We Need Retired Cops Running for Elected Office

Photo from npr.org

In recent months, the important role of elected officials at all levels has been made painfully clear for law enforcement officers, for their families and for those citizens who support their mission. When elected officials—particularly at the local or state level—fail to stand up for the basic principles of law and order, communities can quickly devolve, and innocent people can quickly become victims. Decades of progress within law enforcement agencies and in the communities in which they serve can be set back by mayors, city council members, state representatives and governors who are ignorant of, or indifferent to, the vital necessity of law enforcement officers’ active presence in our communities.

An age-old complaint is often recited by law enforcement officers, active and retired, who endure the public statements and policy decisions of elected officials whose ideas of policing have no relationship to reality. The complaint tends to boil down to some version of: “They just don’t know what they’re talking about.”

But who are the individual​​s who represent us in elected office? Who are the people willing to dedicate so many hours to campaigning for positions that often pay relatively little? Some are motivated by an altruistic drive to make their community a better place to live. Some, on the other hand, don’t have much else to do and are excited by the prospect of gaining an importance that they could never get in their personal lives or in any other line of work. The latter, those motivated by the once-in-a-lifetime chance to gain self-importance, seem all too common in 2020, and their impact on their constituents will eventually be counted in failed businesses and destroyed lives.

Here’s a proposition: What if individuals who did know what they’re talking about actually decided to run against those who did not? What if genuine institutional knowledge, rather than college classroom talking points, guided the public conversation in an election cycle?

This is why we need retired cops running for elected office—those men and women who have actually seen the impact of violence and disorder on real people. Those who are often stunned by the manner in which elected officials publicly discuss strategies to combat social ills. Those who have actually conducted high risk traffic stops, served warrants on violent offenders and responded to domestic disturbance calls. Those who are regularly disgusted by the way in which politicians cluelessly attempt to analyze police conduct in these scenarios.

In this election year, there are extremely few retired officers running for elected office at the local, state and federal levels. It does not have to be that way. The limits of their job prevents active law enforcement officers from fully expressing themselves in public due to the vital importance of maintaining impartiality while on the job. But once retired, there is no such limitation. Many retired officers have stable income in the form of a pension, children who are grown, and more free time on their hands than ever before in their adult lives. They could make the time to campaign without having to sacrifice their ability to make a living or spend time with their young children—unlike so many citizens who are frustrated by the caliber of our current class of elected representatives but feel unable to step forward to opposition.

There are many articulate and motivated law enforcement professionals who would prove highly capable representatives, if elected. Even if they were unsuccessful in their campaigns, how many retired cops would speak truth to nonsense from a place of personal experience that few people can? Doesn’t the prevalence of military veterans in this year’s election cycle demonstrate that the public responds to candidates who have unique first-hand knowledge of the most fundamental policy issues?

Many retired cops have watched from home as lawlessness is met with indifference by impotent politicians who are more concerned with political gamesmanship and the possibility of seeking a higher office than they are concerned with keeping innocent citizens safe. These men and women have strong views on what should be done and those views are formed by careers spent confronting violence and disorder in order to protect the lives and property of the most vulnerable members of their communities. There is little reason to think that the political realities will change if these men and women stay home.

These are individuals who spent a career putting themselves in harm’s way and running towards danger while most ran in the opposite direction. We need these retired cops, these men and women with unique expertise in law and order and poverty and public decay, to step up again.

By Matt Dolan | dolanconsultinggroup.com

About the Author

Matt Dolan is a licensed attorney who specializes in training and advising public safety agencies in matters of legal liability. His training focuses on helping agency leaders create sound policies and procedures as a proactive means of minimizing their exposure to costly liability. A member of a law enforcement family dating back three generations, he serves as both Director and Public Safety Instructor with Dolan Consulting Group.

His training courses include Recruiting and Hiring for Law Enforcement, Confronting the Toxic Officer, Performance Evaluations for Public Safety, Making Discipline Stick®, and Supervisor Liability for Public Safety.

