Among the bill’s highlights: it would strengthen laws prohibiting sex abuse against children, while lessening the penalty for first-time marijuana possession. It also creates a new class of misdemeanor crimes that would be punishable by fines only, no jail time, which appears designed to deter prison overcrowding. The bill was sponsored by Democratic Senator Jolie Justus of Kansas City.
“I think the fact that we now have the Missouri Sheriffs Association, the Police Chiefs Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, all of the prosecutors, coming out and saying ‘we need this as a crime-fighting tool,’ I think that sends a strong message," Justus said.
There were a few criticisms before final passage. Some said the criminal code rewrite should have also addressed expungement of criminal records for young non-violent offenders, and others shared concerns expressed by Democratic Governor Jay Nixon that the bill may be too big and thus contain costly errors.
Once the criminal code rewrite hits the governor’s desk, he will have 15 days to take action. If he vetoes it, lawmakers are expected to attempt an override during the final week of session.