‘Prison nurseries’ proposal would let incarcerated mothers bond with newborns in prison

      Women in Missouri prisons might not have to be separated from their newborns under a bill being considered for the legislative session that begins in January.

Representative Bruce DeGroot (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      The plan would allow some women who are pregnant when they are about to be incarcerated for short sentences to have their babies with them in prison so that they can bond with their newborns.  The idea is being referred to as the establishment of “prison nurseries.”

      Missouri Appleseed is an organization helping drive the effort.  Director Liza Weiss said some other states already have such programs, and some of those have been in place for years.

      “These programs last for a variety of times from three months to three years,” said Weiss.  She said women who have release dates falling within the given length of time and meet regulations set by the Department of Corrections, “would be able to participate in this program and live with their child, with their baby, in a separate area of the prison and care for the baby and bond with the baby, and then leave prison together with the baby, and be able to be a parent to the child.” 

      Representative Bruce DeGroot (R-Ellisville) will sponsor one version of the proposal.  He thinks it’s simply good government.

      “I think that once that bond forms, when these women get out they’re naturally going to want to take care of that baby and start doing the right things with their lives, and that’s why I’m so excited about this bill,” said DeGroot.

      Representative Curtis Trent (R-Springfield) plans to sponsor similar legislation.  He said the results seen in other states are encouraging.

      “Women and children do better, both in terms of mental health, the bonding of the child to the mother.  There’s also some indication that recidivism rates are lower in the long run, and of course there’s savings to the taxpayer as well.  If you take the child from the mother and put it into the foster system that’s a very expensive process.”  

      “Research on the development of the child has been very positive as well,” said Weiss.  “We realize this would be a change for the Department of Corrections, but we do think it would really be a win-win for the women and the babies.”

The Department told House Communications that right now when a woman in a Missouri state prison gives birth, that baby goes into foster care or with a family member. 

Representative Curtis Trent (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Currently, pregnant women are housed at the prison in Vandalia.  As of early October, 23 had delivered babies.  In 2016, that number reached 73, but decreased to 49 in 2019 and 31 last year.  The Department notes that in the last 4 years Missouri’s population of incarcerated women has dropped by 42 percent.

      Representatives DeGroot and Trent are still developing draft language for their bills, and DeGroot said the Department of Corrections is involved.  He expects to propose that the program be available to women whose sentences are for up to 18 months. 

      “The [woman has] to be a model prisoner.  She has to either have a high school degree or equivalent, or [be] working on that while in prison.  And, they have to remain a model prisoner, and they have to engage in pre- and post-natal classes so they learn how to take care of that baby.”

      DeGroot said he also views this as a “pro-life bill.”

      “I don’t know how many women who are scheduled to go to prison would actually consider aborting that baby before they got there, but I think this provides an incentive and peace of mind knowing that you’re going to be able to keep that baby and get that mother-baby bond while you’re still incarcerated … we’ve given some real hope, if this bill would get enacted,” said DeGroot.

      Not only is it anticipated the idea would save the state money, Weiss said she thinks it could be entirely supported by outside donations and grants. 

      “Missouri Appleseed has already been approached by several charities and foundations who’ve said this is something they’d be very excited about to support,” said Weiss.  “And part of the draft language from Representative DeGroot’s bill does create a fund in which grants from foundations and donations can be accepted by the state, too, to fund and sustain the nursery.”

      Legislators can begin pre-filing legislation on December 1, for the session that begins in January.

Pronunciations:

DeGroot does not include the “oo” sound = [de-GROTE)

Weiss rhymes with mice = [wice]

House members frustrated by Department after report on missing foster children

      Missouri House members aren’t pleased with a lack of answers from the Department of Social Services in the wake of a federal report slamming its lack of response when children in foster care go missing.

Representative Mary Elizabeth Coleman (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      The U.S. Department of Health and Senior Services’ Office of the Inspector General report is based on 2019 data and was released last week.  It said the state does not properly report when children are missing and doesn’t do enough to keep them from going missing again, if they are found.

      “I was shocked by the scope of the report but I was not surprised by the content,” said Representative Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R-Arnold), Chairman of the House Committee on Children and Families, which met Tuesday in response to that report.

      That study found that 978 children went missing from state care at some point during 2019.  In looking closely at the handling of 59 cases of children missing from foster care, it found that in nearly half there was no evidence that the state had reported those children missing as required by law.

