Representative Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin) is on his way out of the House due to term limits. He addressed his colleagues last Friday before the end of the last regular session of his term.
“It was all worth it.”
Representative Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin) is on his way out of the House due to term limits. He addressed his colleagues last Friday before the end of the last regular session of his term.
“It was all worth it.”
Anyone exonerated of a crime in Missouri would be eligible for restitution under a plan that has been advanced by a House committee.
Missouri law allows anyone freed from prison based on DNA evidence to receive restitution. House Bills 2412 and 2474 would allow those exonerated by any other proof to receive up to $100 a day, up to $36,500 per fiscal year.
“The bottom line to legislation like this is correcting what we’ve done wrong. As a society, we put people away. We’ve incarcerated them for years … and then we release them with nothing,” said Hicks. “We’re not returning them to the way they were when we incarcerated them. We’re not making them whole again … and when I mean ‘whole again,’ that’s vaguely used because you’ll never make someone whole again once you’ve taken their life away from them and then you hand it back.”
Missouri’s restitution statute drew attention following the release late last year of Kevin Strickland, who spent 42 years in prison for a crime of which he was cleared but not by DNA evidence.
“Under Missouri law he is not eligible for compensation from the state of Missouri, so thankfully he was able to get a lot of national attention to his case. He had a GoFundMe. They’ve raised over $1-million to this point. My belief … is that folks like him … should get compensation from the state because … they were done wrong,” said Dogan.
Many members expressed support for the proposal, but brought up things they’d like to see added.
Kansas City Democrat Ashley Aune said she wants to see an addition to the bill to ensure exonerees are provided with assistance upon release, in areas like housing and healthcare.
Columbia representative David Smith (D) was the only vote against the bill. He opposed it because it would prohibit exonerees from taking the state to court if they receive restitution under this plan.
Smith suggested allowing exonerees to sue the state and subtracting any resulting settlement from the amount they receive in restitution.
Supporters of the bill include the Missouri Chapter of the NAACP, whose president, Nimrod Chapel, enthusiastically said the bill, “may not be perfect, but it is a damn site better than where we have been.”
Another organization offering support is the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. Cole County prosecutor Locke Thompson said, “As prosecutors we work with people daily, usually victims of crimes, trying to make them whole after they’ve been victimized. It seems only right that when something as awful as a wrongful conviction happens and we have an actually innocent person in that we make amends to try and make those individuals whole as well.”
The bills, which have identical language, would also require that an exoneree automatically receive an order of expungement.
The committee voted 13-1 to send HB 2474 to another committee. From there it could go to the full House.
A House Bill that would remove the restriction on felons working in businesses that sell alcohol and lottery tickets was sent Thursday to the Senate. House Bill 1468 would also lift the requirement that employers with liquor licenses notify the state of any employees with felony convictions.
Bill sponsor Cheri Toalson Reisch (R-Hallsville) said the bill will not only make it easier for felons to find jobs, thus reducing recidivism; it will also make more workers available. She said her county, Boone, has the lowest unemployment rate in the state and more potential workers are needed.
“We need more people to fill these entry level positions and have a place to start, and this will also enable them to support themselves and their families,” said Toalson Reisch. “I like to use my local Casey’s General Store as an analogy. You cannot make pizza and donuts in the back because they sell lottery tickets and alcohol in the front.”
The bill passed with broad bipartisan support. Columbia Representative Kip Kendrick (D) said it is common sense legislation.
“These individuals who have paid their debt to society and are back out trying to make a living, we should be doing all that we can as a state to make sure that they are welcome back in their communities. Part of welcoming back is ensuring them access to jobs and employment opportunities … to make sure that they are finding ways to make a living and reintegrate back into society,” said Kendrick.
Ballwin Republican Shamed Dogan said the bill includes a provision that would prevent an individual from selling lottery tickets if convicted of a past crime that involved those.
“[Toalson Reisch] has worked these particular business owners. They’re very supportive of this for their own freedom to hire folks with a record and it’s something that is in line with a lot of the criminal justice reforms that we’ve supported that are pro-economic growth and pro-personal growth for these people,” said Dogan.
