JEFFERSON CITY — A bill to renew a fee assessed on convicted defendants to fund the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s access to the FBI’s national DNA database is well-positioned to pass before the charge expires in August.

A bill filed by state Rep. Sara Walsh, R-Ashland, to add 10 years to the life of the fee, which raises $1.2 million annually, received a public hearing Monday in the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee, of which Walsh is a member.

Walsh is also the House sponsor of an almost identical bill, already passed in the Senate and the public safety committee, and sponsored by Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff.

The highway patrol adds the DNA of 21,000 offenders per year to the database through the program, and roughly 300 of them result in matches with DNA from crime scenes, Lt. Justin McCullough, the highway patrol’s governmental affairs liaison, said in an email.

The general revenue budget that funds lab analyses, including DNA, is $660,000. The patrol cannot afford on its own the amount of DNA analysis it does every year, crime lab director Brian Hoey said in his testimony in favor of Walsh’s bill.

“If we have to move money out of our general revenue budget to fund this program, we will have to not work certain cases in DNA, fingerprint, firearms and trace analyses,” Hoey said. “That would put a big strain on the cases we currently do.”

Hoey was the only person to testify in support of the bill, and there were no witnesses against it. 

The fee is imposed as a surcharge on criminal defendants in all cases except traffic violations. The charge is $15 for misdemeanor cases, $30 for most felonies and $60 for Class A and B or unclassified drug offenses.

Collection of the surcharges will end Aug. 28 unless the legislature passes and the governor signs a bill to extend it.

Walsh said she will amend her bill to make it identical to Libla’s. She is handling his bill on the House floor, and she said her bill is a backup.

“At this point in the process, it’s important to have all avenues at our disposal to ensure that legislation moves forward,” Walsh said.

The legislature is responsible for renewing the fund’s expiration date every 10 years, and it can also change the sunset period if it sees fit, she said.

“It’s a good check and balance on government to make sure the fund is doing what it’s supposed to, to ensure that we still need it, to ensure that it’s an adequate amount of funding and things like that,” Walsh said.