Department of Social Services Acting Director Jennifer Tidball and Children’s Division Interim Director Joanie Rogers testify to the House Committee on Children and Families (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      The Committee heard testimony from Department of Social Services Acting Director Jennifer Tidball, who said many of the policy issues cited in the report stemmed from a previous administration.  She produced a 2016 memo from then-director Tim Decker that allowed caseworkers to quit some practices and documentation, some of which she says has been resumed since 2019.

      Coleman and other lawmakers were frustrated by what they saw as a “passing of the buck,” trying to blame that earlier administration, and a failure to follow the law and to implement programs the legislature has authorized to help the Division keep foster kids safe.

      “If the tools that have been given by the legislature have not been utilized and if the state and federal laws are not being followed because it’s the policy of the department, what enforcement mechanism could the legislature use to induce you to follow state and federal statute?”

      The top Democrat on the committee, Keri Ingle (D-Lee’s Summit), said Tuesday’s hearing was beyond frustrating.

      “What do we do if our own departments are telling us that they’re not following state and federal law and they’re not following their own policies and they’re not taking us up on additional resources when we’re offering additional resources?”

Representative Keri Ingle (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Coleman said she was troubled that the Department did not today provide much information outside of what was in the federal report and even challenged its findings.  She said the next step will be to hold a hearing focused on possible solutions.

      “We’re going to continue to work and see what pressure we can put on the Department to continue to follow state and federal law.  The committee will continue to hold hearings.  We’ll probably have one more and then we’ll have a report with recommendations and I would think that you’ll see legislation that comes out of this process,” said Coleman.

      After Tidball’s testimony the Committee heard from several child welfare advocates, offering their response to the report and possible responses, however Tidball and her staff left the hearing shortly after she spoke.

Feminine hygiene products now free to all women incarcerated in Missouri

      Women incarcerated in Missouri prisons and jails will now have access to feminine hygiene products free of charge, under legislation that became law in July.

Representative Bruce Degroot (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Senate Bill 53, signed into law by Governor Mike Parson (R) on July 14, included language that requires city and county jails to join the state’s prisons in providing those products to female inmates at no cost.  Many facilities had already been doing this.  The new law codifies that practice and extends it to those facilities that weren’t. 

      Research in 2018 showed that in Missouri’s two female prisons, more than 80 percent of women were making their own hygiene products, and those they were given for free were ineffectual.  These homemade products were often resulting in infections or other complications.

      The same language found in SB 53 was also sponsored by Representative Bruce DeGroot (R-Ellisville) in his House Bill 318.  DeGroot said the measure was a way to provide dignity to incarcerated women, while saving the state money.

      “These women were receiving additional medical treatment at the cost of the Missouri taxpayer when they did fashion their own products in order to save money,” said DeGroot.

      The proposal had broad bipartisan support.  One of its most vocal advocates was Representative Tracy McCreery (D-St. Louis)

      “What the research has shown is that if you don’t provide people with adequate products, they end up with poorer mental health outcomes and also with infections that can be really quite costly for the government since we’re responsible for healthcare when people are incarcerated,” said McCreery.

      Representatives McCreery and DeGroot both worked with an organization called Missouri Appleseed regarding the issue.  Appleseed is a nonprofit based in St. Louis.  Founding Director Liza Weiss said women in Missouri prisons were having to choose between things like buying adequate hygiene products, or talking to their children on the phone.

Representative Tracy McCreery (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “Women in Missouri prisons who have a GED, they make approximately $8.50 a month, and before this bill passed tampons were being sold in the canteen; a pack of 20 was like $5.36,” said Weiss.  “We’ve heard so many stories … that often times women would be turning down visits with an attorney or even with their family members because they were so ashamed that they weren’t able to take care of their menstrual cycle … they were worried about being embarrassed.”

      McCreery said part of what was so encouraging about this legislation was its bipartisan nature.

      “A lot of Missourians and even a lot of elected officials are really tired of the hyper-partisanship, and this was one of those issues where people from both sides of the aisle and also males and females came together to make this change happen, and I think that we need to do more of that,” said McCreery.

      The fiscal year 2022 budget also includes $240,000 to pay for providing those products to women in county and city jails and detention centers.

Pronunciations:

DeGroot does not include the “oo” sound = [de-GROTE)

Weiss rhymes with mice = [wice]

First MO fuel tax increase since ’96 drops Friday, but refunds available

      On Friday, October 1, Missouri’s gas tax will increase for the first time in 25 years, but Missourians who don’t want to pay the increase have an option.

