‘Gridlocked’ state Senate passes crime-related bills, sports betting and initiative petition changes loom on final day

‘Gridlocked’ state Senate passes crime-related bills, sports betting and initiative petition...
‘Gridlocked’ state Senate passes crime-related bills, sports betting and initiative petition changes loom on final day
Published: May. 11, 2023 at 8:11 PM CDT
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo (KMOV) -- On the second to last day before state lawmakers go home, no big agenda items were passed or even taken up, but the Senate was able to pass several bills addressing crime.

Here’s a look at what did and did not happen Thursday.

Sports Betting

An item of great interest to many Missourians was not addressed Thursday, but it is not dead.

Bills to allow for sports gambling have consistently died in the Senate since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized all states to conduct it several years ago.

Sen. Bill Eigel(R-St. Charles County) conducted a long filibuster in the late afternoon to give time for a potential deal to be made. Sen. Karla May(D-St. Louis) told News 4 that the only way it passes the Senate is if that same bill also regulates video lottery terminals.

Currently, sports betting remains alive because an amendment was tacked on to a rural tax credit bill that would fully legalize sports gambling.

Sen. Brian Williams(D-St. Louis County) told News 4 too many people are going to Illinois and Kansas and the state is losing out on money. He mentioned owners from multiple pro sports teams in Missouri, including St. Louis Cardinals ownership, came to Jefferson City.

“No reason why we shouldn’t get this done and generate that revenue for our state, clearly it’s been held up and gridlocked for folks that want to expand video lottery terminals, I’ve been really impressed with the team owners coming here to Jeff City,” said Williams.

Crime Bills

The Senate passed SB 189, an omnibus crime bill that targets gun violence, among other things. It is now going to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk. The bill includes mandatory minimums for “armed criminal action,” requiring prison time for those convicted of felony use of a firearm. The bill also brings harsher penalties for those convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm.

That bill also includes Blair’s Law, which makes it criminal to fire a gun into the air.

The Senate also got SB 186 done, and that bill now goes to the House. That bill addresses many things as well, including ATM thefts, adding more potential penalties.

Changes to Missouri’s Petition Initiative Process

One of the big GOP priorities this session was to make the petition initiative process more difficult. One of those bills passed the House earlier this session, but the Senate did not take it up Thursday.

That bill requires 57 percent of voters once a petition initiative gets on the ballot for it to pass and go into the Missouri Constitution.

If this were law back then, recreational marijuana in 2022 and Medicaid expansion in 2018 would not have gone into effect.

Republicans like Eigel said these initiatives often come from people out of state, and Missouri needs to get a handle on it.

“I think that you have very powerful and dishonest special interests that are coming to the state of Missouri and lying about what is included in some of their initiative petitions,” said Eigel.

May, the senator of St. Louis, told News 4 that she believes there is a double standard between lawmakers and the people.

“You’re going to make it more difficult for them to pass what they want and put it at 57 percent. If you agree to put your election at 57 percent or 60 percent, I’m all in favor, I’m about fair,” said May.

Previous versions of the bill required a 60 percent threshold but those were removed.

The Senate could still adopt the House bill. The session ends Friday at 6 p.m.