JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri lawmakers and organizations representing victims and law enforcement officials urged Gov. Jay Nixon to sign a criminal code overhaul passed by the Legislature last week.
The Democratic governor has raised concerns in the last few weeks that the bill would do too much at one time and could contain mistakes. He said there is "no room for error" when it comes to the first comprehensive rewrite of the state's criminal laws since 1979.
But those concerns were brushed aside by the measure's supporters at a news conference Tuesday. They argue the bill's delayed effective date in 2017 gives lawmakers enough time to correct any potential errors.
"We have literally begged the state of Missouri to evaluate our work with a fine-tooth comb and we still hope for that," said Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia.
Legislators also want to create a permanent committee to routinely study the state's criminal laws and recommend possible changes every decade.
After the bill passed last week, some organizations raised questions that the measure could create loopholes in state laws about methamphetamine and drunken driving. Supporters dismissed the meth concern as "inaccurate" and said they couldn't identify the DWI issue.
To underscore their frustration with critics, senators approved an amendment Tuesday to the state budget providing $143 for the Department of Public Safety to purchase a fax machine so it could communicate with legislators. Sponsoring Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, said someone at the department apparently faxed a list of concerns to others last week but had not raised those with lawmakers.
"I am afraid that right now the fax machines at the Department of Public Safety are not working accurately," Justus quipped.
The bill awaiting action from Nixon would create new classes of felonies and misdemeanors, and reorganize existing crimes to fit the new penalty structure.
Kelly and other lawmakers were joined by representatives from the Missouri Bar Association, prosecutors, public defenders, private defense attorneys, law enforcement groups and victim advocates.
The House and Senate passed the bill with enough votes to override a potential veto.