House logs 372 proposals on first day of filing for 2022 session

      Wednesday at the Missouri Capitol there was a sense of new energy in the air.  Christmas decorations were going up, the weather was that of a spring day, and most of all, new bills were dropping everywhere.  December 1 is a day when Missourians get a first look at what legislators will consider as the filing of bills for the 2022 legislative session began.

Representative Cyndi Buchheit-Courtway files a piece of legislation for the 2022 session. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “Prefiling day is basically a holiday if you’re an elected official down here in Jefferson City.  It’s a good day to be back in the building, it’s exciting.  You can kind of feel in the air that it’s almost time to get back into the swing of things,” said Representative Mark Sharp (D-Kansas City).

      Farmington Republican Dale Wright said it’s often better for legislation to be filed early, as that can give it a better chance of gaining traction early in the session and a better chance at passage.  That means a lot of proposals are brought in on day 1.

      “It’s amazing how many bills get filed.  I’m always amazed at all of the work that House Research and the analysts do.  They don’t get enough credit,” said Wright.

Click here to view the bills filed in the House for the 2022 legislative session.

      For some legislators there is some strategy involved in whether they want to put a proposal forward sooner or later.

      “I’ve spoken to other members that believe if they prefile something it gives the opposition a month to work on attacking that bill,” said Representative Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon)“I’m one that’s fully transparent.  People know what I’m going to file, they know where I stand on issues, and give them an extra month, I don’t care.  I just think that voters and the constituents need to know what work is being done in the interim, what work is going to be done in 2022.”

      Wright said Missourians should know that it’s a hectic day in the Capitol.

      “I truly believe that the people who are serving up here are serving for the right reasons, and that is to be advocates and be the voice of the people back home, and wo when we file these bills it’s usually for something that helps our constituents back home, but in general, also for the State of Missouri.”

      Prefiling can feel very different for House Democrats, who face a supermajority of Republicans.  Kansas City Democrat Ashley Aune said even when proposing legislation they know will be opposed, members of her caucus can be serving a purpose.  She said one piece of advice she has held onto came from fellow Representative Tracy McCreery (D-St. Louis).

Legislators can begin filing legislation for the coming session on December 1 of the preceding year. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “She tells me that filing a piece of legislation as a member of the superminority is like starting a conversation, and that’s what this is for us, especially with the bills that we know aren’t going to go anywhere.  It gives us a chance to start a conversation not only with our constituents to signal that we are working for them and doing the work that they sent us down here to do, it gives us an opportunity to have the conversation with our colleagues across the aisle and say, ‘Hey, this is a priority for me.  Where can we meet in the middle?’”

      Sharp said the enthusiasm of filing day is encouraging, but it’s also a reminder to be thoughtful in what is filed.

      “A lot of times people swing for the fences and a lot of times that’s just not feasible in most cases, especially as a member of the superminority.  Sometimes you have to just get some of the breadcrumbs that haven’t been picked up in the past,” said Sharp.

      Joplin Representative Lane Roberts (R) said he believes it’s important for each legislator to give consideration to not only their own bills, but what others are filing, and that includes those in the opposing party.

      “The fact is that that there’s an awful lot of people on that floor who are sincere.  They want to do the right thing, and when they file bills it’s because they believe that it has some meaning.  Some, maybe more than others, but none of it is meaningless, and whether you’re one side of the aisle or the other, I’ve found that people on the opposite side of the aisle from me sometimes say very smart things,” said Roberts.  “Listening to folks who are presenting the bill, listening to what they have to say, it’s changed my mind a time or two.  It has overcome some preconceived notions that while I may not intended to have it, it just happened.”

      On Wednesday in the House, 372 measures were filed for the 2022 session.  The session begins January 5.

Lawmaker to continue focus on domestic violence issues

      A lawmaker with decades of experience in law enforcement plans to file more legislation meant to help victims of domestic violence in ways he wished he could have during his career. 

Representative Lane Roberts (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Representative Lane Roberts (R-Joplin) said in his career, including as Joplin’s Police Chief, he was often frustrated at seeing how abusers used the court system to continue to intimidate and persecute victims.

      “What you’re looking at is … my efforts to remedy things that I’ve seen go wrong, things that I believe have been wrong, and to do it in a way that doesn’t undermine the intent of a fair and due process,” said Roberts. 

