Criminal justice reform among priorities for local lawmakers

(Missourinet) A Missouri lawmaker who was re-elected to his third term last week predicts criminal justice reform will be a top issue during the 2019 session in Jefferson City.

State Rep. Travis Fitzwater (pictured), R-Holts Summit, represents Callaway and Cole counties in the House.

“The feds are working through a criminal justice reform bill right now which I think will be a pretty big deal and how that impacts the states we don’t know yet,” Fitzwater says. “But I think we ought to be partnering with that to figure out how do we reform our justice system and what ways can we do that.”

State Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis, says criminal justice reform will also be a top priority for House Democrats in 2019. Mitten spoke during Missourinet’s live election night coverage.

At the federal level this week, President Donald Trump (R) announced his support for Utah Senator Mike Lee’s (R) bipartisan bill aimed at reforming the nation’s prison system.

The “Salt Lake Tribune” reports the federal bill is aimed at changing mandatory sentencing laws that have been blamed for overcrowding prisons and disproportionately incarcerating African-Americans for minor crimes.

Fitzwater and State Rep. Sara Walsh, R-Ashland, spoke to Missourinet this week about the 2019 session, following Governor Mike Parson’s appointment of State Treasurer Eric Schmitt (R) as the state’s next attorney general. Both attended the announcement.

Walsh says the Legislature shares many of Governor Parson’s priorities. She serves on the House Budget Committee.

“Infrastructure, workforce development, you know working to invest in our educational system,” Walsh says.

Walsh, whose district includes Boone County, tells Missourinet she’s focused on public safety and will work to try to obtain additional funding for Missouri Task Force One in 2019.

Columbia-based Task Force One is one of just 28 urban search and rescue teams in the nation.

“I’ve pledged to work to get more funding for Missouri Task Force One, and you know public safety is in my heart. So those will be some of the continued priorities,” says Walsh.

Representative Fitzwater says state employee pay will also be a big issue in 2019. About 14,000 state employees work in Cole County, making state government the largest employer in Jefferson City.

The 2019 session begins on January 9. Republicans will control the Missouri House 116-47, and they’ll control the Missouri Senate 24-10.

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