Missouri lawmakers to hold public hearing on Syrian refugee resettlement | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri lawmakers to hold public hearing on Syrian refugee resettlement

Nov 20, 2015

Although a special session is highly unlikely, Missouri lawmakers will meet at least once to discuss the possibility of Syrian refugees entering the Show-Me State and may try to look for ways to block that from happening.

House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, and Senate President Pro-tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, have scheduled a joint hearing of the House and Senate committees that oversee the annual state budget for Nov. 30, the Monday after Thanksgiving.

In a joint statement released this afternoon, the two chamber leaders say the hearing will "thoroughly examine the various programs the governor could utilize to provide assistance to refugees."

"Because of (Gov. Jay Nixon's) lack of leadership and (the Obama) administration's failed federal foreign policies, we will try to find ways to protect the safety and well-being of the citizens of the Show-Me State," Richard said. "While we are compassionate to the victims of the Syrian Civil War, our first and most important duty as legislators is to keep our people safe from harm's way.

Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson
Credit File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

"Our governor has yet to fully articulate a plan or take a stand on this issue that has generated immense concern from the people of Missouri," Speaker Richardson said. "Our sympathies go out to those who have been impacted by the strife in Syria, but we must place the safety and well-being of Missourians as our top priority."

Credit Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

The statement also says that budget writers, including House budget chair Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, and Senate appropriations chair Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, have been asked to "review the various programs that could be used to provide assistance for refugee resettlement within (Missouri's) borders."

Numerous Republican lawmakers from Missouri, on the state and federal levels, have been urging Nixon to forbid any new Syrian refugees from being relocated to Missouri in the wake of last week's wave of terror attacks in Paris, France.

Nixon, a Democrat, issued the following statement Monday:

"The safety of Missourians is my highest priority, and the terrorists who were involved in planning and perpetrating the attacks in Paris must be caught and brought to justice.The screening process for refugees is the responsibility of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and I call on our federal partners to implement the strongest possible safeguards to protect our state and nation."

Republicans have criticized Nixon for not saying in his statement whether Syrian refugees should be welcomed to Missouri or blocked.

Fellow Democrat and Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster went a step further:

"The refugee crisis has been heartbreaking and the world needs to come together to find a reasonable solution. However, I believe it is prudent to pause the admittance of refugees from Syria to allow the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and our other national security agencies to re-evaluate the screening processes to ensure we are preventing terrorists from entering our country."

Koster is expected to seek the Democratic nomination for Missouri governor, but has not officially announced yet.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport