Felons may be barred from Missouri public office

Tuesday, February 2, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — With three legislators resigning after facing felony indictments, a southwest Missouri senator has brought back his bill that would bar all felons from holding elected office.

Though the law already requires those who are convicted of felonies while in office to surrender their posts, convicted felons who have served their time and completed probation can hold elected office, just as they would still be able to vote and serve on juries — with one exception.

A felony conviction for an election law disqualifies a person from seeking public office. But for any other felony, including homicide or government corruption, there's a no office-seeking ban after the sentence is served.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, said his bill was not prompted by the three former St. Louis lawmakers convicted of felony crimes last year. Two of them, Sen. Jeff Smith and Rep. T.D. El-Amin, both Democrats who represented many of the same areas of the city, were each sentenced to over a year in prison. If the bill passes, they would forever be forbidden from running to get their old jobs back.

Rather, Nodler said he was troubled when a constituent from rural Dade County told him in 2007 that an out-of-state felon was running to hold a post as head of a water district near Greenfield. Nodler first introduced the bill in 2008 to prevent a similar scenario. He said the candidate lost and he couldn't think of any current officeholders in the state who have felonies on their record.

"It's a simple bill and a simple point," Nodler said after speaking to the Senate Elections Committee. "We should expect our officeholders to have criminal records free of issues like felonies."

Two years ago, the bill passed through the Senate unanimously but didn't make it over to the House last year at all. Senate Elections Committee Chair Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, said he didn't know when the committee would take action on the bill, though he said he hoped it would be "soon."

The head of the same committee in the House, Rep. Bill Deeken, R-Jefferson City, said he likes the idea in principle and would be willing to have the bill heard, something Nodler said he expects because of what he called the simplicity of the legislation.

"This is not a time consuming bill," Nodler said. "I just think we should set some standards about the types of people we want to be able to hold office in this state."

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Granny Nerd February 3, 2010 | 12:19 a.m.

At first glance this sounds like a good idea. But what about the person who is now, say, 45 or 50 years old, has been an outstanding citizen, a benevolent benefactor, a city hero, etc., BUT back there when he or she was 21 years old was arrested for drug possession, served the time, released from parole, and went on to make a good life?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 3, 2010 | 9:09 a.m.

Isn't this covered by existing state law? From

§ 115.348
Has not been found guilty of or pled guilty to a felony or misdemeanor under the federal laws of the United States of America.

§ 115.350
Has not been convicted of or found guilty of or pled guilty to a felony under the laws of Missouri.

(Report Comment)

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