House will Vote on Removing Cannabis from Controlled Substances List

In September, the House will vote on removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act as well as erasing some marijuana criminal records, The Hill reports.

The bill would not legalize cannabis. That choice would still be left up to states. Even though the vote will not legalize the drug, it will still be a historic step to reduce legal penalties related to cannabis.

Marijuana is currently legal in 11 states.

The September vote is set to be the first taken by either chamber of Congress to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.

As of right now, cannabis is listed as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

This means there is no benefit to medical use and a high chance for abuse of the drug. If the drug were removed from the act, federal prohibition of the drug would be eliminated, but state laws that make it illegal would remain in place.

It would also remove criminal records and give grant funding to people negatively affected by the enforcement of marijuana laws.

House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler first introduced the bill last year which passed the panel by a 24-10 vote in November.

With the votes of GOP Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and Tom McClintock (Calif.), it passed the committee.

It is unlikely that the bill will pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

Story from Fox 8 

Missouri House Passes 5 Special Session Bills on Crime

Five pieces of legislation on Gov. Mike Parson’s anti-crime agenda for the special legislative session underway were passed Tuesday by the state House of Representatives, but perhaps the most contentious bill — and another, a late addition by the governor — was not discussed on the House floor.

Especially for House Democrats and Missouri Legislative Black Caucus members, what was accomplished was in some ways not enough and in other ways too much.

State Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove, D-Kansas City, said as she addressed the House during votes on the first bill taken up Tuesday: “Let’s pay attention to not being scared, but really finding solutions.”

Parson called the special session this summer amid a rising number of homicides, especially in the state’s largest cities.

The House on Tuesday passed House bills 2, 11, 16, 46 and 66 — dealing with testimony and protection of witnesses, giving firearms to children, child endangerment through weapons offenses, and residency requirements for St. Louis law enforcement and other public safety employees.

Bland Manlove — who spoke about a cousin who was murdered last month — said that in crafting legislation, she hoped her fellow lawmakers would pay attention to who is affected most by those laws.

“We’re not animals — we’re people who’ve been left out by the system,” she said.

Lawmakers on the floor and protesters in the House Gallery criticized the bills passed Tuesday do not address root causes of crime and may add to criminalization and mass incarceration-supporting policies.

Chants from protesters of the group ExpectUs temporarily disrupted the House proceedings Tuesday. The group has protested in and around the Capitol multiple times in recent weeks against Parson’s special session agenda, and Tuesday, their shouts included “Black lives are under attack. What do we do? Stand up, fight back,” “We see you,” and “The whole damn system is guilty as hell.”

State Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, D-St. Louis, said just before the protesters’ chants began: “I need you all to listen to what we are saying,” not to pick it apart, “but actually listen to what we are trying to get you all and us to do to propel our state forward and the citizens that live here forward.”

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said at a news conference after the session ended Tuesday: “We’re still left longing for actual conversation on how we prevent violent crime.”

State Rep. Steven Roberts, D-St. Louis, said he was disappointed no progress was made on police reform issues. Roberts, writing on behalf of the Black Caucus, had in June asked Parson to call a special session on issues of legal immunity for police officers, use of chokeholds and reporting excessive force.

Lawmakers and protesters’ focus on police and criminal justice reform has been fueled by the widespread protests that followed the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis police custody in May, as well as other such deaths.

In terms of finding deeper solutions to crime, state Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon — sponsor of two of the bills passed Tuesday — said, “I don’t think this is the end of the conversation.”

State Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, agreed with going deeper on the causes of crime: “I think that that’s where we need to go,” and it’s “worth our time, worth our discussion.”

Griffith and state Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Wardsville, were pleased with the bills that passed Tuesday.

Neither local lawmaker was surprised another legislative item on Parson’s original agenda for special session was not discussed this week on the House floor — changes to mandate hearings on whether juveniles charged with certain weapons crimes should be tried as adults.