The legislation cleared the House 148-1. Last year several amendments were added to the proposal and it failed to pass out of the House, but this version of the bill has no amendments.
Its supporters include the Missouri Petroleum Marketers Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, Empower Missouri, and the Missouri Catholic Conference.
The House’s Special Committee on Criminal Justice will meet next week and again in August to develop potential legislation dealing with civil asset forfeiture and racial profiling by law enforcement.
Committee Chairman Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin) cited Galloway’s report which said $9.1-million in cash and property was seized in 2018, compared to $7.1-million in 2017. He called the findings a “call to action” for the committee and the legislature to balance Missourians’ rights against law enforcement’s duty to protect the public.
“We want to try and curb some of the abuses of that and come to some kind of a compromise where law enforcement can go after drug cartels. No one’s trying to prohibit them from going after people who are drug dealers, but we just want to make sure that whenever possible, they do that through state law, which does require criminal convictions before you can take someone’s property,” said Dogan.
The traffic stops report showed the largest racial disparity in vehicle stops in state history, with African-Americans 91-percent more likely to be stopped by law enforcement than whites.
Dogan said the findings are frustrating, especially since that disparity has grown from about 27-percent in the 2000 report.
“I don’t think it makes sense to try to say that that increase in the disparity is because African-Americans are driving worse,” said Dogan. “One of the explanations, to me, that make sense is just that law enforcement, for whatever reason, is wasting a lot of their time and resources on people who haven’t done anything wrong because they’re in search of people who have done something wrong, and that’s just a waste of their time and energy.”
Dogan said the disparity continues in the statistics on vehicle searches.
“Once the vehicles are stopped, they search the vehicles of African-Americans and Hispanics more than they do whites, but they’re less likely to find guns, or drugs, or other contraband on blacks or Hispanics than they are on whites, so again this is a mismatch of resources,” said Dogan. “Why are you searching people of those racial categories more when they’re less likely to be carrying something illegally?”
St. Louis representative Steven Roberts is the top Democrat on the Committee on Criminal Justice. He said there could be several legislative solutions for racial profiling.
“The first thing, of course, is recognizing, look, there’s a problem here, then we can go forth fixing the issue, and I think the Attorney General’s report further proves what a lot of us have known: that we’ve got a problem here,” said Roberts.
Roberts hopes the hearings this summer will help the committee flesh out the language of House Bill 444, which proposed banning the confiscation of assets from a person who hasn’t been convicted of a crime.
Dogan said he wants anyone with something to say about these issues to weigh in, and that includes members of the public, prosecutors, and law enforcement. He said past efforts to pass legislation dealing with these issues have run into resistance, particularly from law enforcement groups, and he wants to get past that.
“We really do have to have buy-in from law enforcement but we also have to have constructive criticism, because I think the frustration with myself and a lot of my colleagues is just that law enforcement says ‘no,’ to these bills, or to the idea of reforms, but they never give us something that they can say ‘yes’ to. Let’s come to a compromise on racial profiling,” said Dogan.
The Special Committee’s hearings take place Wednesday, July 24 at 9 a.m. in the St. Louis County Council Chambers, and Thursday, August 1 at 1 a.m. at the Robert J. Mohart Multi-Purpose Center in Kansas City.
Judges will be able to ignore Missouri’s mandatory minimum sentencing requirements in some cases, under a House Bill that was signed into law this week by Governor Mike Parson (R).
Missouri law requires that offenders with one prior conviction serve at least 40-percent of a prison term. Those with two prior convictions must serve at least half their term, and those with three or more must serve 80-percent.
House Bill 192 contained language that would give judges flexibility in sentencing for some nonviolent offenses. It was part of a broader look at criminal justice reform that House members have been pursuing over several sessions.
The language was proposed by Representative Cody Smith (R-Carthage).