      “Over the years I found myself dealing with a number of different circumstances wherein I truly thought the right thing to do in protecting the victim, frankly, was not provided for in law.  So I wound up having to explain to victims why I couldn’t do the things that the victim and I both knew were in their best interest.  I watched abusers and, in some cases, their representatives twist, manipulate, take advantage of loopholes, doing things that I think the law provided for but not by intent,” said Roberts.  “It was a result of trying to ensure that we treated both sides of the discussion fairly.  Someone who’s been accused of a crime is innocent until they’re proven guilty, so we do need to make that acknowledgement.  We do need to make sure that they receive due process.  But, if the end result is the other side of that equation is abused or treated unfairly, that doesn’t make any sense.  There’s no balance there.”

      Jennifer Carter Dochler with the Missouri Coalition against Domestic and Sexual Violence says the issues the bill would address are ones seen time and time again in cases throughout Missouri.

      “Individuals who are abusive are very good at finding any loophole in the protections that we’ve helped establish.  This bill is absolutely trying to address multiple loopholes that have been identified that prevent the court from doing their best at protecting victims.”

      Roberts proposes specifying that when a person receives notice from a court that a hearing will be held on an order of protection against them, that serves as notification of any orders the court issues on the date of that hearing.  He said this is because often a person who is the subject of an order of protection will violate it, then say in their defense that they didn’t attend the hearing and therefore didn’t know the order had been put in place.  He said this amounts to pleading ignorance, and case law has supported this defense.

      “What I’m trying to do is remove the ambiguity.  You know you’ve been charged.  You’ve been made aware of the hearing.  I think the presumption needs to be the person did, in fact, get notified, not accept the presumption that they didn’t,” said Roberts.

      Carter Dochler said by the time an order of protection hearing is held, a victim has, “already asked the court for safety, and so let’s try to reduce a burden that we have continued to hear, over the years, creates safety issues.”

      Another provision would allow victims to testify in court via video conferencing.  Carter Dochler said in addition to victims having to make time to go to court over and over, each time having to incur costs for things like travel and childcare, there are many safety concerns for them when testifying in court.  Allowing them to provide testimony over video would be a simple fix.

      “Their abusive partner is going to know exactly when they’re going to be there, what time.  Although some courts try to put safety precautions in place … there’s still a safety risk for someone parking, walking into the courthouse, having to wait, how they’re going to leave,” said Carter Dochler.

      Roberts called the video conferencing language one of the pieces of the bill he’s the most committed to, because he’s seen that victims can often be reluctant to testify.

      “It’s difficult to describe, for those of us who’ve never experienced it, what it must be like to be the victim of repeated, and in some cases, vile abuse, to have to sit in the same room with [the person responsible] and have their lawyer pick you apart or have them staring at you with the intent of intimidating you,” said Roberts.  “How many people don’t show up to court because they don’t want to experience that?  How much fear does that create in the mind of somebody who maybe had it in mind that they were going to go forward and then it comes down to the reality of facing somebody in the same room?”

      The bill would also specify that victims and their witnesses don’t have to reveal home or workplace addresses when testifying in court, unless the court deems it necessary.

      “In many cases abusers and wrongdoers will continue to do things that are abusive and wrong for the purpose of advancing their interests in court, and that includes intimidating, threatening, or physically harming witnesses and victims,” said Roberts.  “What we’re really talking about here is giving them some level of comfort that people won’t know where to find them if they step up and do the right thing.”

      A provision the Coalition specifically wanted would clarify that a court can order payment of attorney fees incurred by a victim before, throughout, and after a proceeding.  Carter Dochler said because the current statute includes the word, “or,” an attorney successfully argued in one case that the abuser wouldn’t have to cover fees for all of those time periods.

      “This is another instance where grammar does matter,” said Carter Dochler.  “The intention has always been that somebody could request the respondent to cover reasonable court fees … we’re taking this opportunity to clarify what the intention was.”

      Roberts said based on the response he’s gotten from advocates, he already plans to change some of the language he’s prepared.  In particular, he expects to amend a provision that would bar prosecutors from offering plea bargains to defendants facing certain levels of domestic violence charges. 