That bill received a lot of attention and had become the particular focus of protest and criticism, especially over the minimum age for which juveniles could be tried as adults for certain weapons crimes — but the bill also ultimately had bipartisan support in House committees after changes made to it by the Senate under previous legislation and further changes made by state Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin.

Griffith and Veit said the issue was complicated and needed more time.

Veit also said the bill passed on the transfer of weapons to children may need a closer look next session.

What passed Tuesday on that issue would make it a crime to sell or otherwise give a firearm to a child younger than 18 for the purposes of avoiding or interfering with an arrest or investigation into a crime.

HB 16 also would remove a portion of law about it being a crime to recklessly sell or otherwise give a firearm to a child younger than 18 without the consent of the child’s parent or guardian.

Veit said the intent was not to take away parental control but to shield innocent people from prosecution under circumstances such as giving a child a firearm while hunting. He added it’s what is actually a crime that may need a closer look next session.

First, the Senate will have to decide what to do with the five pieces of legislation passed Tuesday by the House. The Senate is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. Friday.

The House adjourned Tuesday for the foreseeable future; a technical session Sept. 2 means no business will be done, and after that, a veto session is not scheduled until Sept. 16.

State Rep. Jonathan Patterson, R-Lee’s Summit, said it is likely lawmakers will be called to return to the Capitol — most likely in another special session concurrent with the veto session — to fund the witness protection fund created by HB 66 through a supplemental appropriations process.

Patterson said law enforcement could in the meantime start filing applications for the funding.

A later addition by Parson to his legislative agenda for the current special session was a proposal for the state’s attorney general to be able to take on murder cases yet to be prosecuted by the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office.

That proposal also was not debated on the House floor this week.

Kelli Jones, spokeswoman for Parson’s office, said Tuesday: “Our administration is pleased to see House members making progress on the bills, but there is still more work to be done. With each passing day, violent crime continues to escalate across Missouri, making it even more imperative that we act quickly. We need to stay focused on what this is all about — fighting violent crime and making our communities safer.”

View Missouri House Bills 2, 11, 16, 46 and 66 at https://media-cdn.wehco.com//news/documents/2020/08/25/hb25800h02pmerged9685275759.pdf

By Phillip Sitter | News Tribune

Missouri Senate Okays Compromise Crime Bill

​Missouri senators on Thursday advanced a bill to temporarily lift a requirement that St. Louis police live in that city and allow judges to try some children as adults for felony crimes.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson called for those changes in response to a surge in murders in the state’s cities.

The bill agreed on by senators also would ramp up penalties for adults who give weapons to children without their parents’ permission and strengthen witness protections, among other things.

Lawmakers disagreed on whether to let judges try children as young as 12 as adults. They compromised by raising that age to 14 and requiring that minors be kept separate from adult prisoners.

Senators also fought on whether to end the rule that St. Louis police officers live in the city.

Some senators argued that lifting the residency requirement could boost recruitment and combat understaffing at the agency. But Democratic senators who represent the city said it should be up to St. Louis voters to decide who can serve in law enforcement there.

Lawmakers compromised by proposing to lift the residency requirement for only three years.

The bill needs another Senate vote of approval before it can go to the House for consideration.

Associated Press | Missouri Lawyers Media​ molawyersmedia.com

Nearly 20 Testify in Support of Violent Crime Bill

More than a dozen people — most of whom are law enforcement officials — testified in favor of the Senate legislation driving the special session on violent crime during a committee hearing Tuesday.

Republican Sen. Doug Libla’s multifaceted SB 1 includes an end to residency requirements for St. Louis police officers and other public safety personnel, certification to try certain juveniles as adults, witness statement admissibility, creation of a pre-trial witness protection fund, modification of the offense of endangering a child, and an increased penalty for illegally transferring a firearm to a minor.

