Missouri’s 2021 legislative session began Jan. 6. Here’s a look at some of the pre-filed bills that Kansas City-area state senators and representatives are hoping to pass this year.

Criminal Justice and Police Relations

After Minneapolis police officers killed George Floyd, kneeling on his neck early last year, states and cities nationwide began banning law enforcement’s use of neck restraints. The Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department does not teach nor ban chokeholds, but does teach the lateral vascular neck restraint method. This technique puts pressure on the side of the neck, cutting off blood flow to the brain instead of the front of the neck and windpipe.

State Representative Ashley Bland Manlove (D-Kansas City) pre-filed a bill that would prohibit law enforcement officers from using chokeholds, carotid restraints and vascular immobility when making an arrest or preventing escape from custody. If passed, violation of the bill could result in the officer’s dismissal and loss of their peace officer certification.

Rep. Shamed Dogan (R-St. Louis) pre-filed similar legislation that would only restrict law enforcement agencies from using chokeholds, while the use of carotid restraints, like the lateral vascular neck restraint would be permissible if taught properly and does not stop airflow.

Manlove also pre-filed a bill that would require a special prosecutor to investigate officer-involved shootings and deaths. Advocates for criminal justice reform say that having an outside prosecutor investigate would increase impartiality and transparency, since local prosecutors work so closely with police in investigations. Last June, New York lawmakers passed a similar bill that would create a special prosecutor’s unit to investigate police-involved deaths.

Rep. Yolanda Young (D-Kansas City) pre-filed a bill that would require the Department of Revenue to publish suggested guidelines for how to interact with police in the Missouri Driver’s Guidebook. The guidelines would include a list of the drivers’ constitutional rights involving arrests, searches and immigration status. The guidelines would also include how to report police misconduct.

During redistricting in Missouri, those incarcerated are counted, but only at the address of the prison they are confined in. State Sen. Barbara Anne Washington (D-Kansas City) pre-filed legislation requiring inmates at a correctional facility be counted in their last known permanent place of residency instead. Although those incarcerated cannot vote, they are still counted in the redistricting process, making districts with prisons gain more numbers, therefore gaining more political power. Eight states so far have passed similar legislation to count inmates at their permanent residence including California, Colorado and New York.

Discrimination

Manlove is working on a bill that could allow victims of racially motivated and biased 911 calls the ability to sue. The bill says that anyone who summons a police officer with the intent to discriminate, humiliate or harass another person could be sued. Manlove’s bill is similar to the Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies, or CAREN Act, which a California lawmaker introduced last July.

Both Manlove, Washington and representatives in the St. Louis district are working on bills that would prevent discrimination, based on hair texture and protective styles in educational institutions that receive any state funding, including public or private pre-k programs, elementary and secondary schools.

Gun Violence

Rep. Mark Sharp (D-Kansas City) pre-filed Blair’s Law, which would make celebratory gunfire a state offense. The bill was named after 11-year-old Blair Shanahan Lane who was killed in Independence by a stray bullet from celebratory gunfire in 2011. Currently, celebratory gunfire is just a city ordinance violation, but if the bill passes, it could be a felony.

Marijuana

A bill Washington pre-filed could erase marijuana possession convictions of 35 grams or less if the person was convicted between Dec. 31, 1997 and Aug. 28, 2021.

Education

Washington also pre-filed a bill that would designate the third week of September every year as "Historically Black College and University Week" in Missouri. The week would include events and celebrations to honor the state’s HBCUs: Lincoln University and Harris-Stowe State University.

Rep. Ingrid Burnett (D-Kansas City) introduced a bill that would require every public and charter school building in the state to provide period products for students in grades six through 12.

Housing and Community Improvement

Washington introduced a bill that could allow first-time home buyers to receive a tax credit if they purchase an eligible blighted property. First-time buyers could receive a $5000 tax credit as long as the buyer plans to use the property as a single-family residence for at least two years after renovating the property, purchases the property within six months of applying for the tax credit and meets income requirements.

Another bill Washington introduced would allow another tax credit of 50% of the expenses for creating or improving an urban farm. Advocates say the bill provides an incentive to grow food in food deserts without grocery stores and access to healthy food.

Other legislation to watch in Missouri:

In Missouri, those who have not paid child support could have their driver’s license suspended. Sen. Karla May (D-St. Louis) is sponsoring a bill that would allow those with unpaid child support to present their case to a judge, providing evidence for their inability to pay. The judge would consider the case and decide whether or not to suspend their license based on their ability to pay and their transportation needs.

Rep. Wiley Price IV (D-St. Louis) pre-filed legislation that would legalize recreational marijuana in Missouri for those 21 and older. Similarly, Dogan (R-St. Louis) introduced a joint resolution that could let voters decide whether to legalize marijuana for those 21 and older in 2022.

Price IV also pre-filed a bill that would require the secretary of state to automatically register eligible Missouri voters. Eligible voters will have an option to decline registration. He also pre-filed a “no-excuse” absentee voting bill that would allow voters to cast an absentee ballot without having to submit a reason for doing so.

Rep. Rasheen Aldridge (D-St. Louis) is introducing a bill that will create a number of reforms for Missouri law enforcement agencies, including banning no-knock warrants and banning chokeholds and carotid restraints.

Sen. Steven Roberts (D-St. Louis) is working on a bill that would create a law enforcement officer use of force database available to the public. If passed, it would require all Missouri law enforcement agencies to report any instance of police use of force that results in death and serious injury, and all resignations of officers for violating department policies.

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