Governor calls, then cancels, special legislative session
House Speaker calls for thorough investigation of National Guard deployment
Contrary to Governor Jay Nixon’s press statement from the Thanksgiving weekend, there will be no special legislative session to pay for the ongoing costs of operations for the State Highway Patrol and Missouri National Guard in Ferguson.
After Republicans said a special session was unnecessary, Nixon on Monday reversed himself and announced there was indeed no need for a special session to come up with the funds to allocate money from the budget for increased state law enforcement activity during a declared state of emergency.
But on Monday, State Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), pointed out that under legislation passed in 2008, the governor could allocate up to $12.5 million from the State Emergency Management Agency to pay for the ongoing costs of the Highway Patrol and National Guard.
In a statement Monday, the governor said he agreed with Sen. Schaefer’s interpretation and cancelled his call for a special legislative session.
Speaker of the House Tim Jones (R-Eureka), said he was relieved by the governor’s change of heart, but said other questions about the governor’s actions in Ferguson and surrounding communities warrant further investigation by legislators.
Most troubling to Jones, local officials, and members of the business community is the timing and location of the deployment of the Missouri National Guard. While guardsmen were deployed in front of strategic law enforcement installations, rioters burned and looted businesses in Ferguson and nearby Dellwood with impunity. News cameras recorded criminals cautiously approaching store fronts, until they realized there was no law enforcement presence in the area. Shortly after, the same news cameras captured images of looters breaking into the businesses…soon setting several of them on fire.
The actions of the National Guard under the direction of Nixon sparked anger from the Dellwood mayor and business owners. Read an article about the rioting aftermath from St. Louis Public Radio here.
“As an advocate for Missouri businesses, Associated Industries of Missouri (AIM) was deeply saddened by the violence directed at business owners in the community of Ferguson and surrounding areas and the apparent lack of law enforcement to help defend against the looting and arson we witnessed,” said Ray McCarty, president of AIM. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the business owners and employees of those businesses as they try to rebuild their livelihood and the community.”
In a statement released by his office Monday afternoon, Speaker Jones said he was activating the current Joint Committee on Government Accountability to take public testimony from citizens in the Ferguson-Dellwood area “to conduct a thorough investigation into the governor’s actions that made a difficult situation into a disaster”.