      “Maybe we overshot on that,” said Roberts. 

      Other pieces of this bill would require anyone convicted of domestic violence to pay $1,000 to a shelter in the same city or county as the victim; and require that when they are ordered to take a class on domestic violence, they must pay for it.

      In the 2021 session Roberts proposed other domestic violence statute changes that became law in June.  These allowed for orders of protection to be extended for up to a lifetime; covered pets under orders of protection; and expanded the definition of “stalking” to include the use of technology such as GPS and social media, or the use of third parties. 

      Roberts said those pieces of legislation drew something of a “fan following” in Missouri, and for good reason.

      “Many people understand that domestic violence is a real part of everyday life for some people, and hopefully folks have begun to realize that those of us who’ve never been in those situations really cannot understand how horrible it is to live in constant fear, and in the home that’s supposed to be your haven and your safe place,” said Roberts.  “I’ve just seen it for the better part of five decades and the things that we’re talking about here are those kind of individual elements that I feel I can do to maybe remedy some of that.”

      Carter Dochler said the Coalition is grateful for Roberts’ focus on these issues.

      “Representative Roberts is doing an amazing job listening directly from constituents in his community about the barriers they’re experiencing.  He’s also taking his prior law enforcement career and barriers he experienced and he’s trying to address those things, and he’s to be commended,” said Carter Dochler.

      Roberts plans to file this legislation on or after December 1, when prefiling of bills for the 2022 session begins.

New law a ‘game changer’ for some felons seeking work

      An advocate says a new law that began as a Missouri House bill is a “game changer” for people trying to establish new lives after felony convictions.   

Representative Cheri Toalson Reisch (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      The legislation eliminated a prohibition on those with felony convictions working in places which sell lottery tickets.  It also lifted the requirement that businesses who sell alcohol report to the state when they hire someone with a felony.  The changes have been sponsored for several years by Hallsville Republican Cheri Toalson Reisch, and was signed into law this summer and took effect August 28.

      She said it’s about worker freedom.

      “If an employer wants to hire a felon, why should the State of Missouri tell them, ‘No?’”

      Dan Hanneken is the Executive Director of In2Action, a program that helps people transition out of prison.  He says the most important factor in a convicted felon not returning to prison is their ability to find employment.

      “This particular bill might only effect maybe ten percent of the people that we serve, but the level of impact it will make on the ten percent of people will be a complete game-changer for them when they can re-enter the workforce,” said Hannekan.

      “What we want is felons … to work.  We need them to be self-supporting and we need them to support their families,” said Toalson Reisch.  “They want to work, and this gives them more opportunities to go out and get entry-level jobs, work their way up, give them experience, put work on a resume.”

      The proposal, filed by Toalson Reisch as House Bill 316, was amended to Senate Bill 26, which was passed and signed by Governor Mike Parson (R). 

      She said this bill benefit not only her home county of Boone, which she said consistently has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, but the entire state.

      “Most everywhere sells lottery tickets or alcohol, whether it’s a restaurant, a grocery store, convenience store; most anyplace you walk into will have one or both of those items, and that shouldn’t hold people back who want to work, who want to have a job and earn a living.  They’ve served their debt to society.”

      The legislation had broad support, and was viewed as helping fight recidivism and unemployment while supporting criminal justice reform and helping the economy by boosting the eligible workforce.  The House voted 148-1 for the 2020 version of the bill.

      Hanneken said the law before this change was very frustrating for the people he works with, who often want to rebuild their lives, provide for their families, and simply have a path forward after prison.

      “When people are released from prison and they’re told, ‘No, you cannot even work at a convenience store,’ that was incredibly defeating for them,” said Hanneken.   

      Toalson Reisch said the reporting requirement for businesses that sell liquor was, in practice, a pointless exercise for those employers, who had to fill out a form that wasn’t used for anything.

      “All they did was send it in and I was literally told the state did nothing with this form.  They literally threw it in a file cabinet and did nothing with it, and so it was just nonsensical and had no purpose,” said Toalson Reisch.

      The bill also had broad support from groups including Empower Missouri and the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores Association.

Pronunciations:

Cheri Toalson Reisch = shuh-REE TOLE-sun RYSH

Lawmakers to consider ‘Blair’s Law,’ criminalizing celebratory gunfire in 2022 session

      Legislators will be asked again to increase penalties for the reckless firing of guns into the air when they begin a new session in January. 