Representative Becky Ruth (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      The tax will increase by 2.5 cents October first, with more incremental increases every July 1 until it reaches a 12.5 total increase in 2025.  The Department of Transportation estimates the increase, when fully implemented, will generate another $460-million annually for the state’s roads and bridges.

      Those who don’t want to pay the increase will be able to apply for a refund.  The Department of Revenue has prepared a draft of the form that would be used, which can be viewed here.  A final version is expected to be available, either digitally or by paper copy, by the time applications can be accepted between July 1 and September 30 of next year. 

      Fuel purchased in Missouri for vehicles weighing less than 26,000 pounds is eligible for a refund.  House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Becky Ruth (R-Festus) said Missourians who want a refund will, “need to save [fuel] receipts in case they are audited, and there is a form that the Department of Revenue is providing for them to fill out,” said Ruth. 

      Ruth said she’s not concerned that letting people get back some of their tax dollars will hurt the overall goal, that of giving the Department of Transportation more funding to maintain the state’s roads and bridges.

      “I think this is a very fair provision.  If people are happy with the job that’s being one and they want to continue to invest in the roads and bridges, then they will leave their money there.  If they feel like they need to have that money back; they don’t think it’s fair, they need it for whatever reason, or maybe they’re just not happy with how the money is being spent or they don’t feel like MODOT’s doing a good job, they can request a refund of that new tax.”

      Ruth said the initial increase, which begins October 1, has been estimated at about $1 a month for the average Missouri driver. 

      “Once it’s fully phased in [the increase will be] right around $60 [per year].  Again, it depends upon how much you travel, how much gasoline you use,” said Ruth.

      Ruth said the Department has been running about $800-million behind what it needs for road work, per year.  The increase will cover a significant portion of that gap, and will also put Missouri in position to draw federal dollars from an anticipated infrastructure bill.

      “That federal infrastructure bill is an 80/20 match.  Otherwise we would not be in a position to have the match money to pull down those federal dollars … we’re talking about billions.  Roughly, Missouri is looking around $7-billion.  If we did not have this money to pull down that match, that money would end up going to other states.”

      Ruth said she was grateful for the bipartisan support this proposal received.  She thinks that is due, in part, to the refund provision, and to lawmakers recognizing a need for additional money for transportation.

      “I just look forward to seeing Missouri rise in terms of where we’re at in road funding:  having safer roads to travel on, roads that are in better condition.  Our investment in our infrastructure also helps to drive the economy and bring in new business,” said Ruth.

      The gas tax increase became law when Governor Mike Parson (R) signed Senate Bill 262, which passed out the House with a final vote of 104-52.

GALLERY: Historic African American Cemetery could be preserved by DNR under House bill

A cemetery that is historically significant, especially for the African American community at Clinton, Missouri, could be preserved by the Department of Natural Resources under a bill signed into law this year.

One of the veterans buried in Antioch Cemetery is Otis Remus Lyle, who served during World War I.  He is buried next to his father, George.  Otis’ wife, Nellie, remarried after his death and is also buried in Antioch. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The legislation authorizes the state DNR to acquire Antioch Cemetery in Clinton.  It could turn the cemetery into an educational site to be operated by the state Division of Parks.

Many of those interred in the five-acre cemetery are people who were once enslaved.  It was established in 1885, but the first burial occurred 17 years earlier; that of 36 year old James F. Davis, who died in 1868.  Two acres of the site were deeded to Clinton’s African American residents in 1888, for $50.  More land was gifted in 1940.

Representative Rodger Reedy (R-Windsor) sponsored the original version of the Antioch Cemetery language that became law this year, in his House Bill 395.

“The African American Community has been very instrumental to the development of this area.  They’ve been a very big part of the history, and I just felt like it needed to be preserved,” said Reedy.  “My concern was a lot of the cemetery board members were getting older and they were concerned about  how it would be maintained in the future, and I just saw this as a way to make sure this is maintained from here on out.”

There are many homemade headstones at Antioch Cemetery, including that of Charley Kerr, who died in 1914 as the result of a stab wound.  (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“I think our history is important and I think it’s always important to realize how we got to where we are today, and if we let places like this cemetery go by the wayside and not be maintained, our future generations are not going to be able to come back and look at the history,” said Reedy.

The earliest born individual in Antioch Cemetery is identified only as Aunt Mason, who was reportedly 106 years old when she died in 1887.  Contemporary newspaper accounts said she was “probably” the oldest person in the state at the time.  Papers recalled that while enslaved, Aunt Mason had been owned by at least four families, serving as a nurse for one.  One of those may have been the family of a man who was a state representative at the time the Civil War broke out.  It was around that time that she was freed, and for much of the time after that she lived alone.  Papers claim she was later shunned by her neighbors as a “witch and a soothsayer,” but recall she was “remarkable,” and retained vivid memories of her early life.  Hers is one of the many graves in Antioch that lacks a marker.

