JEFFERSON CITY — A second crime bill that has drawn plenty of opposition during the legislation session received final approval in the closing hours.
The bill includes provisions that would make vandalism a felony rather than a misdemeanor and includes a police transparency act. It also includes language that makes it so those who have been convicted of assaulting an officer would not be eligible for probation or parole, among other things.
The bill also includes elements already passed in previous legislation, such as a law enforcement officer bill of rights.
But perhaps the most controversial part of the bill was removed: language that would have increased criminal penalties for blocking a roadway during a protest.
The contents of the bill have been debated and criticized in committees and on social media for the past few months. Activists and civil rights organizations, like the NAACP, have called for legislators to stop the passing of this bill and have called it harmful.
The bill was proposed by Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring.
Senate Bill 26 sparked heated and emotional debate among lawmakers. Democrats and Republicans stood to testify in opposition.
Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, hammered down on the fiscal note on the legislation. He said if passed, the bill would cost the state $15 million because of changes made in awarding jail time credit which could lead to holding some prisoners for longer periods of time.
He also expressed concern about the increase of the prison population the bill would result in. “This is going to result in up to 2,800 more people in prison,” Dogan said. “That’s a concerning number, don’t you think?”
Other representatives who have been outspoken in the past few months about the harmful effects of the bill testified as well.
Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, sat on the committee that heard testimony about an amendment, that has since been removed from the legislation, that would have made it a felony to block roadways and highways.
“The original intent of this bill was never good,” Aldridge said. “There is so much dangerous stuff in this bill. We’re sending the wrong message back home to communities that want to have great relationships with law enforcement.”
Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, stood up to thank his colleagues for the work they have done on, what he called, “a great bill.”
He said this bill would help support police in the state and that it’s important to pass it.
Back in February, St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden wrote the Senate a letter opposing the “law enforcement bill of rights” included in this legislation and another crime bill. In it, he wrote that the “bill of rights” would make it harder for him to do his job in holding officers accountable to the high standards he has for them.
Multiple lawmakers on both sides of the aisle cited the letter as a reason to oppose the bill.
The legislation will be sent to Gov. Mike Parson for approval.