House logs 372 proposals on first day of filing for 2022 session

      Wednesday at the Missouri Capitol there was a sense of new energy in the air.  Christmas decorations were going up, the weather was that of a spring day, and most of all, new bills were dropping everywhere.  December 1 is a day when Missourians get a first look at what legislators will consider as the filing of bills for the 2022 legislative session began.

Representative Cyndi Buchheit-Courtway files a piece of legislation for the 2022 session. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “Prefiling day is basically a holiday if you’re an elected official down here in Jefferson City.  It’s a good day to be back in the building, it’s exciting.  You can kind of feel in the air that it’s almost time to get back into the swing of things,” said Representative Mark Sharp (D-Kansas City).

      Farmington Republican Dale Wright said it’s often better for legislation to be filed early, as that can give it a better chance of gaining traction early in the session and a better chance at passage.  That means a lot of proposals are brought in on day 1.

      “It’s amazing how many bills get filed.  I’m always amazed at all of the work that House Research and the analysts do.  They don’t get enough credit,” said Wright.

Click here to view the bills filed in the House for the 2022 legislative session.

      For some legislators there is some strategy involved in whether they want to put a proposal forward sooner or later.

      “I’ve spoken to other members that believe if they prefile something it gives the opposition a month to work on attacking that bill,” said Representative Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon)“I’m one that’s fully transparent.  People know what I’m going to file, they know where I stand on issues, and give them an extra month, I don’t care.  I just think that voters and the constituents need to know what work is being done in the interim, what work is going to be done in 2022.”

      Wright said Missourians should know that it’s a hectic day in the Capitol.

      “I truly believe that the people who are serving up here are serving for the right reasons, and that is to be advocates and be the voice of the people back home, and wo when we file these bills it’s usually for something that helps our constituents back home, but in general, also for the State of Missouri.”

      Prefiling can feel very different for House Democrats, who face a supermajority of Republicans.  Kansas City Democrat Ashley Aune said even when proposing legislation they know will be opposed, members of her caucus can be serving a purpose.  She said one piece of advice she has held onto came from fellow Representative Tracy McCreery (D-St. Louis).

Legislators can begin filing legislation for the coming session on December 1 of the preceding year. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “She tells me that filing a piece of legislation as a member of the superminority is like starting a conversation, and that’s what this is for us, especially with the bills that we know aren’t going to go anywhere.  It gives us a chance to start a conversation not only with our constituents to signal that we are working for them and doing the work that they sent us down here to do, it gives us an opportunity to have the conversation with our colleagues across the aisle and say, ‘Hey, this is a priority for me.  Where can we meet in the middle?’”

      Sharp said the enthusiasm of filing day is encouraging, but it’s also a reminder to be thoughtful in what is filed.

      “A lot of times people swing for the fences and a lot of times that’s just not feasible in most cases, especially as a member of the superminority.  Sometimes you have to just get some of the breadcrumbs that haven’t been picked up in the past,” said Sharp.

      Joplin Representative Lane Roberts (R) said he believes it’s important for each legislator to give consideration to not only their own bills, but what others are filing, and that includes those in the opposing party.

      “The fact is that that there’s an awful lot of people on that floor who are sincere.  They want to do the right thing, and when they file bills it’s because they believe that it has some meaning.  Some, maybe more than others, but none of it is meaningless, and whether you’re one side of the aisle or the other, I’ve found that people on the opposite side of the aisle from me sometimes say very smart things,” said Roberts.  “Listening to folks who are presenting the bill, listening to what they have to say, it’s changed my mind a time or two.  It has overcome some preconceived notions that while I may not intended to have it, it just happened.”

      On Wednesday in the House, 372 measures were filed for the 2022 session.  The session begins January 5.

Missouri college athletes to be able to profit from name, likeness under House bill

      Student athletes in Missouri colleges and universities can now profit off of their name, image, and likeness and hire an agent, under House legislation that has been signed into law.  The change would be effective beginning July 1 of next year and comes after the NCAA adopted a new policy on the matter.

Representative Nick Schroer (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communciations)

      Representative Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon) was one sponsor of a proposal on the subject.  He said even before other states began passing such legislation, he saw it as an issue of freedom.

