Bill forcing Kansas City to put more money toward police heads to governor’s desk

Lawmakers also approved a proposed constitutional amendment allowing the funding requirement

By: - May 13, 2022 12:35 pm
Missouri Capitol

Under current law, the Missouri legislature cannot require a city to increase an activity or service beyond that mandated by existing law, unless a state appropriation is made to pay the city for any increased costs (Tessa Weinberg/Missouri Independent).

The amount of funding Kansas City would be required to put towards its police department would increase under legislation headed to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk.

The bill, sponsored by Tony Luetkemeyer, R- Parkville, raises the portion of Kansas City’s budget that must be devoted to the police department from 20% to 25% – a $65.2 million increase. 

It passed out of the House Friday by a vote of 102 to 38 — just hours before the legislative session ends.

Under current law, the Missouri legislature cannot require a city to increase an activity or service beyond that mandated by existing law, unless a state appropriation is made to pay the city for any increased costs.

The House also approved a proposed constitutional amendment that, if approved by the voters in November, would provide an exception for the Kansas City Police. That bill also passed Friday by a vote of 103 to 44.

Both pieces of legislation were inspired by a move from local elected officials last year that generated outrage among Republicans.

Last spring, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and some city council members attempted to designate $42 million within the police budget for things like community engagement and intervention – but a judge ultimately ruled they didn’t have that authority.

“Hopefully, it will keep the Kansas City City Council from unnecessarily interfering in the police budget,” said Rep. Chris Brown, R-Kansas City, before the House vote Friday.

Several House Democrats from Kansas City spoke against the bill Friday, saying the city’s elected officials should have the ability to address crime in the way they see fit. 

“This entire thing was a knee-jerk reaction to something that the city council did last year because what we have been doing is not working,” said Emily Weber, D-Kansas City. “We’re the only city in the country that does not have local control of our police department.” 

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“First of all, I think it’s important for everybody to recognize that this is changing our state constitution to take away local control from duly elected members of our city council,” said Maggie Nurrenbern, D-Kansas City, “and I find that very problematic.”

Kansas City already allocates about a third of its budget to the police annually, city officials have repeatedly said.

However, when Luetkemeyer first introduced the bill, he proposed that the city include all revenue when calculating 25%, which would have been $1.5 billion – doubling the police budget from $200 million to $400 million.

Lucas said that proposal would’ve included pots of money that the city can’t touch, such as for the Kansas City International Airport, water services, special taxes for the fire department of Kansas City and road infrastructure approved by voter-approved propositions. 

Democratic senators blocked the attempt to double the police budget when they passed the bill on Monday.

House Republicans had also planned to attach an amendment to the bill that would take control of the St. Louis police away from local officials and return it to a state-run board. However, because of infighting among Senate Republicans, the Senate adjourned on Thursday night, squashing that attempt.

“My city is against this,” said Patty Lewis, D-Kansas City, “and it blows my mind when people outside… try to force things on what my city doesn’t want.”

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Rebecca Rivas
Rebecca Rivas

Rebecca Rivas covers civil rights, criminal justice and immigration. She has been reporting in Missouri since 2001, most recently as senior reporter and video producer at the St. Louis American, the nation's leading African-American newspaper.

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