bobby Bostic is serving a sentence of 241 years in prison. Now 40, he would be eligible for parole at the age of 112. Appeals filed on his behalf have been denied, even one on the grounds that the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that people under 18 who didn’t kill anyone couldn’t be sentenced to life without parole. That didn’t apply to Bostic because he wasn’t sentenced to life; he was sentenced for 18 crimes.
Bostic was 16 in 1995 when he and an 18-year-old accomplice robbed a group of people delivering Christmas presents for the needy. Each man shot a victim, leaving one slightly injured. The pair carjacked another woman and put a gun to her head. The accomplice robbed and groped her before she was let go.
Schroer, an O’Fallon Republican, says he happened upon the case when someone posted an old story about Bostic on Twitter. He sent Bostic a letter and the two began talking, and shortly thereafter Schroer and other representatives met with Bostic at the Jefferson City Correctional Center. It was then that Schroer decided he wanted to see the man given a chance at freedom.
One of the lawmakers that joined Schroer in that visit to JCCC is Representative Barbara Washington (D-Kansas City). She came to the same conclusion – that the sentence was too harsh. She and Schroer agreed to work with their respective parties to get as many lawmakers as possible to sign a letter to Governor Parson asking for clemency for Bostic.
The judge who handed Bostic his sentence has said publicly that she now regrets, “deeply,” that decision, and wants to meet with Bostic. Schroer believes something another judge – Missouri’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Zel Fischer – said in his State of the Judiciary Address this week also applies.
By Thursday afternoon around 15 lawmakers had signed on to the letter started by Representatives Schroer and Washington – lawmakers from both parties and from both the House and Senate, with more having agreed to sign it.