It is hard to believe that February is already over! Spring is almost here! The weather is warming up and the days are getting longer. We have been busy in Jefferson City working to pass some important legislation. I have included a brief overview below.
House Speaker Forms Investigative Committee (HR 5565)
The Missouri House has created a committee that will investigate the charge on which Gov. Eric Greitens has been indicted. This week the members of the House also gave unanimous, bipartisan support to a resolution that outlines the investigative process and the powers the committee will have to conduct the investigation.
Greitens was indicted by a grand jury for felony invasion of privacy. Greitens is accused of taking, without consent, a photo of a woman with whom he had an affair in 2015.
House Speaker Todd Richardson and other members of House Leadership announced the formation of the Special Committee on Oversight, which will be charged with conducting the investigation.
As the chairman of the committee said, “This committee’s task is going to be to investigate facts. We’re going to do so in a way that is fair, thorough, and timely, and we’re going to do it without any preordained results. We are going to be asking questions of witnesses on both sides and hope to have a process with full involvement from everyone involved in this matter.”
The committee will begin its work immediately. As the committee investigates, the Speaker made it clear the House will continue its work as normal.
“We are going to continue to move forward with the substantive legislation that we have spent the bulk of this session working on,” said Speaker Richardson, who added that the committee has a big task ahead of it, “but that is not going to deter us or limit our ability to move forward on priorities that the people of Missouri sent us here to do.”
House Sends Pro-Life Bill to Senate (HB 1383)
The Missouri House has voted to require the notification of both parents when a minor in Missouri seeks to have an abortion. The House gave final approval to the bill this week and sent it to the Senate.
The legislation would require that a parent or guardian giving consent for a minor to have an abortion notify any other custodial parent or guardian in writing before the minor gives her consent. It would not apply in an emergency or for custodial parents or guardians that have been found guilty of certain crimes, are listed on the sex offender registry, are the subject of an order of protection, have had parental rights terminated, or for whom the whereabouts are not known.
Missouri law now requires that a minor seeking an abortion and one parent or guardian of that minor give written consent before the procedure can be performed.
As the sponsor of the bill said, “It just comes down to common sense. We just need to be able to notify the other parent if the other parent is a good parent. In addition this bill has the added benefit of notifying a good parent if the other parent happens to not be a good parent.”
The sponsor added, “There’s an overwhelming amount of good that does happen when you discuss these things. You must have parental involvement when it’s involving a child like this.”
House Moves to Continue Support for Pregnancy Resource Centers and Maternity Homes (HBs 1288, 1377 & 2050)
House members gave their approval this week to legislation that would continue and expand support for pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes in Missouri. The bill would extend the sunset for tax credits that help encourage investment in these programs that benefit many of Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens.
Under current law, the tax credit for donations to maternity homes is set to expire June 30, 2020. The tax credit for donations to pregnancy resource centers expires December 31, 2019. The legislation approved by the House would extend the sunset for both credits to 2024.
The bill also increases the maximum amount of each credit that is available annually. Currently there are $2.5 million in credits available each year for pregnancy resource centers, and $2.5 million in credits each year for maternity homes. The bill approved by the House would increase the cap on each credit to $3.5 million annually. Each credit requires a minimum contribution of $100, of which 50 percent is tax-credit-eligible. Donors can claim up to a $50,000 credit per tax year.
Supporters note that pregnancy resource centers offer an alternative to abortion by providing free assistance to women with crisis or unplanned pregnancies to assist them in carrying their pregnancies to term. Maternity homes provide shelter for homeless, pregnant women and their children. Both provide additional services including counseling, parenting skills, education, and job assistance.
The bill also extends the Champion for Children Tax Credit for child advocacy centers until 2025. Additionally, it reauthorizes the Donated Food Tax Credit until 2026 and expands the credit to include food or cash donated to local soup kitchens or homeless shelters.
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
House Sends “Revenge Porn” Bill to Senate (HB 1558)
The Missouri House gave overwhelming bipartisan support to legislation that would criminalize what is often called “revenge porn,” which involves sharing or threatening to share private sexual images of a person without that person’s consent. Such sharing often happens by the uploading of those images to the Internet.
The legislation would make such sharing of images a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and would make threatening to share them a felony carrying up to four years in prison. The bill covers photographs, videos, digital recordings, and other depictions. In addition to creating the crime of “nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images,” the bill would allow victims to file civil suits against those accused of the crime.
If the bill is signed into law, Missouri would join 38 other states that have outlawed revenge porn. The bill now moves to the Missouri Senate for discussion.
Other Bills Moving to the Senate
HB 1268 would allow the Missouri Dental Board to issue dental faculty permits to individuals who are employed by accredited dental schools, colleges, or programs in Missouri. Supporters say the bill would allow qualified dental instructors to teach dentistry without having to go through the extensive and difficult procedure necessary to get a license to practice dentistry.
HB 1809 would add Franklin County to the compact between Missouri and Illinois creating the Bi-State Development Agency and the Bi-State Metropolitan Development District. Supporters say the bill would allow greater economic development opportunities for Franklin County.
HB 1464 would authorize telephone companies to elect to have their tangible personal property assessed in accordance with a depreciation schedule. Supporters say the bill would create a level playing field for the tax treatment of telecommunications companies some of which were regulated under older, utility-based standards that should not apply to deregulated markets.
HB 1873 would specify that the court may require any person found guilty of chasing, pursuing, taking, transporting, killing, processing, or disposing of certain wildlife in violation of the Missouri Conservation Commission's rules and regulations to make restitution to the state. Supporters say Missouri has some of the lowest poaching fines in the country and the bill would increase the fines and reduce poaching.
HB 1428 would allow the county commission of non-charter counties to appoint persons to vacated county elected offices. Supporters say the bill would help to avoid situations where a vacancy causes a county office to shut down.
HB 1896 would adopt the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact in order to regulate the day-to-day practice of telepsychology by psychologists across state boundaries. Supporters say the bill would increase public access to psychology services via telepsychology across state lines. This would increase access to care for underserved or geographically isolated populations.
HB 1607 would extend from December 31, 2018, to December 31, 2023, the $.50 fee that is collected on the retail sale of a lead-acid battery as well as the fees for any hazardous waste generated. Supporters say the fee was established in 2005 to allow citizens to help fund the Hazardous Waste Program.
HB 1928 would establish guidelines for the future regulation of occupations and professions within the State of Missouri. Supporters say the goal of the bill is to ensure that all future professional regulations be based on fact and only imposed when necessary to protect the general welfare.
HB 1945 would change the laws regarding the confiscation of animals. Supporters say the bill would require a speedy disposition hearing to determine if an owner is liable for animal abuse or neglect and will save money. Often animal owners forfeit their rights to the animals because they cannot pay the bond or the costs associated with the legal challenge.
As always, it is a pleasure to serve you, and please contact my office if you need anything!
Missouri 115th District State Representative Elaine Gannon, R-De Soto, files a report every other week while the state legislature is in session.