“When Governor Parson signed House Bill 192 that was the most significant mandatory minimum sentencing reform, to my knowledge, that we’ve ever had in Missouri,” said Smith. “That’s an incredibly rewarding feeling when we know that it’s become clear that harsh mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent crimes only leads to bad outcomes, and this is a way that we can start to help change the trajectory of people’s lives.”
Smith said the number of people in Missouri’s prisons has steadily grown for decades. He said many of those being incarcerated are non-violent offenders, who have a high rate of recidivism and of committing increasingly violent offenses.
“I’ve heard it said that prison is finishing school for hardened criminals,” said Smith. “You go in for something that may be relatively innocuous in terms of violence … you come out and you’re a hardened criminal.”
Smith, who is also the chairman of the House Budget Committee, said reducing Missouri’s prison populations would also save the state money. He notes that as recently as 2017, Missouri was on track to need two new prisons to accommodate the growing number of offenders.
“I believe that the mandatory minimum reform language that’s in House Bill 192 will help deter those costs by keeping people out of prison – again we’re talking only about folks convicted of non-violent crimes – keeping them out of prison is better for them, better for their families, better for society, and also better for taxpayers who don’t have to pay to keep them in prison.”
Ballwin representative Shamed Dogan (R) chairs the House Special Committee on Criminal Justice, which handled not only HB 192, but Smith’s original legislation, House Bill 113. He said the mandatory minimum sentencing changes will allow judges those cases to be judges.
“That is something that will give people more second chances – people who shouldn’t be in prison as long as that mandatory sentence would determine,” said Dogan. “A judge can look at that person’s overall life; they can look at the particulars of their offense, and really just letting judges do their job, which is to make tough decisions without having their hands tied behind their backs by mandatory minimum sentences.”
Other language in HB 192 will keep counties from putting an individual back in jail for failing to pay the cost of his or her earlier jail term.
The bill’s provisions take effect August 28.
The House Speaker has said criminal justice reform is a priority in the remaining weeks of the session, and a bill containing several proposed reforms has just been compiled. It has the backing of a man made famous by President Donald Trump earlier this year.
House Committee Bill 2, also being called the Missouri First Step Act, was assembled by the House Special Committee on Criminal Justice. It is a compilation of several individual bills, some of which have already been passed by the House.
Trump featured Matthew Charles during his State of the Union Address. Charles is the first person released from prison under the federal First Step Act, a federal reform bill signed into law by Trump in December.
In 1996 Charles was sentenced to 35 years in prison for selling crack cocaine. In prison he turned his life around and earned an early release in 2016. Though he was living a productive life, a court decision overturned his release and sent him back to prison until he was released under the First Step Act.
He’s excited about a provision in HCB 2 that would let judges ignore mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent crimes in Missouri.
“It would allow the probation officer as well as the judge to make an assessment on the amount of time that needed to be imposed on somebody for that crime, or the amount of time they will actually serve for that offense, whereas rehabilitation has been taken away from prison for a long time,” said Charles.
HCB 2 will be carried by the committee’s chairman, Representative Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin), who has been a proponent of criminal justice reform during his five years in the House.
“These measures are all evidence-based. They will all help us save enormous amounts of taxpayer money while also improving public safety, and they’ll give people who’ve made mistakes in their lives a chance to be treated with dignity while incarcerated and to have more of a chance of rebuilding their lives whenever they get out,” said Dogan.
HCB 2 would apply the state’s law restricting the use of restraints on pregnant offenders to county or city jails. That bars the use of restraints on a woman in the third trimester of pregnancy and through 48-hours after delivery while they’re being transported except in extraordinary circumstances, which must be documented and reviewed.
“It’s making sure that when women are in labor, when women are in advanced stages of pregnancy, and when they have really no risk of harm that we’re really treating people as people and that we’re being appropriate as well,” said Coleman. “It’s not about trying to be lax on people who have committed crimes. They’re paying their costs, but a pregnant woman is very vulnerable and we want to make sure that she and her child are delivered safely.”