      He said students who weren’t athletes could make money, especially on social media, or sign endorsements.  This included anything from teaching piano lessons for pay to having a popular YouTube channel on a subject that could have nothing to do with what they were studying.

      “However if you’re a student athlete, the walls of liberty are blocked off, and for me it wasn’t fair.  Our free market should be something that everyone can take advantage of in our state and across the nation.  That was the biggest compelling point for me,” said Schroer.

      Representative Wes Rogers (D-Kansas City) agreed with that and other points, and noted that as long as Missouri didn’t have this kind of law its institutions were at a disadvantage in recruiting, to counterparts in other states.

      “We’re seeing that,” said Rogers.  “I represent parts of Kansas City and they didn’t do it in Kansas and they’re worried about us, and so absolutely it’s going to help.  Every state [with an SEC school that Mizzou plays against] have passed this, so if we didn’t pass it we would fall even further behind.”

      Rogers said this wasn’t just an issue for football and basketball programs in major schools.

      “This actually got started by women’s athletes in the PAC-12 out west who were Olympic-level athletes who were sleeping in their cars.  So you’ve got these women who are winning national titles on a track that can’t afford their basic needs because their scholarship doesn’t go far enough … it wasn’t big time football that got this rolling,” said Rogers.

Representative Wes Rogers (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Schroer said it also just makes sense to let students begin making money with which they can begin to control their educational debt even before they graduate.  He thinks it is that argument that led to many lawmakers supporting the language.

      “Let’s allow this freedom across the board – the same freedom that’s made this country phenomenal, the same freedom that has allowed people to pull themselves out of poverty.  I think we’ll be able to tackle this student debt issue by allowing this freedom here in the State of Missouri.”

      Colleges that use students’ names, images, and likenesses in commercial deals would have to have a financial development program for each of those students once a year.  Students who have entered into endorsements could not display a company’s name or logo during team activities if that display would conflict with the school’s contracts and licenses.

      The NCAA’s new policy adopted earlier this year allows students to profit off their name, image, or likeness within the bounds of their state’s laws.

      The language passed as part of House Bill 297, sponsored by Representative Wayne Wallingford (R-Cape Girardeau).

House language will allow chance at parole for Bostic, others sentenced as juveniles to long terms

      A House amendment that will give some juvenile offenders in Missouri a chance at parole will become effective later this month.  The provision was driven by the case of a man sentenced to 241 years in prison when he was 16.

Bobby Bostic

      The amendment was signed into law as part of Senate Bill 26.  It would make anyone sentenced while a juvenile eligible for parole after serving 15 years of any sentence.  It doesn’t apply to convictions for first-degree or capital murder.

      Representative Mark Sharp (D-Kansas City) sponsored the amendment, which he stresses does not automatically grant freedom to any offender.

      “Ultimately it falls into the hands of the Parole Board.  It’s up to their discretion.  Every juvenile that’s in the system currently has a different criteria they have to meet obviously.  I think it’s our duty to trust the Parole Board to do their job, and if anybody can be rehabilitated I do believe that we should put that faith into our youth.  I trust them far more than someone else to be rehabilitated in the correctional facilities,” said Sharp.

Representative Mark Sharp (Photo credit: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Sharp and numerous other lawmakers in both parties think Bobby Bostic has been rehabilitated.  In 1995, Bostic 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.  He was sentenced for 18 crimes and would not be eligible for parole until the age of 112.

      None of the victims of Bostic’s crimes oppose him being given a chance at parole.  The judge who sentenced him said that sentence was disproportionately harsh, and she favors giving him a chance at freedom.  

      O’Fallon Republican representative Nick Schroer has been among the leaders of the effort to help Bostic.  He and others say that is because Bostic has clearly reformed.

Representative Nick Schroer (Photo credit: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “He’s done so much while he’s been behind bars,” said Schroer.  “Getting rehabilitated to the point of taking it upon himself paying for different college classes, getting several different degrees, writing many books, and trying to work with communities in need within our state so juveniles that might have been on the same path he was won’t make that same decision … I believe that is what we can all agree our criminal justice system is there for.”

      Sharp said it felt meaningful to pass this legislation, especially knowing that there are more than 100 more people in Missouri’s correctional facilities in similar situations.