Eighteen people stood to support the bill during the nearly two-hour-long hearing Tuesday afternoon. Four people (only two in-person) expressed opposition to the legislation.

The bill would “give law enforcement the tools they need to combat violent crime,” David Parrish, the Lewis County sheriff and president of the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association, said. “One of the things we’ve done in Missouri is a remarkable job of caring for the people who commit crimes. … I wonder if we would make that same commitment to the victims and witnesses who are involved in these violent incidents what type of change we’d actually make.”

Charles and Kelli Lowe also testified Tuesday about their experiences in St. Louis. Kelli Lowe is the president of the National Police Wives Association and her husband, who was ambushed and shot in 2015, is a sergeant in St. Louis.

Specifically, the couple expressed support for ending the residency requirement for officers in St. Louis as well as for greater mental health resources for officers and their families.

“With everything going on right now … being able to find the most well-equipped officers is so important,” Kelli Lowe said.

Kelli Lowe, president of the National Police Wives Association, met with Gov. Mike Parson and the first lady Tuesday ahead of the committee hearing. 

But the bill could be detrimental to minors as it stands now — particularly the provision that would certify a juvenile as an adult for certain weapons-related and armed criminal action crimes, Mo Del Villar of the ACLU of Missouri said.

“If you put kids in front of a judge, more kids will be certified. Period,” Del Villar said. “This presents another ramp for kids to be thrown into the criminal justice system.”

She also noted a racial discrepancy among minors who go through the certification process. Pointing to a 2017 report from the Missouri Juvenile and Family Division, Del Villar told lawmakers 74 percent of Black youth in Missouri who went through the process were ultimately certified to be tried as adults compared to just 26 percent of white minors.  

“Missouri’s juvenile system has been seen [as] a model across the nation, and this bill would be breaking a system intended to help kids,” she said. “If Black lives truly matter in this state, we need to find ways to prove that within each step of the process. This is an egregious difference between how young folks are being treated.”

As the global health crisis persists, the hearing was held in the Senate chambers, with committee members sitting at their desks on the third floor and witnesses, guests, and reporters congregated on the upper level. The witness microphone was stationed next to the reporters’ area.

The committee adjourned by 2:30 p.m. and is expected to go into executive session on the bill on Aug. 5.

Libla chairs the committee although fellow Republican Sen. Lincoln Hough led Tuesday’s hearing so he could testify on behalf of his own bill. Other committee members included GOP Sens. Justin Brown, Bill Eigel, and Cindy O’Laughlin as well as Democratic Sens. Karla May and Brian Williams.

By Kaitlyn Schallhorn | The Missouri Times

Governor Announces Special Session to Address Violent Crime

Today, Governor Mike Parson announced a special session beginning Monday, July 27, which will focus on addressing violent crime in Missouri.

Governor Parson was joined at the press conference by Missouri Department of Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten, Missouri State Highway Patrol Colonel Eric Olson, Lewis County Sheriff David Parrish, who currently serves as president of the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association, and several law enforcement officers.

“As Governor and a former law enforcement officer for more than 22 years, protecting our citizens and upholding the laws of our state are of utmost importance to my administration,” Governor Parson said. “We know we have a serious problem with violent crime here in Missouri that must be addressed. Violent crime has been a problem in our state long before COVID-19, and we have seen it escalate even more in recent weeks, specifically in our big cities.”

Missouri has seen rapid increases in crime rates this year, primarily in the state’s urban areas. Kansas City recently reached 101 homicides for 2020 – a 35 percent increase from 2019. In St. Louis, there have been 130 homicides so far this year compared to 99 at the same time last year.

From May to June alone, data from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department shows significant increases in reports of violent crime. In St. Louis County, aggravated assaults with a firearm are up 19 percent year-to-date.

“These are just the grim numbers, but the effects of violent crime across our state are best measured in lives – lives lost, futures cut short, and families hurting,” Governor Parson said. “All of this is unacceptable. We are better than that in Missouri, and we must hold violent criminals accountable for their actions.”