Another piece of HCB 2 coming from a bill sponsored by Coleman (House Bill 920) would require that feminine hygiene products are available to women being held in the state’s prisons or on state charges in county and city jails.
“That is not an issue that I expected to be tackling but you find out certain things and you think, ‘How is it possible that as a state we’re not providing adequate hygiene supplies to those who are in our care and custody?’” said Coleman.
Representative Cheri Toalson Reisch (R-Hallsville) sponsored House Bill 189, to allow people convicted of felonies to work in certain businesses that sell alcohol or lottery tickets, such as grocery or convenience stores. That is also included in HCB 2.
“Where I’m from in Boone County we have 1.5-percent unemployment. This is the second lowest in the country. We cannot find enough employees. We would like to put these felons to work,” said Toalson Reisch. “We need them to avoid recidivism and make better lives for themselves and their families.”
Two of the other pieces of HCB 2 would restrict the use of drug and alcohol testing by privately operated probation supervisors (House Bill 80 – Justin Hill, R-Lake St. Louis); and would keep courts from putting people in jail for failing to pay the costs associated with prior jail time (House Bill 192 – Bruce DeGroot, R-Chesterfield). Both of those stand-alone bills have been sent to the Senate for its consideration.
HCB 2 includes language to allow for the early parole of certain inmates over the age of 65 (House Bill 352, Tom Hannegan, R-St. Charles); to stop the confiscation of assets from a person who hasn’t been convicted of a crime (House Bill 444, Dogan); and to prohibit discriminatory policing (House Bill 484, Dogan).
HCB 2 awaits a hearing by a House committee before it can be sent to the full chamber for debate.
Earlier stories on two of the bills that are part of HCB 2:
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.
Bill sponsor Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin) has proposed that language for several years, based on how he saw local officials being lobbied while he was a city councilman in Ballwin.
“This is simply making sure that that same ethical standard to which we hold ourselves is also going to apply to our local elected officials, who have the same level of public trust, who are also trusted with taxpayer dollars, and who we also expect not to profit from their public service,” said Dogan.
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.
“I appreciate [Representative Dogan] and his quest to make Missouri a better place and also improve the perception that people have and the confidence that folks have in their elected officials,” said Kansas City Democrat Jon Carpenter.
“But at the same time I’m going to vote against House Bill 445 today because unfortunately it doesn’t just do those things. It also upends almost five decades of open records and transparency law in this state. In fact almost unquestionably, when this bill passes it’s going to be the most radical undermining of open records and transparency law in state history,” said Carpenter.
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.”
Schroer discussed with Representative Steve Helms (R-Springfield) incidents in the news that he said are the types of things he wants to prevent.
Democrats were largely unmoved by the concerns Schroer cited.
“I believe [Representative Schroer] protests way too much,” said Representative Deb Lavender (D-Kirkwood). “I don’t think the statute we have currently in place allows half of what he’s just told us is sunshineable … I don’t hand out people’s social security numbers. I won’t give addresses. I’m covered in the law that we have today.”
Dogan said he felt the provisions offered by Schroer regarding constituent information were necessary.
“I am concerned about people’s e-mail addresses, phone numbers, other personal information being a part of the public disclosure and us not being able to redact that information really is concerning,” said Dogan. “With that said I’m not sure about the portion that has been the most controversial where it’s talking about all communications. I think that might have been an unintentional kind of overreach, so I’m a little bit concerned about that section and I would be willing to work on toning that language down somewhat.”
Several Republicans voted against HB 445. Dogan said most or all of those were likely opposed to campaign finance limits, which many Republicans believe limit free speech.
Today’s vote sends the legislation to the Senate, where several lawmakers in both parties said they expect it will undergo further revisions.
The Missouri Legislature this session passed three provisions aimed at addressing the thousands of untested rape kits in the state.
Those kits include DNA samples and other evidence collected in medical examinations conducted after sex crimes. The Attorney General’s Office has learned of more than 5,000 forensic evidence kits that have gone untested in Missouri. The exact number remains unclear as not all agencies in the state responded to that office’s inquiries.