Representative Rodger Reedy stands at the grave of World War I veteran Gove Swindell, in Antioch Cemetery in Clinton. Reedy sponsored a bill aimed at ensuring the long-term preservation of Antioch. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The cemetery is also the final resting place of several veterans, including Jackson “Uncle Jack” Hall, who fought in the Civil War and died in 1911, at the age of 108.

It also includes brothers Charles and Clarence “Pete” Wilson, who served in World Wars I and II, respectively.  Charles served in France with the 92nd Infantry Division; a segregated infantry division of the U.S. Army that inherited the “Buffalo Soldiers” nickname given to African American cavalrymen in the 19th century.  Clarence was a Sergeant in the Army Air Corps.

Those in the cemetery haven’t always been allowed to rest peacefully.  In 1891, about two weeks after he was buried, the grave of Mat Wilson was desecrated and someone stole his body, leaving behind only his head and feet.

Burials at Antioch Cemetery have continued into the modern era, and the legislation will allow that to continue.

Click the left and right arrows below for more photos from Antioch Cemetery:

Antioch Cemetery

Veto session: House votes to fund programs fighting child abuse, neglect; Senate disagrees

      The Missouri House voted Wednesday to override Governor Mike Parson’s (R) vetoes of several spending proposals in the state budget, including one aimed at stemming the sexual abuse of children in Lincoln County. 

Representative Randy Pietzman (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      The Senate did not concur on those overrides and allowed the governor’s actions to stand, and those proposals to fail.

      House members including Lincoln County representative Randy Pietzman (R-Troy) took to the floor expressing anger and frustration that Parson rejected $300,000 to fund a 3-year pilot program that would’ve hired investigators, a prosecutor, and staff to address an increase in sex offenders in the region.

      “I have children in my district that are getting ravaged … I’d like to read you the list of the cases but I think it’s just too much.  Children in my district getting raped and made child pornography with them.  It’s going on and we’ve got to stop it,” said Pietzman.

      He said that line item would be enough to get the program started and after 3 years local officials could sustain it after that.

Pietzman said he was approached with “offers” by people who didn’t want him to even propose the override.

      “Screw those guys.  I’m fighting to the end for these kids.  They deserve justice.  This is small piece of pie of our budget but it can do so much good if we get it into the hands of the right people, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

      Pietzman directed his criticism squarely at the governor, saying this was a plan he and others in the county worked for years to develop.  The governor has said that a federal grant program can be used to address this issue but Pietzman says that will not work.

      “Unlike [the governor] I’m not looking for a photo opportunity saying this is what I’m doing.  I’m doing it for those kids,” said Pietzman.

      The House voted 150-3 in favor of that override.

      The chamber also voted 151-3 to reverse the governor on a $2-million item that included 3-percent pay raises for caseworkers and supervisors in the Children’s Division.  These employees deal with abuse, neglect, and other issues facing children in the custody of the state.

Representative Raychel Proudie (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Representative Raychel Proudie (R-Ferguson) said Missouri is having a hard time retaining those workers, partly because of how much they are paid.

      “Some of these workers [are] being spat at, cursed at, threatened  [while] trying to protect the children of this state when they can just go down to the local wizard stand or the local Wal-Mart and get paid more, and deal with less.  We owe them better than that,” said Proudie.

      On another vote, the House voted to restore funding for court costs to the owners of certain wedding venues.  St. Louis Republican Jim Murphy said these owners were years ago told by the Department of Revenue they did not need to pay sales tax, but years later the Department sent them bills for tens of thousands of dollars in back taxes.  Eventually everything was paid back to those owners but the court costs.

      Murphy said the Department harmed and lied to those Missourians.  “This year there was $150-thousand put into the budget to do the right thing, and that’s give these people their money back … well the governor, in his wisdom, and I cannot explain why, vetoed this,” said Murphy.  “We have promised these people over and over again that we would do right by them, only to have the rug pulled out from under them.”

      The House supported that override 152-2.

      It also voted 112-38 to override a veto on $700,000 for a Community Improvement District along Business Loop 70 in Columbia.

      These overrides were sent to the Senate, which voted to reject two of them and did not vote on the other two, so the governor’s vetoes stand.