“I want to be clear that violent crime isn’t just a St. Louis or Kansas City problem,” Governor Parson continued. “It is a Missouri problem, and we cannot wait until next session to address it. It must be addressed now, which is why we are having this special session.”

The special session will focus on amending state statutes related to violent crime. Specifically, six different provisions will be considered:

Police and Public Safety Employee Residency Requirements for St. Louis – The proposal to be considered would eliminate the residency requirement for St. Louis law enforcement so long as the officer lives within an hour of the city. This proposal would also prohibit requiring any public safety employee for the city of St. Louis to be a resident of the City.

Juvenile Certification – This proposal requires the court to determine if a juvenile should be certified for trial as an adult for the offense of unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action.  

Witness Statement Admissibility – This proposal would allow certain statements to be admissible in court that would otherwise not be allowed under current statute.  

Witness Protection Fund – This proposal creates the Pretrial Witness Protection Fund.

Endangering the Welfare of a Child – This proposal modifies the offense of endangering the welfare of a child for a person who encourages a child to engage in any weapons offense.

Unlawful Transfer of Weapons – This proposal would increase penalty for a person who knowingly sells or delivers any firearm to a child less than 18 years without the consent of the child’s parent or guardian.

“If we are to change violent criminal acts across our state, we must work together,” Governor Parson said. “We must do our jobs. We must support our law enforcement officers, and we must start prioritizing the prevention of violent crime.”

To view the special session proclamation, click here. To view Governor Parson’s remarks from the press conference, click here.

In a statement posted on Facebook later in the day by the governor, he said, If our criminal justice system is going to work, ALL parts of it must be in sync. Law enforcement, prosecution, and sentencing.

If any of these aren’t working right or aren’t doing their job, the whole system fails. The only way we can truly make a difference, fight violent crime, and make our communities safer is by working together.

If you talk to any county or city police department, there are hundreds of unfilled law enforcement positions simply because less and less people want to work in this arena.

People need to understand the sacrifices that law enforcement officers make every day, especially with everything that’s going on in our state right now.

If there was ever a time to stand up for law enforcement, now is the time. They are the front-line response for Missourians. We must support them and give them the respect they deserve, because we cannot fix this problem without them.

If we are to change violent criminal acts across our state, we must work together, we must do our jobs, and WE MUST support our law enforcement officers.

Governor Signs Bill to Increase Prison Sentences

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Monday announced he’s signing a contested bill that will ramp up penalties for gun crimes, second-degree murder and gang crimes.

It also would create the crime of vehicle hijacking, which now can be prosecuted as robbery.

The measure is the only bill the Republican-led Legislature passed this year to address a surge in violent crime in Kansas City, Springfield and St. Louis.

But groups ranging from the NAACP to the conservative Americans for Prosperity criticized the bill as a return to tough-on-crime policies and argued locking people up longer won’t make Missouri safer.

Even the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, which along with other law enforcement groups urged Parson to sign the bill, said it doesn’t go far enough to address the recent increase in violent crime.

Parson on Monday said he’ll continue looking for ways to stem violence.

“This legislation is a large step towards safety and justice for our communities,” Parson said. “However, there is a lot more to be done. These tools are just the beginning of the work that needs to be done to fight violent criminals.”

The bill takes effect Aug. 28.

Senate to Consider Renewal of Surveillance Laws

The Senate is expected to vote on whether to extend three surveillance authorities as senators of both parties express concerns that the laws infringe on Americans’ rights.

The surveillance pro​​visions expired in March, the month lawmakers fled Washington because of the coronavirus pandemic. House lawmakers passed a bipartisan compromise bill just before leaving town, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not yet been able to push the legislation through the Senate.

The House legislation also has the backing of President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. The compromise would renew the three surveillance authorities and impose new restrictions to try and appease civil liberties advocates in both parties.