Public Policy Director with the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Jennifer Carter Dochler, said for a kit to be sitting on a shelf when a victim wants it to be tested is, “incredibly traumatizing.”
The Attorney General’s report suggested among other things that the state secure funding for testing kits; create a statewide tracking system for kits; and create standards for the handling of kits. Those recommendations were addressed by the legislature in its session that ended in May.
House Bill 1355 includes language that requires the Attorney General’s Office to create a statewide tracking system for forensic evidence from sexual assaults.
That provision was originally sponsored by Representative Donna Lichtenegger (R-Cape Girardeau), who hopes it will send a message to victims in Missouri.
The budget approved by the legislature also gives the Attorney General’s Office authority to apply for a federal grant to fund a statewide tracking system. The office should learn in September whether it will receive that grant money.
HB 1355 also requires that hospitals and other medical providers should notify law enforcement when they have a forensic evidence kit; that law enforcement shall take possession of a kit within 14 days of that notification; law enforcement shall take it to a laboratory for testing within 14 days of taking possession of it; and that law enforcement will hold on to a kit for 30 years if the related crime has not been prosecuted.
Carter Dochler says this will bring statewide continuity to how evidence kits are treated.
“We have so many inconsistent practices in the state: inconsistent practices regarding how soon law enforcement picks up the kit; whether or not the kits are submitted for analysis; definitions we’re using,” said Carter Dochler. “This should help create much more consistent terminology and practices across the state.”
Carter Dochler said it is hoped that with these provisions becoming law, more sex crimes in Missouri will be prosecuted.
“Especially when we’re talking about serial offenders and being able to show a pattern, having multiple kits and the same DNA among those kits is going to be a very important tool for prosecution,” said Carter Dochler.
She said some issues that still must be addressed concern how a kit will be handled when the victims in the associated case has not made a decision whether to report the crime to law enforcement. She said many of these “unreported” kits remain in hospitals.
“What we’d like to see is consistent practice across the state regarding unreported kits,” said Carter Dochler. “There should be a centralized place to store unreported kits across the state. We should also have a consistent practice of how long are they kept before they’re destroyed.”
She said some of those issues could be addressed in departmental rules and regulations, and might not require future legislative action. HB 1355 does define “reported” and “unreported” kits, and she said those definitions are a first step toward consistency.
Even with such areas still requiring attention, Carter Dochler said from the Coalition’s point of view, the 2018 legislative session saw the passage of many important laws.
The Missouri House has voted, in the presence of one of Dred Scott’s descendants, to denounce the 1852 decision by the Missouri Supreme Court to deny Scott his freedom.
In that case, Scott vs. Emerson, Scott sought judgement that he, his wife, and their two children were free because they had lived in the free state of Illinois. The Missouri Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling in Scott’s favor and said the family was not free.
Scott went on to sue a New York man who succeeded Irene Emerson in ownership of Scott’s family. That case, Scott vs. Sanford, is better known as it reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which also found against Scott.
Ash Grove Republican Mike Moon offered House Concurrent Resolution 86, which condemns the Missouri Court’s ruling. He did so at the request of Scott’s great-great-great granddaughter, Lynne Jackson, who was in the House when HCR 86 was brought up.
“I was honored to be able to bring this resolution. I don’t know why they asked me, but Miss Jackson, thank you,” said Moon. “I’m extremely grateful … to be included in this process to condemn the Missouri court decision of 1852 … for all of us working with the lady from Dred Scott’s ancestry, Lynne Jackson, for abiding by her wishes.”
Ballwin Republican Shamed Dogan said the Missouri high court’s ruling, and that of the U.S. Supreme Court after it, made worse more than a century of debate over the status of people of color in the United States, and said for the legislature to pass HCR 86 is an important step.
“Denouncing that decision, denouncing the words within that decision – the words which helped to, for more than a century after those words were put forth by the Supreme Court as the law of the land, that helped to establish the foundation for Jim Crowe, for all kinds of other injustices done towards not just people of African descent but other people who were treated poorly by this country – we can take one small step by passing this resolution,” said Dogan.
