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ABC 17 News Investigates

How much could the Governor’s special session on violent crime cost taxpayers?

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

In the midst of a state budget crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Missouri's governor called the legislature back to the State Capitol to address growing violent crime.

Gov. Mike Parson's special session started Monday. He has continued to push for a very focused session, looking at amending 6 state statutes:

  • Police and Public Safety Employee Residency Requirements for St. Louis
  • Juvenile Certification
  • Witness Statement Admissibility 
  • Witness Protection Fund 
  • Endangering the Welfare of a Child
  • Unlawful Transfer of Weapons

Special sessions are funded through annual appropriations to both the House of Representatives and Senate. House and Senate members are given transportation funds and a per diem for every day they show up.

Because not all representatives and senators must be in the Capitol every day of the session, both chambers' administrators say the exact cost for this special session won't be known until the final gavel.

Missouri House of Representatives

According to the House clerk's office, the estimate for this special session is $145,138.28, if every representative shows up every day of the session.

On a day that all 161 current members of the House show up, it costs $19,448.80 in per diem and $15,964.76 in transportation expenses. Chief Clerk of the Missouri House of Representatives Dana Miller said that is unlikely to happen because four of the five days currently are "technical," meaning not everyone has to show up.

"We do that in order to save the taxpayers money," Miller said. "That has resulted in a significant cost savings for us, although I can't guarantee. Theoretically every member has the right to come to the Capitol and note their presence... but that's generally not the case."

During the first day of the special session on Monday, 86 members of the House signed in, according to the House of Representative's journal.

Miller said looking back at past special sessions may give a more accurate cost estimate. During the special session in 2017, the total cost was $48,780.76. Representatives were in the chamber for five days during that session.

The past two years, special sessions have been called in tandem with the required veto session, which Miller said helps with cost savings on their end.

In 2018, the House's veto and special session combined cost $51,349.80. The same scenario in 2019 cost $68,415.83.

"That would certainly help defray those expenses," Miller said. "I've heard scenarios where there might be two or three (special sessions), there may not be another one. It just depends, it's all very variable, there's a lot going on."

"We will make sure we are here and we do that work... it just may be that we have a bit of a leaner year than other years," Miller said.

COVID-19 has impacted the House's budget in several ways. Miller said her office has had to spend more on sanitation and expanding internet services, resulting in a leaner operating budget and cut projects.

If the House does need more funds to pay for a special session, Miller said there are several avenues those funds could come from. The office looks at a supplemental application bill, but she said that seems unlikely. She said they would most likely cancel projects and use operating funds.

"It's been an unusual year and unusual circumstances require us to rise to that occasion, and when we are called back we do our work and we will make it work," Miller said.

Missouri Senate

On the other side of the Capitol, the financing of the special session look similar.

According to Senate Administrator Patrick Baker, the first day of the week is estimated to cost $8,951.62 if every senator shows up. Each day of the same week the senate meets after the first day is estimated to cost $6,006.42 per day under the same circumstances.

The Senate will work on the bill or bills to send over to the House to vote on. Following the House's only full required session on Wednesday, Aug. 12, if every senator attended every day of the session until that day, the estimated cost from the Senate would be $86,919.06.

Baker said those numbers are just an estimate, and an exact cost is likely to be much lower.

For comparison, the Senate’s cost for the 2018 extra session was $22,617.65 and the 2019 extra session cost $24,785.17.

On Monday, the first day of session, 30 out of the 31 state senators were present. On Tuesday, 28 attended the session.

Total Estimated Cost

Combining the estimated cost from both the House and the Senate put the potential price-tag of the Governor's special session at $232,057.34 for the taxpayers.

Both chambers said these are high estimates, and it will likely be lower. Under Missouri Law, a special session can run 60 days, though this session is not expected to last that long.

Parson said this is a critical time to address violent crime in Missouri.

"Everyday you are worried about funding during a crisis like this, but look, funding isn't as important as human lives," Parson said Monday.

Parson continued saying the state has to weigh out the importance of the topic of this special session with the budget.

"I wish we wasn't spending money, but the reality of it is this is more important than what the dollar amount is," Parson said.

Watch ABC17 News at 9 and 10 for the full report.

Governor of Missouri / Missouri / News / Politics / Top Stories / Top Stories

Connor Hirsch

Connor Hirsch reports for the weekday night shows, as well as Sunday nights.

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