Saturday, July 14, was an important day for Missouri, as the deadline was reached for the governor to sign or veto legislation passed by the General Assembly during the 2012 legislative session. Many of these measures will take effect on Aug. 28 and become Missouri law. I believe the legislation passed by the Missouri Senate this year will make a positive difference in the lives of our families. Listed below are some of the bills that received a final stamp of approval.
Sam Pratt’s Law
Last February, Missourians came to the Capitol to advocate for improved safety in daycare centers throughout the state. Many individuals who were at the people’s building that day came to grieve the loss of a son, daughter, or grandchild who had died while at daycare. I was sad to hear so many stories of preventable child deaths, and I fought strongly in the Missouri Senate to pass legislation to tighten child care regulations. On July 10, the governor signed HB 1323, which helps ensure our young ones are safe while in the hands of others. Language throughout HB 1323 is similar to provisions found in SB 448, which I sponsored this year.
House Bill 1323 creates Sam Pratt’s Law, which states that in any case involving the abuse, neglect, or death of a child, any judge may prohibit a defendant, as a condition of his or her release, from providing child care services for compensation, pending final disposition of the case. In addition, HB 1323 requires that any child care facility that is exempt from licensure to disclose to any parent or guardian of children in its care that the facility is not licensed. Any person who violates this provision a second or subsequent time will be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor and face a fine of $200 per day, up to a maximum of $10,000.
Thanks to this new law, parents will sleep easier knowing they have more windows of opportunity to make informed decisions for their family, and that their children will be better protected while under the wing of professional caregivers.
Extending Services to Missourians With Autism
Another matter of tremendous significance to me is helping Missourians with autism and their families receive helpful and effective care and services. This year, I sponsored SB 803, which addressed the provisional licensure of health care professionals who work with individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Similar provisions from my bill can be found in HB 1563, which was signed by the governor on July 12.
Under the legislation, provisionally licensed behavior analysts and assistant behavior analysts who have completed their professional training, but not yet received their scores on their licensure exams, can work with Missourians affected by ASDs, under supervision. Under current law, when health care professionals are waiting to obtain full licensure, they are unable to work with the clients with whom they have developed close relationships and trust. By giving this bill the final stamp of approval, Missourians with ASDs will receive quality, continual care from the kind and professional individuals who strive to make a difference in their lives.
“Move Over” Law
Ensuring that our state’s roadways are safe is vitally important for the welfare of motorists and road workers alike. To encourage Missourians to be cautious and take it slow around work zones, SB 611, among other provisions, amends the “Move Over” law to require drivers who are approaching stationary or moving vehicles operated by the Department of Transportation to change lanes (if possible) and slow down when approaching vehicles that display amber or amber and white lights. The measure was signed by the governor on July 9.
Helping to Protect Our Most Vulnerable Citizens
When a person takes advantage of us in any way, shape, or form, we feel angry and betrayed. It is even more infuriating when an individual exploits a Missourian who is a member of the elderly or disabled community.
To help protect our loved ones from such mistreatment, SB 689, which received final executive approval on July 11, states that if a person recklessly and purposely causes serious injury to an elderly person, he or she has committed the crime of elder abuse.
In addition, SB 689 adds undue influence to the types of acts that, when committed against an elderly or disabled person, constitute the crime of financial exploitation. “Undue influence” is defined as influence by a person who has authority over the elderly or disabled person in order to take unfair advantage of the person's vulnerable state of mind, neediness, pain, or agony.
Protecting Establishments of Worship
The freedom of religion is one of the most cherished liberties in America. It is one of the key principles that helped shape our country and is clearly outlined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Much to my disappointment, many people are discriminated against or even harassed for going to a house of worship or expressing their faith. Many Missourians of faith are proud to declare their religion of choice and are not afraid of others’ opinions. However, no one likes to be taunted for conveying their beliefs.
Senate Bill 755, which received a final stamp of approval on July 10, creates the crime of disturbing a house of worship if a person intentionally and unreasonably disturbs a building used for religious purposes by using profanity, rude or indecent behavior or making noise within the house of worship or so close to the building that the services are disturbed.
Although I am pleased SB 755 was signed, I am very disappointed in the governor’s action toward another bill promoting religious protection. Senate Bill 749, which I co-sponsored in the Senate, was vetoed on July 12. The measure would have provided protection for the religious beliefs for those who provide certain health care services, such as abortion, contraception, or sterilization. I have firmly stated that employers should not be forced to provide coverage for services of which they are morally opposed. I will continue to fight for the principles and ethics of Missourians of faith, and when SB 749 is brought up during our annual veto session in September, I will make my voice of support for the bill loud and clear.
Thank you for reading this legislative column. Serving the 2nd Senatorial District is a responsibility I take very seriously, and I do everything in my power to make sure every voice and concern in our community is heard. If you have any questions regarding the legislation mentioned in this column, please don’t hesitate to contact me. You can also click here to read more about the governor’s action towards bills, or visit www.senate.mo.gov. Thank you again and God bless.