Ferguson Democrat Courtney Allen Curtis offered an amendment to HCR 86 that he said tweaked the wording, at the behest of Jackson, to make sure the resolution reflected her spirit of reconciliation.
“I’m honored to be a part of this because it’s not every day that I move forward in the spirit of reconciliation, but to know that there are people out there that are better than me that are, it makes me look at my actions and what I do and ask if I’m doing the right thing … I’m glad that she did bring this to us,” said Curtis.
Jackson said for the legislature to be willing to say that the Missouri court’s 1852 decision was wrong is all she wanted.
“The difference is that the U.S. Supreme Court decision was overturned by the 14th Amendment, but Missouri never dealt with the fact that they said times are not as they once were when we made [decisions in trials prior to Scott’s that granted freedom to people who had been slaves], therefore we’re not going to let you have your freedom – it was just a political motion, that’s all it was, to save the institution of slavery – so the fact that they’re just acknowledging that it’s wrong is important,” said Jackson.
“I also think it may have a more spiritual connection. It might be just the mere fact that sometimes when people say, ‘I’m sorry,’ that everything changes. You can reestablish relationships. When people say, ‘I forgive you,’ when they acknowledge they’re wrong, it’s easier to get back and have that relationship with people,” said Jackson.
Jackson thanked Moon and the other representatives that worked and voted for HCR 86. The House voted 134-2 to send that resolution to the Missouri Senate.
Moon expressed hope that the resolution will pass this year because July 9 is the 150th anniversary of the 14th Amendment, which overturned the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Scott vs. Sanford.
Legislation aimed at decreasing regulation of Missouri businesses has been approved by the General Assembly.
The state House voted Tuesday for the final passage of House Bill 1500, which started off as a bill to ease regulations of hair braiders, but added to it is language that will make the state think twice about imposing regulations on new professions.
In order to charge for braiding someone’s hair in Missouri a person must undergo 1,500 hours of training to obtain a cosmetology license. The sponsor of HB 1500, Ballwin Republican Shamed Dogan, said that training does not cover hair braiding. Dogan said that’s overly burdensome on people who often learn braiding as a practice handed down by family through generations.
“I’m very grateful that we’re going to be able to take hair braiding from a 1,500 hour license requirement to merely four to six hours of watching an instructional video on health and safety,” said Dogan.
Critics of an earlier version of HB 1500 said they were concerned hair braiders whose training was not extensive enough could pose health risks, including that they would not be able to recognize diseases involving the scalp and could spread those conditions.
HB 1500 now requires that a hair braider watch a four-hour video on health and safety. House Democrat Leader Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City) said she would have liked more hours to be required, but is glad that is a requirement and not optional, as it was under an earlier version of the bill.
The Senate added to House Bill 1500 the language of House Bill 1928, sponsored by Yukon Republican Robert Ross, which aims to discourage unnecessary state regulation of businesses. The bill also lays out what considerations must be made before a regulation is imposed.
“This bill will require that we look through and actually quantify the risk that is going to exist to the public in the operation of this unlicensed profession and why we, as a state, would need to step in and regulate that,” said Ross. “It also states that … if we’re going to impose regulation on this that we should start with the least restrictive form of regulation, and then based on that risk to the public, then move that up.”
“That will fulfill the promise that many of us – most of us – have made, to reduce regulations,” said Representative Keith Frederick (R-Rolla) of Ross’ language, “and the best way to reduce them is don’t put them in place in the first place unless they’re really essential.”
Kansas City Republican Kevin Corlew encouraged his colleagues to vote for HB 1500 as it returned from the Senate.
“I think this bill enables small business and entrepreneurs to do what they love to do, to do something that they’re good at and to make a living out of it. This is a bill that enables government to get out of the way, cut unnecessary red tape, and allow entrepreneurs to do their craft,” said Corlew.
With the House’s 137-11 vote on Tuesday the legislation is now ready to be delivered to Missouri’s governor.