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Sam Pratt Law fails again

An hour before the state legislative session was to wrap up for the year, Debbie Thrasher let Sam Pratt Law supporters know that the bill named after her grandson didn’t make it through again this year.

“Sam Pratt’s Law made it farther than it did last year,” Thrasher posted on the Supporters of Sam Pratt Law Facebook Page Friday afternoon. “However, I’m sad to say the bill it was amended to died on the Senate floor.

“One thing is for sure, together we will keep trying to make this a safer world for the children in Missouri. Thanks for all your help and I’ll be asking for it again in the future.”

Last year, Rep. Linda Black, D-Bonne Terre, proposed the bill and it was assigned to the Special Committee on Children and Families which was chaired by Cynthia Davis, R-O’Fallon. Davis refused to hear the bill in committee. As a result, it never made it out of committee but the issue did get media coverage.

Black again proposed the bill this year and in February, State Senator Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, introduced Senate Bill 339 in the Senate. It was almost identical to Black’s Bill 156 in the House. The only difference was his bill also included the proposed Nathan’s Law.

Thrasher said the Senate bill didn’t get heard in committee so Rupp added it onto another Senate Bill and it was debated on the floor this week.

For awhile it looked like the bill was going to pass but other amendments involving child abuse regulations were added on that led to the bill being killed.

Thrasher was very disappointed.

“It’s hard to be mad at anybody when they are wanting to protect children,” Thrasher added.

On the House side, the bill was heard in committee but the committee never took action on it.

“I really thought it was going to go through this year,” she said. “Each time it gets farther and it gets more attention.”

This year, Thrasher and supporters sent out thousands of post cards to legislators about the issue. She believes legislators won’t forget about the bill next year and she is grateful to Rupp and Black for their efforts to get it passed.

Thrasher hopes to get more organizations involved in writing letters next year.

If passed, Sam’s Law would authorize the Department of Health and Senior Services to investigate and prohibit an unlicensed child care provider from continuing to provide child care services if there are criminal charges pending that would similarly result in licensure sanctions for a licensed child care provider. Violating the law is a Class B misdemeanor.

The need for the law became apparent when Sam’s family discovered there was a loophole in the laws for unlicensed child care providers. The unlicensed provider accused of causing Sam’s death was allowed to baby-sit children during a pending investigation.

Sam died on Feb. 2, 2009, when he was 3 months old. An autopsy revealed that he died as a result of a “non-accidental head trauma.”

In July of that year, his baby-sitter, Martha Jane Farris, an unlicensed child care provider from Pilot Knob, was charged in Iron County with abuse of a child resulting in death and with involuntary manslaughter. The case is still pending. Farris’ trial is scheduled Aug. 22-25 in Iron County.

Teresa Ressel is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 179 or at

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