      “This provision just allows them to be eligible for parole, and I think that for a lot of these folks including Mr. Bobby Bostic, just being eligible will go a long way,” said Sharp.

      The language becomes effective on August 28.

Bipartisan effort would create “Blair’s Law,” criminalizing celebratory gunfire

      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.

Michelle Shanahan DeMoss talks to the House Committee on General Laws. (Photo: Mike Lear, Missouri House Communications)

      Representatives Rory Rowland (D-Independence), Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon), and Mark Sharp (D-Kansas City) have filed House Bills 722, 795, and 99, respectively.  Those were presented to the House Committee on General Laws, which heard from Blair’s mother, Michele Shanahan DeMoss.

      “It will be 10 years, July of 2021, since my daughter was fatally struck by a bullet,” said Shanahan DeMoss.

      She said her daughter died July 5 and donated six organs to five people. 

      “She gave, as I’m asking you to give the opportunity for this bill to be passed.  It’s a simple request to increase the penalty from a misdemeanor – basically, to me, a parking ticket.  A fine, and go on your way, and it happens year after year after year,” said Shanahan DeMoss.  “If we can increase the penalty of the crime maybe, maybe somebody doesn’t do it.”

Blair Shanahan Lane (courtesy; Michele Shanahan DeMoss)

      Representative Schroer said as he was growing up his family sometimes went to the basement during times of celebration because guns were being fired into the air in the region.

      “One of the pillars of responsible gun ownership is knowing where you’re pointing your gun and knowing where that projectile is going to go and where it’s going to land,” said Schroer. 

      Representative Sharp said between 6pm December 31 and 6am on January 1 in South Kansas City Missouri, at least 12 residences were hit by indiscriminate gunfire. 

He said the shot spotter technology employed by police, “indicated about 1,600 shots were fired in Kansas City alone.”

      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.

Representatives Mark Sharp (at left, holding newspaper), Rory Rowland (wearing mask), and Nick Schroer (right) have all sponsored a version of Blair’s Law. (Photo: Mike Lear, Missouri House Communications)

      “The question is not ‘if’ this will happen again, it’s ‘when.’  We want to remember that this is, for some families, a family tradition.  Let’s go out on the porch or in the back yard and shoot off our weapons in a celebratory manner for 4th of July, for New Year’s Eve, and now for Super Bowl Sundays,” said Thompson.

      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 committee has not voted on the legislation.

Pronunciations:

DeMoss = dee-moss

Kari = CAR-ee

Schroer = shroe-ur

Rory Rowland = roar-ee roe-land

Missouri House passes 5 bills in special session called to address crime

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).

Representative Johnathan Patterson (photo courtesy: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

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.

St. Louis City representative Peter Merideth (D) said the bill would be meaningless because there would be no money in the fund until it is appropriated in budget legislation.

“If we really believed this was an emergency wouldn’t we be funding it right now?” asked Merideth.

Bill sponsor Jonathan Patterson (R-Lees Summit) said his bill will create the program and funding can come later, as is usually the case with newly created state programs.

“I trust the mayors of our state.  They say it’s an emergency.  I trust the law enforcement in our state.  They say it’s an emergency,” said Patterson.  “We could have funded it [during the special session].  You’d have to ask yourself, ‘does that fit within [the governor’s call of topics to be addressed in this special session]?’  I don’t know.”

Representative Peter Merideth (photo courtesy: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

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 46, sponsored by Representative Ron Hicks (R-Dardenne Prarie), would temporarily lift the requirement that St. Louis Police officers, EMS personnel, and firefighters live in the City of St. Louis.  The residency requirement would be reinstated after September 1, 2023.

“Out of all the things in the governor’s call this is the one really good thing that will immediately improve the conditions of [St. Louis’] crime problem,” said Representative Justin Hill (R-Lake St. Louis), a former law enforcement officer and undercover detective.  “Men and women in blue want to to work in the city.  Right now they don’t feel empowered enough by their city to stay there.”

St. Louis area Democrats say the bill infringes on local control because St. Louis residents are set to vote on whether to remove the  residency requirement in November.

“This comes up about every eight years in our city.  It has never passed,” said St. Louis representative Wiley Price (D).

The House passed HB 46 117-35.

