KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In a wide-ranging interview with the 41 Action News I-Team, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson discussed the special session underway in Jefferson City, efforts to expand Medicaid in the state and the controversy surrounding funding changes for the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department.
The answers below are edited for length.
The I-Team asked Parson for his thoughts as the session began.
Cat Reid: Previously, you said you would not call for a special session unless you were confident that a compromise had been reached and this would be renewed. How confident do you feel right now that it will be passed?
Gov. Mike Parson: I think the vast majority of people understand the magnitude of what this means to the state. We have never been down this road before on FRA, and it's a $1.2 billion shortfall... We've got to figure out a solution. I think they understand how high the stakes are in this, and I believe they'll come to a conclusion. They've got a week to do it, and I'm confident they'll get it done.
CR: We've heard from some Republicans who are still pushing for preventing funding from going to Planned Parenthood, to some contraceptive devices. Do you think those demands are going to derail the special session? And are you wanting to see any of those measures in the final legislation?
MP: I think those are two separate issues, although they got joined together for leverage purposes... I do think there's a compromise to be had for that. Some things we can do on the state level, but I think the important thing is how do you balance it where you're still in compliance with the federal government and CMS?
I think there's another discussion to be had for some of them that wanted more on the pro-life side of things. That's probably more that needs to be done in session, where there's more testimony, where more people are involved in that.
Gov. Parson's call for a special session included language that would prohibit coverage of drugs, like Plan B, as well as funding for abortion facilities under the Uninsured Women's Health Program.
MP: I believe what's in there is what will be in the finished call. We've been pretty stern with what that's going to be.
CR: You've said your hands are tied because the legislature did not pass the funding mechanism for expansion. This is something Missourians voted for. They said yes, we want this. Do you think that legislators failed to follow the will of Missourians?
MP: No, I think that is part of the process that you go through. When that initiative petition was first started and passed by the people, there was no funding mechanism for that piece.
By it not having a funding source, that does give [legislators] the authority to decide whether they want to fund it or they don't, and then you end up in the courts, which is exactly what happened.
CR: What would you say to the Missourian who voted yes on that and was really looking forward to seeing that expansion on July 1 and is feeling devastated and maybe at risk to not have coverage. What would you say to that person?
MP: I don't know what you do say to them other than you try to tell them what happened... If you don't have a funding source for it, although it maybe sounded good when you voted for it, what people didn’t tell you is there’s no funding behind it to support it. I think that’s now what we’ve got to go out there and tell people, here’s why it’s not happening.
KCPD Funding & Local Control
CR: Are you considering heeding the calls of Northland lawmakers and calling a special session for KCPD funding?
MP: Let me be clear. I’m a supporter of the Kansas City Police Department. I don't agree with what happened up here, but on the other hand, there’s a process to go through. The legislators will be able to address that issue next year when they go into the General Assembly.
CR: Kansas City is the only city in the state now that does not have local control of its police department. Do you think we’ve come to a point where that should change and Kansas City should have local control?
MP: I think we’re talking about the perfect example of why that has been put in place, because people sometimes try to overstep their boundaries to try to regulate the police department, and why they are an independent agency of not local control. I think this is a perfect example, what we’re talking about. Do you want them to have that kind of, do you want the city councils and the mayors we’ve had problems with before addressing that issue?
It’s one of the best-run police departments in the nation. They get it right day in and day out, so I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong with what they’re doing.
CR: Do you think local control has been successful in St. Louis since they changed?
MP: Yeah, I think different circumstances, different circumstances. I think you have to evaluate them to see what’s happening on the ground. Just because you might want local control, what is the justification for changing what you have now? And I think you’ve got to articulate it.
If it’s just to say I want to be in control of the police department, I want to be in control of the funding and all that, but what’s the real purpose that you want control? What is that? And I think that’s the question people need to have answered by the general public. What do they want?
New Missouri Gun Law
Earlier this month, Parson signed into law a bill that would bar state and local authorities from enforcing federal gun laws.
CR: The Department of Justice asked for some clarification as to how exactly this legislation would work. What clarification or explanation are you providing to the feds on that topic?
MP: The whole point we’re trying to make is, look, you had the vice president of the United States get up one time in a public forum, when she was running for president at the time, and say, 'I’m going to come to your house and take your guns.' President Biden has made the statement of gun control. The vast majority of the people in this state don't agree with that. So when you start going down those lines, are we going to do things to protect the Second Amendment? Yes, we will. And still allow law enforcement to do their jobs.
Editor's note: According to a fact check by USA Today, Vice President Kamala Harris never said she would confiscate guns from people who legally had them.
We want to make sure and send a strong message to the federal government – you’re not just going to come in here and violate the Second Amendment. That's why we’re going to strengthen it, to make sure that you get that message. So the DOJ sending that letter and people like that, that’s fine. We want to have that discussion. We want to know why you’re so worried about that. So we’ll let the lawyers take care of that, and we'll see what happens.
CR: If, constitutionally , federal law trumps state law, is this more of a political statement than it is legislation that is going to have an impact on a day-to-day basis?
MP: "Well, first of all, I’d say the Constitution trumps both, to be right honest about it. So I think regardless of what the state government, federal government think they know is best sometimes, which we see it all the time, you still have the Constitution overhanging both heads.
CR: Do you think some law enforcement officers feel as though the legislation could put them in an uncomfortable position of having to not follow federal law?
MP: I would most certainly hope not because, look, I was in law enforcement for 21 years. I understand the significance of working with federal agencies. As a matter of fact, when we had Operation Legend here in Kansas City that was so successful, and we had the federal government in here, with the state and local levels, we all know those situations work too. So those are things we don’t want to jeopardize.
I think you’ve got the issue of the violent crime is a different issue than the Second Amendment and the Constitution, and I think those are two things we’ve got to make sure we keep separate because I want to be able to work with federal agencies when it comes to violent crime, when it comes to drugs.