Missouri governor won’t veto criminal law overhaul

05/09/2014 8:34 PM

05/09/2014 8:34 PM

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s office told a group of state lawmakers Friday that the governor would not veto a massive overhaul of the state’s criminal laws, despite previously expressing misgivings about the legislation’s scope.

Democratic Sen. Jolie Justus of Kansas City, the bill’s sponsor, said she met with Nixon’s chief-of-staff and legal counsel who indicated that Nixon won’t stop the measure from becoming law. The Democratic governor faces a Tuesday deadline to sign, veto or allow the bill to become law without his signature.

Justus, Senate minority leader, said she was “thrilled” with the governor’s decision.

“I am hoping that a lot of the work we did in the public eye helped his decision-making process,” she said.

Nixon expressed concerns earlier this year that the bill tried to do too much at one time and said there was “no room for error” when overhauling the criminal code for the first time since 1979.

Supporters argued the bill has been thoroughly vetted with dozens of public hearings and input from multiple organizations. Justus also said the Legislature would try to pass a cleanup bill before it adjourns May 16 to correct some drafting mistakes the governor’s office had identified.

The bill passed the House and Senate with enough votes to override a potential veto.

A spokesman for Nixon said Friday the governor’s office is continuing to work with interested parties “to address issues surrounding this legislation.”

The measure would create new classes of felonies and misdemeanors, and reorganize crimes to fit the new penalty structure.

The overhaul would also reduce the penalties for certain nonviolent crimes, while prescribing longer jail sentences for others.

Jail time would be off the table for first-time offenders convicted of possessing less than 10 grams of marijuana. Possessing up to 35 grams of the drug is currently punishable by up to a year in prison.

On the other hand, incest would be added as an aggravating factor for all sex crimes, which would let people be charged at a higher crime classification with stiffer jail terms.

Drunken drivers who kill someone while on the road would also face a higher maximum prison sentences.

The changes would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2017.

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