COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Republican Gov. Mike Parson's contested proposal to give the Missouri attorney general the power to intervene in St. Louis homicide cases failed Wednesday when the GOP-led House finished a special session focused on curbing violent crime without taking action on the bill.
The bill would have allowed the attorney general, currently Republican Eric Schmitt, to prosecute St. Louis homicides if the local prosecutor's office didn’t act on those cases within 90 days and if police asked for an intervention. Parson said the goal was to help reduce violent crime in St. Louis, but the proposal was widely seen as criticism of the city’s first Black prosecutor, Kim Gardner, who is a Democrat.
“You're not going to hit a home run every time in this building,” Parson said. “We're very content with what we got moving. Anything we can do to help law enforcement, to help victims in this state (and) to fight violent crime is a win, no matter how big or small it is.”
Parson had asked lawmakers to pass the measure midway through the special session, which he had called.
In Missouri, the attorney general has limited power to prosecute most crimes, a task typically left to local prosecutors. Prosecutors now can request help from the attorney general if needed.
Senators put a three-year expiration date on the measure, meaning it would have expired a year before Gardner and Schmitt are up for reelection.
Republican critics of Gardner blamed her in part for a recent surge in homicides in the city. But Democrats accused Parson and other Republicans of trying to undermine the recent primary election that Gardner won. She's expected to win in the general election in the overwhelmingly Democratic city.
Republicans including President Donald Trump also criticized Gardner after she charged a white couple with felony unlawful use of a weapon for displaying guns during a racial injustice protest outside their mansion in July.
Parson has said he spoke with Trump about Gardner’s decision and told the president that it’s difficult to remove an elected official from office in Missouri, though he didn’t say if Trump had asked if Gardner could be removed.
The proposal to give Schmitt the power to prosecute St. Louis homicides didn't gain traction in the House, where the measure never received a committee hearing.
The issue highlights divisions between the Republican governor, Republican-led Senate and Republican-led House.
House members also ended work without passing a bill on giving firearms to children.
Parson had asked lawmakers to increase penalties for giving guns to minors. Instead, the House voted to ditch that law and only make it a felony to give firearms to minors if the intent is to avoid arrest or criminal investigation. Senators undid that change, and the House in response let the bill die.
Ultimately lawmakers passed only two of Parson's proposals: legislation allowing St. Louis police to live outside the city and a bill creating a fund for witness protection services, which lawmakers didn't put money into.
House leaders in a joint statement said they were excited to pass “several significant measures to provide additional resources for law enforcement officers and protect the witnesses against violent criminals.”