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.

“The issue of our youth being involved in horrific violence should be of the utmost importance to everyone in this body.  That is why I fought so hard since I’ve been in this body … to address this in one way, shape, or form,” said Schroer.

The House passed HB 11, 117-33.

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.

Representative Nick Schroer (photo courtesy: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“It’s very important that we focus on these adults … that are victimizing our youth.  Sometimes it’s resulting in their death, sometimes it’s resulting in them going into the juvenile justice system,” said Schroer.  “Amending this law pursuant to the conversations we’ve had across the state it’s going to lead to a decrease in crime.”

St. Louis representative Rasheen Aldridge (D) said those bills will not reduce crime and won’t help his city.

“We’re not addressing the root cause of crime.  We’re not talking about after school programs.  We’re not talking about real criminal justice reform.  We’re not talking about how we make our neighborhoods not food deserts so we don’t have to travel 20 and 30 miles out.  We’re not talking about how we make education equitable for neighborhoods like ours,” said Aldridge.

HB 16 was sent to the Senate with a 103-45 vote.

The House also approved 133-11 House 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.

House gives initial passage to changes to Missouri medical marijuana provisions

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.

Representative Jonathan Patterson (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

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.

That piece was proposed by Representative Jonathan Patterson (R), a Lee’s Summit surgeon, who said it would strengthen the fledgling program.

“Because if you are doing these certifications online or over the phone then the strength of the certification is really diminished, so as we’re starting this program we want everything to be above board,” said Patterson.

Some lawmakers opposed Patterson’s amendment, saying it took a narrowly focused bill to fix a problem holding up the system, and added roadblocks to some potential medical marijuana patients.

“The Department testified to us the other day that the ‘North Star’ of Amendment 2 and the ‘North Star’ of their implementation of this was patient access, and all I see in here is a limitation on the physician I can go to,” said Representative Peter Merideth (D-St. Louis).

Representative Peter Merideth (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Merideth is also critical of Patterson’s amendment having first appeared on the House floor and not being the subject of a committee hearing.

“When people passed Amendment 2 do you think they had in mind an online doctor from some other country or another state?”  Patterson asked.

“I think we should ask them,” Merideth responded.  “That’s the point of a public hearing on something like this so that they can come in and say, ‘Here’s how it impacts me,’ so I can hear from a doctor, so I can hear from a patient.”

O’Fallon attorney, Representative Nick Schroer (R), said he believes Patterson’s amendment will lead to court challenges.

“This is going to prohibit the actual implementation of what the voters intended and what the voters requested,” said Schroer.

Other lawmakers said requiring certification from only Missouri doctors would be a burden to those who live near the borders and visit doctors from neighboring states.

Patterson argued his amendment would protect patients.

“The people of Missouri … wanted a safe program that provided patients access.  They wanted a safe program of Missouri-grown marijuana sold in Missouri to Missourians certified by a Missouri physician that is licensed to practice here,” said Patterson.

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.

Second House bill sent to Senate would increase penalties for trafficking fentanyl

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.

Representative Nick Schroer (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

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.

The sponsor of House Bill 1450, O’Fallon representative Nick Schroer (R), said fentanyl trafficking has continued to increase exponentially in the past year.  He believes increased penalties will help law enforcement get to those who are making and selling fentanyl.

“Right now law enforcement and the prosecutors only have the ability to charge drug traffickers with possession, or possession with an intent [to distribute.]  We are seeing a trend across the United States from attorneys general, prosecutors, and law enforcement working with the federal government adding this to their criminal trafficking statutes, giving them a new tool in the toolbox to get to the criminal enterprises,” said Schroer.

Representative Peter Merideth (D-St. Louis City) agrees that fentanyl is dangerous and efforts should be made to get it off the streets, but he does not believe the way to do that is by increasing penalties.

“For the last many decades now we’ve been pursuing a drug war where we try and lock people up for longer times thinking that’s going to help us deal with our drug problem, and it hasn’t.  It hasn’t at all,” said Merideth.  “What we’re really doing is also pulling people out of their communities, out of their families and putting them in prison for extremely long sentences for drugs.”

Representative Peter Merideth (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Florissant representative Alan Green (D) said the longer sentences HB 1450 proposes fly in the face of recent years’ efforts toward criminal justice reform.

