Nixon abandons special Ferguson session after criticism from legislative leadership
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Nixon abandons special Ferguson session after criticism from legislative leadership

Date: December 1, 2014
By: Jill Ornitz
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Governor Jay Nixon abandoned his call for a special December legislative session to address budget concerns in Ferguson after being criticized by top legislators.

In a statement issued Monday afternoon, Jay Nixon accepted legislators were right and that a special session wasn't needed to pay troops and guard membersstationed in Ferguson.

He even cited the arguments of the Senate's top Republican budget leader in a press release announcing the special session was no longer needed.

In a written statement issued November 29, the governor said a special session would be needed to ensure Missouri National Guard and Highway Patrol troops were paid by December 15.

In response to Nixon's call, senior Republican legislators called for an investigation into the governor's response to the unrest in Ferguson and to determine if the National Guard and Highway Patrol needed any additional funding.

The legislators four highest Republican leaders were quoted in a press release as saying the governor has all of the resources necessary to pay the National Guard and Highway Patrol and keep Ferguson and the greater St. Louis area safe.

Nixon's latest press release cited arguments from the Republican Senate Appropriations Chair -- Kurt Schaefer -- who wrote, "After researching this issue and discussing it with appropriations staff, I can find no apparent reason why the Governor cannot use this appropriation for either the Guard or Patrol given that he has declared a state of emergency in responding to Ferguson."

Nixon's original letter said the legislature needed to act quickly in order to pay troops in Ferguson and continue protecting the area, yet the four Republican leaders said Nixon failed to provide any information about the session in the days following his call.

"Time is of the essence to ensure that we meet our shared commitment to our citizen soldiers and law enforcement and to ensure the continued safety and security of the St. Louis region," Nixon wrote. "Guardsmen and troopers are paid on a bi-monthly basis, so the legislature must act quickly to ensure that they receive their paychecks on December 15."

Nixon's press release said this interpretation of the law will allow public safety operations to continue without a special session.

Senate GOP Leader Ron Richard said there is enough funding available to allow troops to continue helping the citizens of Ferguson rebuild after recent unrest.

"All I'm concerned about is helping these people that have lost their businesses and these innocent victims of the Ferguson community," Richard said.

Nixon declared a state of emergency on November 17, activating the Missouri National Guard statewide. Violence and destruction erupted in Ferguson on November 24, after it was announced Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, would not be indicted on criminal charges. Nixon has been criticized by local officials for not fully utilizing National Guard troops to protect private property.

Depsite Nixon's change of heart, House Speaker Tim Jones said he is going to call a House committee to investigate the governor's handling of Ferguson.

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