Gov. Jay Nixon (D-Mo.) has called for a special session of the Missouri General Assembly to deal with paying for the Missouri Highway Patrol and National Guard to continue patrolling the streets and protecting the police department in Ferguson, Mo.
Protests followed the shooting death of Michael Brown and the grand jury decision not to file criminal charges in the case, turning into riots that overwhelmed Ferguson police.
The police department itself has also been the subject of what police Chief Tom Jackson described as “credible threats.”
Ferguson was relatively quiet during the Thanksgiving weekend. But protesters announced plans to march 120 miles from Ferguson to the governor’s mansion in Jefferson City, Mo.
Nixon, who was criticized for not responding quickly and forcefully enough to protests and riots in Ferguson and other communities, wants to keep the Guard and Highway Patrol on the streets of communities in the St. Louis area.
But someone is going to have to pay the troops and officers.
Nixon, in a statement issued by his office, said he is worried about having enough money for the Dec. 15 payday. The General Assembly is not scheduled to meet again until Jan. 7.
Nixon said he would announce a date for the special session in the near future.
But Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones (R), who was term-limited out of office in 2014 and is scheduled to be replaced by Rep. Kirk Mathews (R) in January, told missourinet.com he is not convinced a special session is needed.
“Let’s remember the fiscal year just began on July 1. We’re not even six months into the current fiscal year, and the governor is alleging that … he is about to exhaust all potential funds for all National Guard and emergency services-related personnel for Ferguson,” said Jones.
“We just want to make sure that the governor’s request is valid, that it’s honest, that it’s accurate, before we go and try and do anything with taxpayer dollars.”
Nixon said during a conference call with legislative leaders Nov. 28 he emphasized the importance of taking action quickly to ensure that Guard members are paid on Dec. 15.
“The dedicated men and women of the National Guard and the Missouri State Highway Patrol are playing a critical role in keeping people safe and protecting property in the St. Louis region,” said Nixon. “Time is of the essence. It is vital that we act quickly so that we can fulfill our obligation to the men and women who are so bravely and capably serving their fellow citizens.”
The deal to extend funding for the National Guard and Highway Patrol is not done yet. But he is hopeful.
“This was a productive discussion,” said Nixon regarding the conference call with General Assembly leaders.
“It’s clear these legislators share our commitment to public safety and understand the need for prompt action. I look forward to working with legislators in the coming days to ensure these vital resources are available.”
Nixon has not released an estimate of how much extra money would be requested.
However, a statement released by his office said the Fiscal Year 2015 state budget approved by the legislature included $4 million for National Guard state emergency duty response costs and $3.4 million for the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) for expenses incurred by state agencies, including the Highway Patrol, in responding to disasters and emergencies between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015.
Nixon said paying National Guard troops and Highway Patrol police is not the only financial problem facing Missouri following the Ferguson rioting.
In addition to obligations that have already been incurred, state officials said other activities such as debris removal could result in additional costs. Exceeding the emergency duty appropriations would also limit the ability of the state to respond to other emergencies that could arise.
Nixon said unlike during prior emergencies, a special session is necessary for Ferguson-related obligations because the appropriations for the state’s emergency duty costs no longer include an “estimated” designation. Without the estimated designation, the governor must ask the legislature to appropriate additional amounts when needed.
Nixon has also devoted state resources to helping the owners of businesses, vehicles and some homes damaged by looters and vandals in Ferguson and other communities in the St. Louis area.
Damage estimates are not complete.
Nixon’s office released a statement Nov. 28 pointing out that close to $625,000 in zero-interest loan funding was available to business owners whose establishments had been damaged by rioters in Ferguson and nearby communities.
Financial assistance, insurance guidance, and mental health resources are among the number of initiatives put in place by the governor’s administration to assist communities impacted by unrest in the region.
“North St. Louis County communities that have been impacted by civil unrest should know that the state of Missouri is committed to providing the resources necessary for them to recover and rebuild,” Nixon said.
The Nixon administration joined with the St. Louis Regional Chamber, the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, North County Inc., and local lending institutions to create the Small Business Relief Program, a targeted initiative of the Recovery St. Louis Coalition that provides zero-interest loans to small businesses that were damaged or destroyed by looting, vandalism, and other acts.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is also offering low-interest disaster loans to business owners and nonprofit organizations in north St. Louis County that have suffered substantial economic injury.
James Knowles, the mayor of Ferguson, told reporters he is committed to rebuilding the city that was torn apart by reaction to the shooting death of Michael Brown and the grand jury decision not to press charges against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
Knowles also said he would work to increase the number of black police officers in Ferguson.
There is one less white officer on the Ferguson police force. Wilson, who shot Brown, announced his resignation over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
His attorney told NBC News Wilson quit the force “two minutes after” Chief Jackson told him of “credible threats” to the department and other police officers.
Mayor Knowles said Wilson will not receive any severance pay.