“We already got one prison shutting down, we’re looking at shutting down a second prison, and we’re talking about alternative sentencing and all that wonderful stuff now for the last two years, but you’re saying you want to give more to the prosecutors to give them ammunition to go after more cases, but we’re trying to close prisons, so I’m getting mixed messages here.  What are we really trying to do with criminal justice reform here?”  Green asked Schroer.

Schroer argues that criminal justice reform does not mean being “weak on crime, it means being smart on crime.”  He said fentanyl has not been addressed in Missouri and his proposal would do that.

“I agree with the governor … when he indicated that only the most violent of offenders, only society’s most harmful, need to be in our prisons, and I think anybody who’s going to bring these deadly drugs – that even [an amount the size of] a granule of salt will kill several people – those people need to be addressed,” said Schroer.  “If we lock that person up, if they just take a plea deal and are locked away we can’t get to the actual manufacturers, this will continue.  We’re not fixing the issue.  This is a tool which we have seen across this nation is starting to work.”

HB 1450 would also increase the penalties for trafficking one gram or more of Rohypnol or any amount of GHB, both of which are often used in sex crimes.

The House voted 122-33 to send the bill to the Senate for its consideration.

VIDEO: Legislation would give chance at parole to man serving 241 years in prison and others like him

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.

Judge Evelyn Baker and Representatives Nick Schroer and Barbara Washington talk about a legislative effort to give a chance at parole to Bobby Bostic, who Baker sentenced to 241 years in prison in 1995. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

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.

“2201 fixes the technicality that prevents Bobby and others like him in this situation the ability to obtain the relief that the Supreme Court envisioned [in that 2010 ruling],” said Schroer.

Kansas City representative Barbara Washington (D) has also spearheaded this effort and is a cosponsor of HB 2201.  She said it could help others besides Bostic.

“We must think about what we’re doing with our juveniles.  We must understand that a 16 year-old who grew up in Bobby’s situation; who didn’t have anyone to look up to, who didn’t have a community that made sure he went to school, didn’t have a mentor to make sure that he got a job, who didn’t have teachers who looked at him as a good kid that was going down the wrong road.  It is important and imperative that we pass House Bill 2201 so that we make sure that no other juveniles suffer this fate,” said Washington.

Judge Evelyn Baker handed Bobby his 241-year sentence and now wants to see him given a chance at freedom.

“He’s written books, he writes poetry, he is trying to help as many people as he can in a confined environment.  He can do so much more to help others if we let him out.  I think justice cries for him to be released,” said Judge Baker.  “We talk about rehabilitation.  He is the epitome of a rehabilitated child who became a man in the true sense of the word ‘man.’”

Schroer said he does not know how many other people in situations like Bostic’s are in Missouri prisons and might benefit from passage of this bill, but he does believe there are others.

“This one case is the tip of the spear, so to speak, where we now see there are these technical issues and other issues preventing people from getting the relief when they are fully rehabilitated, so I think that we need to go forward with House Bill 2201,” said Schroer.

He said from the standpoint of being fiscally conservative, the more people who have been rehabilitated and therefore can be released from Missouri prisons, the better for the state and its economy.

“We are wasting more money locking people up that could be contributing to society as solid Missourians once again,” said Schroer.

Schroer is hopeful his bill will be assigned to a committee and receive a hearing soon.

Earlier stories:

Judge who sentenced man to 241 years meets with lawmakers seeking his clemency

State lawmakers to ask governor for clemency for man sentenced as teen to 241 years

Judge who sentenced man to 241 years meets with lawmakers seeking his clemency

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 Evelyn Baker (retired) (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“I will talk to anybody and everyone who is in a position to help undo an injustice,” said Judge Baker.

Baker sentenced Bostic to 241 years in prison after a string of crimes in 1995.  Now 40, Bostic would not be eligible for parole until the age of 112.

“We had that whole concept of the violent predator juveniles.  What we didn’t have was the knowledge from science in terms of brain development in adolescents,” said Baker of when she sentenced Bostic.  “The law said he is a certified juvenile, therefore can be treated as an adult.  Bobby was far from being an adult.  He was a 16-year-old kid and I treated him as if he were a hardened adult criminal.  I know now that was wrong.”