Blair Shanahan Lane

      For several years legislators have proposed what is known as “Blair’s Law” to criminalize in state statute what’s known as “celebratory gunfire.”  It’s named for Blair Shanahan Lane, who was struck in the neck by a bullet fired from more than a half-mile away over a lake, on July 4, 2011.  She died the next day.

      The owner of the gun that fired the shot that killed Blair later served two years in prison on an involuntary manslaughter charge.   

      Since then more people have been hurt, and in April 24 year-old KCUR radio reporter Aviva Okeson-Haberman was fatally struck by what authorities have called a stray bullet, while she was in bed in her apartment, reading a book.

      In Kansas City celebratory gunfire is a violation of a city ordinance, but no state law directly addresses it.  Legislators and others, including Blair’s mother, hope that making it a misdemeanor or a felony would further discourage the practice.

      Representative Mark Sharp (D-Kansas City) plans to file a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for the first offense, and a felony after that. 

      “The entire goal of this is to discourage people from doing it,” said Sharp.  “I think if this is passed into law and you turn your news on … and you see that this has gone into effect I think that a lot of folks are going to notice that and act accordingly.   I think that you will have some folks thinking twice about doing that kind of celebratory activity.”

      Sharp thinks most who would fire a gun into the air aren’t doing it out of malicious intent, but he wants them to know it’s not safe and they should stop.

Representative Mark Sharp (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “I don’t think that anybody goes out there with the intention of hoping that one of these bullets hurts someone or damages property … but I think we just have to educate people that these bullets do come down,” said Sharp.   

      Sharp has been encouraged that the issue has bipartisan support, including from those who are staunch gun rights supporters.

      “Those folks are really about their business when it comes to gun safety.  They   don’t really take it lightly when folks are abusing that privilege.  They take that responsibility of gun ownership very seriously.  We may not agree on everything but we can certainly agree that that if you’re going to have a weapon it needs to be used and discharged safely,” said Sharp.

      Blair’s mother, Michele Shanahan DeMoss, has advocated for passage of the legislation bearing her daughter’s name, including testifying in multiple legislative hearings over the years.  She said when Blair died six of her organs were donated to five people, and her mother runs a charity which was Blair’s idea – Blair’s Foster Socks – which provides socks and other items to children in need.

      Sharp said he plans to file Blair’s law legislation when prefiling of bills begins on December 1.  The 2022 legislative session begins January 5.

Earlier story:

Bipartisan effort would create ‘Blair’s Law,’ criminalizing celebratory gunfire

Work not done for interim committee on mental health

      An interim panel on mental health policy will hold at least two more hearings according to its chairman, who says its members are taking in information like “drinking water out of a firehose.”

Representative Wayne Wallingford (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      The committee has already heard issues including that there is a staffing shortfall within the Department of Mental Health, and that Missouri ranks 31st in the U.S. for access to mental health services. 

      Chairman Wayne Wallingford (R-Cape Girardeau) said after hearing from state organizations in the first hearing and non-profits in the second, the committee will take testimony on November 3 from individuals with experience dealing with mental health issues.

      “Either because they’re a guardian for someone or they have a son or a relative affected by that, or maybe even themselves,” said Wallingford.

      Wallingford said the committee has drawn a great deal of attention already.

      “I thought maybe I could get it done in three meetings,” said Wallingford.  “I’ve already got the November 3 meeting full and working on the November 10th meeting and it’s probably at least a third full already … so it’s generated a lot of interest and that’s good.”

      Wallingford anticipates there will be legislation in the 2022 legislative session that will stem from these hearings.  He doesn’t have specific bills in mind, but he has his eye on some pilot programs that he feels have been working well in the Columbia area.

      “If we can do something to spread that around the state that would be great.”

      Wallingford said the committee also heard that law enforcement officers often find themselves sitting at hospital bedsides by those who have been arrested and suffer from mental health issues, until a space in mental health institutions can be found for them. 

“If there’s anything we can do legislative-wise to increase the number of beds, that would really, really help.”

      The committee will prepare a report before the session begins in January, and from its findings could come more legislative proposals. 

‘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