Missouri WIC recipients to get farmers’ markets vouchers under new law

      A new law could soon have more Missourians on nutrition assistance going to farmers’ markets.

Representative Martha Stevens (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Language in House Bill 432 will bring the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) within the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program back to Missouri.  This will allow those receiving WIC assistance to use vouchers at farmers markets. 

      Missouri previously participated in the program up until more than a decade ago. 

      The FMNP language was from a standalone bill (House Bill 652) filed by Representative Martha Stevens (D-Columbia), whose background is in social work. 

      “It’s a way to address food insecurity, which is a significant issue in our state for low-income families.  It’s a way to support new moms and young children that are at nutritional risk.  It’s a way to draw down federal dollars to be distributed in our local economy, and it’s a way to support local farmers, but also for some families, potentially this might be their first introduction to a community farmers’ market, so the hope is that they’ll continue to use those markets going further even when they don’t potentially qualify for WIC benefits.”

      She said initially it will be couched in the existing Seniors’ Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program in the counties that offer it.

      “The hope is that after this is established that this is a program that can grow across the state.  We could even, potentially, receive more of the grant money from the USDA to grow that program,” said Stevens.

      The program will be maintained by the state Department of Agriculture, which must submit to the USDA by November an implementation plan.   Stevens said it will likely be next year before WIC recipients in Missouri can get vouchers, as the program funding is grant based.

VIDEO: New license plate supporting Negro Leagues Baseball Museum soon available

      A museum telling an important story in the nation’s sports and cultural histories is featured on a new license plate that will soon be available to Missourians.

      The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City began in a one-room office in 1990 and today is in a 10,000 square-foot home among the Museums at 18th & Vine in Kansas City.  It is the only museum dedicated to the Negro Leagues, which originated in Kansas City in 1920 and offered people of color a chance to play professional baseball at a time when they were barred from playing in the major and minor leagues due to racism.

      License plates bearing the Museum’s logo will soon be available. It will cost $15 more than a regular license plate registration, and applicants can opt to donate $10 to the museum.  This is the result of legislation carried by Representative Mark Sharp (D-Kansas City)

      Sharp said the legacy of the Negro Leagues goes far beyond sports, having just as much to do with United States’ history and culture, and it meant a lot to him personally.

      “Without seeing black athletes and black players I’m not sure that I would’ve had the confidence in myself to do some of these things.  To see other folks and to know the story of what these gentlemen – and a lot of women – that get lost in the Negro Leagues’ history, what they had to go through really sets the standard for moving forward,” said Sharp.  “Without those players and what they’ve done I’m not sure a lot of young athletes would have the confidence to go out there and do what they do.”

      “The license plate will, one, create a bigger awareness of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.  A lot of folks in Kansas City are aware of it but I’m not sure everyone across the state is aware of it, of this gem of a museum that we have here in our state,” said Sharp.  “Also, it will provide another funding mechanism for the museum.  For museums like this we also have to have enough ways and means to get funding to them to make sure they can stay up to date with current trends and make sure that the museum is in good condition.”

      Sharp carried Senate Bill 189 which included language that he also sponsored in House Bill 100, to create the plate.  The proposal received broad, bipartisan support in both chambers. 

      “We are just absolutely thrilled with this level of recognition and the opportunity to generation additional support,” said Museum President Bob Kendrick.  “I gotta tip my cap to all of the legislators who made this possible and what a tremendous nod that is to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.”

      SB 189 took effect August 28. When the new plates are available Missourians will be able to get them through local license offices.

Benton Mural model bids ‘fond farewell’ to his likeness

      The last living model for one of the Missouri State Capitol’s best-known artistic features paid a visit to his likeness today, giving in what could prove to be a “fond farewell.” 

Harold Brown, Junior, in front of his likeness (the baby whose diaper is being changed) in the Benton Mural, “The Social History of Missouri,” in the Missouri State Capitol (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communcations)

      In 1935, the legislature commissioned Thomas Hart Benton to paint the walls of the House of Representatives’ Lounge on the Capitol’s third floor.  Benton called it “The Social History of Missouri;” a history that he felt would be incomplete without a baby, for without children there would have been no expansion into the west.

      Enter Harold Brown, Junior, then the 1 year-old son of Missouri Adjutant General Harold Brown, Senior.  While Benton was visiting the General’s home he saw young Harold crawling on a blanket and asked to include him in the mural.  The Browns agreed and Benton sketched the youngster. 

      It is Harold’s likeness that became a baby having his diaper changed while a political rally plays out behind.

