Deadlocked Missouri Senate adjourns early, throwing bills in lim - KCTV5

Deadlocked Missouri Senate adjourns early, throwing bills in limbo

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JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KCTV/AP) -

Missouri lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would have banned police officers from shooting fleeing suspects unless there's a serious threat.

The Missouri House passed legislation Friday re-defining when police can use deadly force — a response to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson last summer — but it died after the Senate abruptly adjourned early on the Missouri General Assembly's final day.

Senate Democrats briefly relented from a weeklong blockade to allow final approval of a bill reauthorizing $3.6 billion of annual health care provider taxes for the state's Medicaid program. But that was the only bill they let come to a vote.

The Democrats have been stalling virtually all Senate action since the Republican majority earlier this week used a rare procedural motion to shut off debate and force a vote on a right-to-work bill barring the mandatory collection of union fees.

Acknowledging that nothing more was likely to get done, Republican Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard moved that the Senate adjourn about 3:15 p.m. — nearly three hours ahead of the 6 p.m. deadline. The other senators agreed.

The early adjournment meant that all legislation pending in the Senate died.

Meanwhile, the House continued to vote on bills, including many that had been passed by the Senate in previous weeks. The House finally wrapped up a few minutes early.

The House spent its final day voting to send 31 measures to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, often stripping off their own amendments to avoid needing to send the bills back to the clogged-up Senate.

Special legislative sessions typically are called by the governor, but it's unlikely Nixon has any desire to summon lawmakers back later this year for more work.

The adjournment means that the Missouri Department of Transportation's efforts to get lawmakers to boost the state's gas taxes for road improvements have failed.

One of the bills that died this session would redefine when police can use deadly force in response to the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black, by a white Ferguson police officer.

The House passed the bill earlier Friday, but because it made changes to a version previously passed by the Senate, the bill needed one final vote from senators, which did not occur.

Democratic Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, who represents Ferguson, denounced her colleagues for creating a "fiasco" that she described as "an embarrassment to this nation."

"Now, any person in my district can be killed (by police) and, still, the person who killed them doesn't have to be prosecuted," said Chappelle-Nadal, who participated in protests after Brown's Aug. 9 death. "All I ask is for is the opportunity to have the deadly force bill passed."

In November, a state grand jury decided not to charge former Ferguson officer Darren Wilson for shooting Brown, and a U.S. Justice Department report released in March determined Wilson acted in self-defense.

Current Missouri law allows the use of deadly force when an officer believes a suspect has committed or attempted a felony, is escaping with a deadly weapon or poses a serious threat to others. Legislators have acknowledged that the law probably is too broad and conflicts with U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

The House-passed bill would change Missouri's standard to justify deadly force only when officers reasonably believe a suspect committed or attempted a felony inflicting or threatening serious physical injury, has a deadly weapon or poses a serious threat to others. It also requires the force be "objectively reasonable" when considering the situation.

The Senate has done little work all week. Minority-party Democrats have prevented votes on virtually everything — even mundane votes — after Republicans employed a rarely used procedural motion to shut off debate Tuesday evening and force a vote on a right-to-work bill.

The House then gave the measure final approval Wednesday, sending it to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, who will veto it.

The bill would bar workplace contracts that impose mandatory union fees on all employees, even those who are not union members. Democrats, who strongly oppose it, were particularly upset about the Republicans' strong-arm tactics.

"The defiance that we are engaged in is a consequence of the tyranny of the majority," said state Sen. Jason Holsman, a Democrat from Kansas City.

Nixon said Friday that the bill "would stifle our economic growth, weaken the middle class and even subject Missouri employers to criminal and unlimited civil liability." He said it attacks workers and threatens businesses.

Missouri House Speaker John Diehl led colleagues in the Pledge of Allegiance, apologized again for exchanging sexually suggestive text messages with a Capitol intern, then walked out of the chamber and resigned Friday as Missouri lawmakers sought to put his scandal behind them on the final day of the session.

Moments after Diehl departed, the House unanimously elected Majority Leader Todd Richardson to succeed him as speaker.

Richardson said he expects that lawmakers will take up lethal force bills and transportation funding bills when they next meet again, which isn't scheduled until next January.

Nixon praised Richardson as a "well-respected and talented legislator."

He said Missouri's leaders need to focus on doing their best for the state's residents.

"Sadly this past week has been a jarring reminder of what happens when people lose sight of what they're here to do and who they're here to serve," Nixon said.

Copyright 2015 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and Associated Press. All rights reserved

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