Updated: Dec 28, 2020
May 21, 2020
The 2020 Missouri Legislative session closed on May 15th 6:00 p.m. in a time that can only be described as unparalleled. The Missouri General Assembly experienced a five-week hiatus due to COVID-19, and after returning on April 27th to complete the 2021 Fiscal Year Operating Budget, the general assembly created several omnibus bills. There were a total of 2,178 House and Senate bills and resolutions filed, but only 50 bills, including 20 appropriation bills, will make it to Governor Parsons’ desk. That is less than half of the average number of bills presented to the Governor over the last four years.
During this past session, Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP) focused on several bills relating to reform and abolition measures, most of which we were in support of. Bills of note this session included:
HB 1331 (Veit) – change of venue language – passed out of the House, The legislation was ultimately stripped from an omnibus crime bill and did not become law (MADP – Opposed)
HB 2034 (Hannegan) – severe mental illness – reported do pass from Criminal Justice Reform (MADP – In Favor)
HB 1925 (Dogan) – judicial override – reported do pass from Criminal Justice Reform (MADP – In Favor)
SB 920 (Wieland) – judicial override – referred to Senate Judiciary, no hearing (MADP – In Favor)
SB 1030 (Williams) – severe mental illness – referred to Senate Judiciary, no hearing (MADP – In Favor)
SB 635 (Wieland) – full repeal – referred to Senate Judiciary, no hearing (MADP – In Favor)
SB 920 and HB 1925 are bills of the highest priority for next session. No Missouri jury has opted for the death penalty since 2013 but due to Judicial Override, judges in MO can rupture deadlocked juries and sentence people to death. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, non-unanimous jury sentences are a leading factor in wrongful conviction. We know that executions are largely due to the miscarriages of justice committed by the state, and not the many Missourian jury panelists who continue to refuse to give death sentences.
It is likely that there will be one, if not more special sessions this summer to address unfinished business of the 2020 legislative session and to address issues related to COVID-19. Other areas of interest include the state and local election cycles this year, which will have a major impact regarding the future of Missouri.
In the 2020 state race, Governor Parson, Lt. Governor Kehoe, Secretary of State Ashcroft, Treasurer Fitzpatrick, and Attorney General Schmitt are all up for reelection, and all are facing Democratic challengers. Upcoming dates of interest also include the June 2, 2020 General Municipal Election Day, the August 4th Primary Election, and the November 3rd General Election.
MADP thanks all legislators and staff who assisted and partnered with us throughout the 2020 legislative session to present pieces of legislation that would create a more just criminal legal system. We also thank all of the constituents and legislators who took the time to discuss the death penalty with us in March of 2020 during our MADP Lobby Day, as well as the late Jerry Givens, for his testimony on SB 1030 during a Special Committee on Criminal Justice.
We encourage all constituents and legislators to continue learning about the many negative aspects of capital punishment, and to come together to end the barbaric practice of the death penalty in Missouri.