But the House legislation does not make enough changes for a bipartisan coalition of senators who have long sought to curb federal law enforcement’s ability to surveil. Two amendment votes on Wednesday won solid majorities of senators and complicated McConnell’s efforts to send the bill to the president’s desk for signature.

The expired provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allow the FBI to get a court order for business records in national security investigations, to conduct surveillance on a subject without establishing that they’re acting on behalf of an international terrorism organization, and to more easily continue eavesdropping on a subject who has switched cell phone providers to thwart detection.

Lacking enough support to pass the House measure, McConnell instead pushed through a simple extension of the surveillance laws in March. But Pelosi never took up that legislation in the House, and McConnell is trying again to pass the compromise House bill this week.

“The attorney general and members of Congress have worked together to craft a compromise solution that will implement needed reforms while preserving the core national security tools,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “These intense discussions have produced a strong bill that balances the need for accountability with our solemn obligation to protect our citizens and defend our homeland.”

McConnell urged senators to vote against three amendments to the bill, two of which came up for votes on Wednesday. He said the legislation was already a “delicate balance” and warned changing it could mean the underlying provisions won’t be renewed.

“We cannot let the perfect become the enemy of the good when key authorities are currently sitting expired and unusable,” McConnell said on the Senate floor before the vote.

Still, 59 senators voted for the first amendment — one short of the 60 votes needed — and the second amendment was adopted with 77 votes, more than three-fourths of the chamber. Both were overwhelmingly bipartisan votes.

The first amendment, by Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, would have prevented federal law enforcement from obtaining internet browsing information or search history without seeking a warrant.

“Should law-abiding Americans have to worry about their government looking over their shoulders from the moment they wake up in the morning and turn on their computers to when they go to bed at night?” Wyden asked. “I believe the answer is no. But that’s exactly what the government has the power to do without our amendment.”

An aide to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said after the vote that she would have supported the amendment if she had been present — meaning it would have passed. Murray was in her home state and is expected to be in the Senate for Thursday’s vote.

Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a think tank, said it was striking that the amendment failed by only one vote. He said the vote total would have been “inconceivable” five years ago.

“It suggests a sea change in attitudes” following revelations in problems with how the FBI has used its secret surveillance powers, Sanchez said. “It goes to the sort of collapse in trust in the intelligence community to deploy these authorities in a restrained way.”

The second amendment, by Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, would boost third-party oversight to protect individuals in some surveillance cases. It was adopted 77-19.

If the Senate passes the legislation with the amendments intact, the bill would then have to go back to the House for approval.

A third amendment, by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a longtime skeptic of surveillance programs, is expected to be considered Thursday before a final vote. Paul’s amendment would require the government to go to a traditional federal court, instead of the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, to get a warrant to eavesdrop on an American.

The congressional debate coincides with internal efforts by the FBI and Justice Department to overhaul its surveillance procedures after a harshly critical inspector general report documented a series of problems in the FBI’s investigation into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

The report identified significant errors and omissions in applications that were submitted in 2016 and 2017 to monitor the communications of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

The Justice Department inspector general has since said that it has identified additional problems in applications. The FBI has announced steps designed to ensure that the application process is more accurate and thorough, and that information that cuts against the premise of the requested surveillance is disclosed to the court.

Trump has frequently railed against the surveillance laws and the Russia investigation. But with encouragement from Barr and congressional Republicans, he said he will support the House-passed legislation.

Associated Press | Molawyersmedia.com

Missouri Passes Bill Requiring Hospitals to Offer Rape Kits

All Missouri hospitals would be required to provide rape kits under a bill focused on the rights of sexual assault survivors that lawmakers passed Tuesday.

Few Missouri hospitals currently have staff certified to gather DNA samplings and other evidence of sexual assault through rape kits, which can be used by law enforcement and prosecutors to catch and convict rapists. There are only 27 sexual assault nurse examiners in the state, according to the International Association of Forensic Nurses.