      “It’s been an honor,” said Brown of being included in the mural.  He said he likes to share the piece, and his story, with people.  “I’m fortunate to be there.”

Thomas Hart Benton’s sketch of one year-old Harold Brown, Junior, who he later included in his mural on the walls of the House Lounge in the Missouri State Capitol. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Brown, now 86, said with a wry smile that he’s “getting pretty feeble,” so he’s not sure how many more times he will be able to visit the mural.

      His father is also in the mural.  Benton was actually at the family’s home to sketch Harold, Senior’s likeness when he got the idea to include Harold, Junior.  The elder Brown is the foreman of a jury in a courtroom scene near the southeast corner of the Lounge.

      Brown also has the sketches Benton made of him and of his father.  The sketch of his one-year-old self includes blotches of paint; the artist’s reminders to himself of what colors to use for the infant’s skin and eyes.

      Benton signed the sketch, “To the Browns with apologies.”  Brown explains, Benton was concerned Brown’s parents wouldn’t appreciate his rendition of their baby boy.

Harold’s father, Harold Brown Senior, also made it into Benton’s mural. He is the jury foreman in this scene – he can be seen with his left hand over his wright wrist. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “My mother said, ‘Why with apologies?  That’s such a beautiful thing.’  [Benton] said, ‘Because that’s my style.  It’s bold and the baby is much prettier than that,’ and that’s why he signed it like that.”

      Brown said he never met Benton after he was old enough to have remembered him, “and I can kick myself.  I should have found out where he was in Kansas City or wherever he was and introduced myself to him and shake his hand.  I think he would have appreciated that too,” said Brown.  “You know, you think that you’re too busy to do a lot of things that you should do until it’s too late.”

      Brown, Junior’s bare-bottomed likeness and the rest of the “Social History of Missouri” can be seen during guided tours of the Missouri State Capitol, which are offered by staff of the State Museum.

Missouri college athletes to be able to profit from name, likeness under House bill

      Student athletes in Missouri colleges and universities can now profit off of their name, image, and likeness and hire an agent, under House legislation that has been signed into law.  The change would be effective beginning July 1 of next year and comes after the NCAA adopted a new policy on the matter.

Representative Nick Schroer (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communciations)

      Representative Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon) was one sponsor of a proposal on the subject.  He said even before other states began passing such legislation, he saw it as an issue of freedom.

      He said students who weren’t athletes could make money, especially on social media, or sign endorsements.  This included anything from teaching piano lessons for pay to having a popular YouTube channel on a subject that could have nothing to do with what they were studying.

      “However if you’re a student athlete, the walls of liberty are blocked off, and for me it wasn’t fair.  Our free market should be something that everyone can take advantage of in our state and across the nation.  That was the biggest compelling point for me,” said Schroer.

      Representative Wes Rogers (D-Kansas City) agreed with that and other points, and noted that as long as Missouri didn’t have this kind of law its institutions were at a disadvantage in recruiting, to counterparts in other states.

      “We’re seeing that,” said Rogers.  “I represent parts of Kansas City and they didn’t do it in Kansas and they’re worried about us, and so absolutely it’s going to help.  Every state [with an SEC school that Mizzou plays against] have passed this, so if we didn’t pass it we would fall even further behind.”

      Rogers said this wasn’t just an issue for football and basketball programs in major schools.

      “This actually got started by women’s athletes in the PAC-12 out west who were Olympic-level athletes who were sleeping in their cars.  So you’ve got these women who are winning national titles on a track that can’t afford their basic needs because their scholarship doesn’t go far enough … it wasn’t big time football that got this rolling,” said Rogers.

Representative Wes Rogers (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Schroer said it also just makes sense to let students begin making money with which they can begin to control their educational debt even before they graduate.  He thinks it is that argument that led to many lawmakers supporting the language.

      “Let’s allow this freedom across the board – the same freedom that’s made this country phenomenal, the same freedom that has allowed people to pull themselves out of poverty.  I think we’ll be able to tackle this student debt issue by allowing this freedom here in the State of Missouri.”

      Colleges that use students’ names, images, and likenesses in commercial deals would have to have a financial development program for each of those students once a year.  Students who have entered into endorsements could not display a company’s name or logo during team activities if that display would conflict with the school’s contracts and licenses.

      The NCAA’s new policy adopted earlier this year allows students to profit off their name, image, or likeness within the bounds of their state’s laws.

      The language passed as part of House Bill 297, sponsored by Representative Wayne Wallingford (R-Cape Girardeau).