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.

Bobby Bostic has told Judge Baker and Rep. Schroer there are others in prison who deserve to have clemency considered.

“He’s turned into a responsible young man who accepts full responsibility for his actions.  He doesn’t minimize what happened.  He doesn’t excuse what happened,” said Baker.  “My experience as a judge has always been that people who accept full responsibility, make no excuses for their actions, express true remorse … don’t come back into the system again, and that’s Bobby.”

Schroer and Baker both believe that being sent to prison was actually a benefit to Bostic, who himself told the judge he expected to be dead in his early 20s.

“God is working miracles.  It if wasn’t for the judge cracking down and being as hard as she was on Bobby, it wouldn’t have probably opened his eyes to create the man that he is today,” said Schroer.  “If she would’ve been soft on him he might’ve been back out on the street to commit more crimes and actually become a more hardened criminal.”

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.

“Bobby’s not the only Bobby.  There are Bobbys and Bobbetts not only in the Missouri Department of Corrections but all throughout this country,” said Baker.

Representative Nick Schroer and Judge Evelyn Baker (retired) (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

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.

“The Parson administration has indicated that they were taking a fresh look at all of those petitions and I know that they are still doing it right now … but whether we need to form a task force or a committee to help expedite that process, I’m wide open to forming something like that,” said Schroer.

“My time up here is to serve the people of Missouri, and what better way to serve the people than look at their pocketbooks, look where the money’s going, and look at the people that have actually been placed under the control of the state to see how we can actually get them out [to] become a productive member of society,” said Schroer.

Judge Baker said she has corresponded with Bostic regularly and she plans to meet with him in prison.

Schroer said it could be a couple of months before he submits legislators’ signatures with the letter urging Governor Parson to grant clemency to Bostic, while other parts of that effort move forward.

House plan would ease late payment penalties, interest, in response to surprise tax bills

The House has given preliminary approval to giving Missourians a break on late payment of taxes, because many Missourians might have been surprised this year with a higher-than-anticipated tax debt.

Representative Dean Dohrman (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“I’m also frustrated with the situation that brought us here, but today we can’t do anything about that,” said La Monte representative Dean Dohrman (R), the sponsor of House Bill 1094“But today, as Winston Churchill once said, ‘We can do the best we can with what we got.’”

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.

Representative Nick Schroer (R-St. Charles) is the vice-chairman of the House oversight committee that’s been investigating that situation.  He said the Department’s explanations have changed, and he blames its former director, who resigned last month amid the crisis.

Representative Crystal Quade (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“We still don’t really know the true cause of what is happening.  We’re still digging and trying to figure that out, but I think this is one way that we can lessen this tax burden on these people who … dollars count to these people, whether it’s diapers, groceries,” said Schroer.

That oversight committee has continued to schedule hearings to investigate what caused the problems and how the Department responded.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade (D-Springfield) also sits on that oversight committee, and pre-filed similar legislation in December.  She said the Department knew about the tax issue as early as September yet didn’t act for months to notify taxpayers.  She said she’s frustrated the House is only now taking action.

“Tax day’s in five days.  If folks in this body … I mean I hate to say it; if we were really concerned about these surprise tax bills and what was happening to citizens, we would’ve dealt with this much, much sooner,” said Quade.

“I heard time and time again from the director of revenue as well as the liaison that this isn’t a lot of money – that we’re talking an average of $85 or it could be upwards of several hundred dollars, and as I said before we have [legislative assistants] in this building who are seeing swings of $3500,” said Quade.

Lawmakers including Columbia Democrat Kip Kendrick, another oversight committee member, want Missourians to understand that their issues with tax debt might not be over after this year.

Representative Nick Schroer (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“If they’re concerned with their bill this year then they need to go back and look at their W-4 because next year, 2019, their current year, it’s going to be a full four quarters of potential under-withholding and not just three quarters,” said Kendrick.

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.

“Missourians are keeping more money in their pockets, so we’ve got to fix this withholding thing but at the end of the day Missourians, as they should, are keeping more of their hard-earned money,” said Deaton.  “That’s what I think people need to realize.”

Another favorable vote would send HB 1094 to the Senate.