Document: Missouri House Bills 2, 12, 46 and 66View
A Missouri House committee passed a bill Monday that would expand upon earlier Senate proposals on juvenile certification hearings by further raising the minimum age for such a hearing to be required. It's a hot topic in the special legislative session that's underway.
Gov. Mike Parson called a special session in July for lawmakers to address violent crime in the state by:
- Eliminating and prohibiting the requirement for St. Louis law enforcement officers to have to live in the city, though an officer would still be required to live within an hour's response time of the city.
- Requiring courts to determine if a juvenile should be tried as an adult for unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action charges.
- Allowing certain statements by witnesses to be admissible in court that would otherwise not be allowed under current law.
- Creating a Pre-trial Witness Protection Fund.
- Criminalizing knowingly encouraging, aiding or causing a child younger than 17 years old to engage in a weapons offense.
- Increasing the penalty for a person who knowingly sells or delivers a firearm to a child without the consent of the child's parent or guardian.
Those measures were all contained in SB 1, which had been passed by the Senate 27-3 and heard Aug. 10 by the House Judiciary Committee.
However, after Parson expanded his agenda for special session at a news conference during that hearing's recess, Republican leaders in the House opted the next day to split Parson's agenda from one bill into several pieces of legislation, in order to give each proposal a closer look.
Three House hearings took place Monday on those individual House bills — HBs 2, 11, 12, 16, 46 and 66 — with two hearings happening at the same time.
HB 12 was heard before the House Special Committee on Criminal Justice, and committee Chairman Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, proposed an amendment that added to the Senate's previous work on the subject of the legislation — whether courts should be required to determine if a juvenile should be tried as an adult for unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action charges.
The Senate's passed compromises included raising the minimum age from 12 to 14 years old for such a hearing to be required for those offenses, and offenders younger than 18 would have to be housed in correctional facilities separated from adult offenders and have educational programs available to them to earn a high school degree or equivalent.
The younger age had raised concerns from lawmakers, policy advocates and protesters that children as young as 12 would be tried as adults, and Black youth would be targeted.
The Senate's compromises on the issue also included the distribution or manufacture of drugs would be removed from the list of felonies that mandate a juvenile certification hearing, and the state courts administrator's office would have to collect data annually on the number of certification petitions filed, the disposition of those petitions, offenses for which certification petitions are filed, the race of juveniles for whom certification petitions are filed, and the number of juveniles who waive their rights to counsel.
That information — which could document a racial bias — would also have to be shared each year with juvenile officers, juvenile court judges and commissioners, the president pro tem of the Missouri Senate and the speaker of the House.
Dogan's amendment Monday kept the Senate's work but raised the minimum age for certification hearings from 12 to 16 years old.
His amendment also included removing unlawful use of a weapon from the offenses that would trigger a mandatory hearing and adding a probable cause hearing that would have to find a juvenile defendant more likely than not committed a crime before that defendant could stand for a certification hearing.
Bill sponsor Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O'Fallon, agreed action needed to be taken to prevent 12-year-olds from possibly being certified as adults, but Schroer's concerns about Dogan's amendment included it would push the legislation beyond the scope of special session, and it would handcuff juvenile courts and prevent youth from receiving needed resources.
However, representatives of child advocate organizations testified in favor of Dogan's amendment.
Sarah Johnson — the Missouri State Public Defender system's director of juvenile defense policy — said a child who is not certified as an adult does not miss out on opportunities to get needed services. Johnson said there's a series of hearings involved in a juvenile case, and at a dispositional hearing, a court hears evidence on what kind of services a juvenile officer recommends for the child.
HB 12, with Dogan's amendment attached, was passed 7-1 by the committee.
The vote against the committee bill came from Vice Chairman Rep. David Evans, R-West Plans.
"I think it will kill the bill," Evans said, concerned the amendment had not been vetted by the Republican caucus or the governor's office.
However, Rep. Steven Roberts, D-St. Louis, said Parson would have the opportunity to expand the scope of special session to encompass the bill, if it came to that.
The bill is next scheduled to be heard by the House Rules-Administrative Oversight committee this afternoon.
In the other committee hearings Monday, the other House bills or committee substitutes for them also passed:
A committee substitute for HB 2 passed 17-0. The bill is next scheduled to be heard by the House Rules-Administrative Oversight committee this afternoon.
HB 11 passed 8-4. The bill is next scheduled to be heard by the House Rules-Legislative Oversight committee this afternoon.
A committee substitute for HB 16 passed 7-4. The bill is next scheduled to be heard by the House Rules-Legislative Oversight committee this afternoon.
A committee substitute for HB 46 passed 12-4. The bill is next scheduled to be heard by the House Rules-Administrative Oversight committee this afternoon.
HB 66 passed 17-0. The bill is next scheduled to be heard by the House Rules-Administrative Oversight committee this afternoon.