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After a busy five months the first regular session of the 96th General Assembly has come to a close. Several vital pieces of legislation were passed this year and I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the most important bills for the 144th district that the legislature truly agreed to and finally passed.
HJR 2 would place on the November 2012 ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that would protect and expand the rights of Missourians to pray in public places. Specifically, it would allow people to pray in public places as long as their actions do not disturb the peace. It also would allow students to express their religious beliefs in assignments that violate their beliefs. In addition, it would reaffirm the right of employees and elected officials of the State of Missouri to pray on government premises and public property.
HB 458 established the Missouri Farmland Trust Act to provide young farmers with a means to acquire land through a low-cost lease and to allow land to continue to be farmed in the future. Through the act, individuals and entities can donate or convey farmland to the Department of Agriculture to preserve it as farmland and to assist beginning farmers by allowing long-term, low- and variable-cost leases on the land, making it affordable for the next generation of farmers to produce food, fiber, and fuel.
The bill also changes the definition of noxious weed and expands the requirement of every landowner to control all noxious weeds growing on his or her land. In addition, the bill establishes the Private Landowner Protection Act to allow for the creation and enforcement of conservation easements designed to protect the environment or preserve certain historical or cultural aspects of real property.
HB 213 and SB 65 are identical bills passed by the legislature that will put additional restrictions in place for any woman seeking a late-term abortion. The legislation will make it illegal to abort a fetus deemed capable of living outside the womb. Specifically, it would ban abortions after 20 weeks unless two doctors verify that: the fetus is not viable, an abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman, or the continuation of the pregnancy will create a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the woman. For a fetus found to be unviable, a doctor would be required after performing the abortion to report to the state why the child was unviable. Doctors who violate the law could spend up to seven years in prison and be fined up to $50,000.
HB 294 lowers the minimum age requirement to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon from 23 to 21. The minimum age requirement of 23 has been in place since 2003 when the legislature first enacted the concealed-carry law. By changing the requirement to 21, Missouri’s law will be similar to that of the majority of states which allow concealed gun permits.
The bill also increases the training requirements for an individual seeking a concealed gun permit. Under current law, a permit applicant must shoot a total of 50 rounds with any handgun. HB 294 requires an applicant to gain experience shooting 50 rounds each with a revolver and a semiautomatic pistol.
Other provisions of the bill make it easier for Missourians to buy firearms out of state and prohibit the sales tax on any firearms or ammunition from being levied at a higher rate than sales tax charged on sporting goods equipment or hunting equipment.
HB 73 requires the Department of Social Services to develop a program to screen each applicant for or recipient of Temporary Relief for Needy Families (TANF) Program benefits. The bill will allow applicants and recipients to be tested if case workers with the Department of Social Services have reasonable suspicion of drug use. The penalty for a failed drug test will be a loss of benefits for three years. However, individuals who fail a test can avoid a loss of benefits by completing a substance abuse treatment program. The bill also contains a provision to ensure that only the adult who fails the drug test will lose benefits. Children of an individual who fails a drug test will continue to receive benefits through a third party selected by the state. In addition, the bill requires all electronic benefit cards to include a photo of the recipient.
HB 641 would outlaw synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of cocaine and marijuana. These products have been marketed to young people as “bath salts” and incense. The “bath slats” have side effects similar to those of cocaine, which causes users to hallucinate and become violent.
Legislation passed last year by the General Assembly banned possession of one type of synthetic marijuana commonly known by the name K2. Soon after that legislation was passed, another form of synthetic marijuana known as K3 went on the market.
HB 641 would add to the list of schedule 1 controlled substances several forms of stimulants, including “bath slats” and hallucinogenic synthetic cannabinoids. Possession of the “bath salts” or more than 35 grams of the synthetic cannabinoids would be a class C felony. In addition, the bill would make it a class A felony to distribute cocaine near a park.
The legislature also passed the budget for the 2012 fiscal year.
A full listing of all the bills truly agreed to and finally passed during session can be accessed on the Missouri House of Representatives website: http://house.mo.gov/.