“Survivors of sexual assault deserve justice, care and comfort,” Democratic Sen. Jill Schupp said in a statement. “Unfortunately, too many Missouri hospitals do not have the resources needed to properly respond to these traumatic situations.”

Schupp pushed to add the requirement that all licensed hospitals provide rape kits by 2023 to the broader bill on sexual assault and rape kits, sponsored by Republican Sen. Andrew Koenig. Schupp said the change will mean survivors “will no longer be faced with the difficult decision to forgo a rape kit or to drive great distances to obtain one.”

Spokesman Dave Dillon said the Missouri Hospital Association is “absolutely supportive” of speeding up the process of conducting and testing rape kits. But he said requiring all hospitals to conduct rape kits “doesn’t make it easier to actuate on the ground.”

Dillon said hiring properly trained nurses will be difficult amid a nursing shortage, and cash-strapped hospitals now have to prioritize which specialty training they can afford.

There are workarounds in the bill to help hospitals that might struggle getting nurses with the training needed to perform the exams.

The measure would give hospitals access to virtual and in-person training on how to perform rape kits. If a hospital does not have properly trained staff by then and a victim asks for a rape kit, a doctor or nurse with the statewide training program would be available to virtually coach them through an exam.

The requirement that all hospitals be able to provide exams would only take effect if the statewide training is available. The health department could also issue year-long waivers “sparingly” if certain hospitals don’t have adequate internet access to the statewide training services.

The bill also would enact a “Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights” that says victims don’t have to pay for rape kits and can get a free shower after an exam, if that’s available.

Rape survivors would have the right to have a support person and a rape crisis center employee or volunteer present during interviews with police, prosecutors and defense attorneys. They could choose whether to speak with a male or female officer.

Other provisions in the bill would require the state to create a central storage center for unreported rape kits and require those kits to be stored for at least five years.

“Thousands of untested kits have been sitting in hospitals and police departments for years,” Koenig said in a statement. “This is unacceptable, and my legislation puts a stop to it.”

Republican Rep. Justin Hill questioned holding on to rape kits from victims who don’t want to pursue charges that “we essentially don’t need” because “there’s no crime since there’s no prosecution.”

“Do we just hang on to this DNA of Missouri citizens who were never charged with a crime?” he said on the House floor.

The measure now heads to Republican Gov​​. Mike Parson, who has not said whether he will sign it.

House lawmakers also on Tuesday sent Parson a wide-ranging bill that  would limit what are called punitive damages, which are awarded as a way to financially punish defendants for causing harm.

If signed by Parson, who typically supports limiting lawsuits, the bill would only allow punitive damages if the person suing “proves by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant intentionally harmed the plaintiff without just cause or acted with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others.”

The measure passed the House 98-51.

Associated Press | Molawyersmedia.com

COVID-19 Derails Efforts to Put Recreational Marijuana on Fall Ballot

An effort to get a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in Missouri on the November ballot has collapsed amid the coronavirus outbreak.

A group called Missourians for a New Approach committee announced Wednesday that it “simply cannot succeed in gathering sufficient signatures” amid restrictions that closed business and forced people to stay home. The group had faced a deadline of May 3 to collect 170,000 signatures.

“We had hoped that it might be possible to persuade the state of Missouri to allow online signature gathering under the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in this spring,” the group said in a statement.

But state officials said no, and the group sai​​d “there does not appear to be any other path.” The statement said that the group hoped that the campaign would resume next year, with the goal of placing the issue of whether to legalize the use of marijuana for those 21 or older on the November 2022 ballot.

“It appears,” the group wrote, “that Missourians are ready to embrace legalization if given the opportunity to vote on it.”

The group has said the recreational marijuana effort is being supported by the same backers who helped pass the medical marijuana constitutional amendment in 2018.

​Associated Press | News Tribune​