Under the bill a judge considering whether an order should last for a lifetime would consider the evidence of the case; the history of abuse, stalking, and threatening; an abuser’s criminal record; previous orders of protection; and whether the respondent has violated probation or parole, or previous orders of protection.
Lane said the women who bravely came to testify on his bill shared stories of horrific abuse that had continued for years.
The bill would also allow courts to include pets in dealing with domestic abuse. This would include awarding possession of a pet and considering abuse or threatened abuse of a pet in making decisions in the case. Legislators said often abusers threaten or harm a pet in an effort to control or terrorize a victim.
The House voted 151-2 to send that legislation to the Senate.
House members from both parties are not happy that Missourians are being asked to pay back unemployment assistance they received in error through no fault of their own.
Department of Labor Director Anna Hui told the Special Committee on Government Oversight overpayments are “kind of built into” the unemployment system. The Department is expected to make an eligibility determination and get a payment out to an applicant within 14 days, generally based solely on information provided by the applicant. As additional information comes in, often from the applicant’s current or past employers, it could prove he or she was not eligible.
She said for 2020 that amounted to about $150-million in benefits that the Department paid out and now wants back.
Hui told the committee Governor Mike Parson (R) has made clear that he wants the Department to seek collection of those overpayments, viewing them as taxpayer dollars that went to ineligible individuals.
Several legislators said they have heard from constituents who have been asked to pay back thousands of dollars in state or federal relief, sometimes months after they received it. One constituent was asked to repay about $23,000.
Representatives, including Raychel Proudie (D-Ferguson), said the reasons given to individuals for their ineligibility were not always clear. She read a letter the Department sent to one of her constituents telling them they had to repay for a “miscellaneous reason.” Proudie called that “unacceptable.”
Federal directives have given states the option not to require repayment of assistance from the federal government, which makes up the majority of the $150-million the Department overpaid. Hui explained that Missouri is choosing to seek repayment of federal relief.
The Department is required by state statute to collect overpayments out of the state fund.
Dan Thacker represents a union including about 500 school bus drivers and monitors. He said many of them make salaries that would put them near the poverty level, yet roughly 400 are being asked to pay back thousands of dollars.
St. Joseph Republican Bill Falkner said any legislative action will have to balance the waiving of repayment by Missourians with protecting businesses, as some of these overpayments are charged to them.
Committee members also spoke directly to Missourians during the hearing. Cupps said the repayment situation is adding to already heightened stress for struggling Missourians. He wants them to know he and other legislators are paying attention, and are looking for a solution.
Hui told the committee that Missouri is on pace to need a loan to support the state’s unemployment trust, likely by around June. She did not offer a projection of how great that loan might be. She said this could cause employers to have to pay more, as that loan is repaid.
Witnesses and lawmakers alike suggested that repayment decisions have seemed arbitrary and inconsistent, with some people being ordered to pay back only federal funds, some to pay back only state funds, and some told to pay everything or nothing.
A House bill that became law Tuesday aims to keep Missourians from being jailed for failing to pay the costs of being jailed.
House Bill 192, targeting so-called “debtors prisons” in Missouri, was signed into law by Governor Mike Parson (R). It will do away with “show cause” hearings, in which defendants must provide a reason for failing to pay “board bills” for time they spent in a county jail. Failure to show cause often resulted in additional jail time and additional board bills that could add up to thousands of dollars.
HB 192 will let counties use civil means to collect jail debts, but they can no longer threaten additional jail time for failure to pay.
DeGroot and Ellebracht both credit St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger for spurring the legislation with a series of articles he wrote about the current system. Those articles also earned Messenger a Pulitzer Prize.
In one case Messenger wrote about, a woman incurred more than $10,000 in “board bills” after stealing an $8 tube of mascara.
DeGroot said situations like that go against the principle of people who have paid their debt to society returning to being productive members of society, providing for themselves and their families, and getting back on the tax rolls.
The Legislature has approved bipartisan legislation that would keep Missourians from being put back in jail for failing to pay the costs of being put in jail; and would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent crimes.
House Bill 192 aims to end charging prisoners board bills” for their stays in jail. Persons who don’t pay those bills can be required to come to a “show-cause” hearing and risk additional jail time. Lawmakers said this amounted to putting people in a “debtor’s prison.”
The bill would allow counties to seek to collect jail bills through civil means, with no threat of jail time. The House’s 138-11 vote on Monday sends that bill to Governor Mike Parson (R).
The Senate added to HB 192 legislation to allow judges to waive mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for non-violent offenders who meet certain criteria. That was the goal of House Bill 113, which the House passed in February, 140-17.
Springfield Republican Curtis Trent said both provisions speak to priorities that Governor Parson and Chief Justice Zel Fischer both spoke about when addressing the House and the Senate earlier this year.
The Missouri House has voted to keep judges from putting people back in jail for failing to pay for the costs of keeping them in jail.
House Bill 192 would keep a person’s failure to pay a jail for housing that person, from resulting in more jail time that would result in additional housing costs. Instead, a local sheriff could attempt to collect such costs owed through civil proceedings, or a judge could waive those costs.
HB 192 has broad, bipartisan support, as members of both parties agreed that being jailed for failing to pay so-called “board bills” only created a cycle of debt that some Missourians have been trapped in for years. Legislators gave examples of individuals who had stolen items like makeup or candy, and years later owe tens of thousands of dollars to the local jails that had housed them.
HB 192 would do away with hearings in which the court requires a defendant to show why he or she shouldn’t be jailed for failing to pay board bills. Lawmakers heard that defendants are often required to appear monthly for such hearings and a warrant is issued for them if they fail to appear.
The bill is supported by a number of groups including the Missouri State Public Defender, the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.
The House voted 156-1 to send the bill to the Senate for its consideration.
A bill that would update Missouri’s sex offender registry has been sent to the state Senate.
House Bill 2042 would classify the registry’s offenders into three tiers based on their offenses: less-serious offenses would land an offender on the first tier, with those on the third tier having committed the most serious offenses. Those on the first tier could petition the courts to be removed from the registry ten years after being placed on it. Those on the second tier could petition after 25 years; those on tier three would remain on the registry for life. Those who commit additional sex crimes or felonies while on the registry also could not petition for removal.
The bill’s sponsor, St. Charles Republican Kurt Bahr, said for some offenders to have the opportunity to come off of the registry will strengthen it, while giving those offenders a better chance at getting quality employment and jobs and put them at less risk of re-offending.
The bill was passed out of the House 144-2. Bahr was surprised at the broad support it received.
The bill’s broad bipartisan support includes Liberty Democrat Mark Ellebracht, who said lawmakers and the public are seeing now that the registry has been in place for years, what needs to be changed about it.
Ellebracht believes there are potential constitutional issues with the legislation that will have to be addressed in the Senate, but he supports the concepts in the bill, including an amendment that broadens prohibitions on sex offenders participating in Halloween-related events.
The bill also requires anyone on the registry who is convicted of child molestation in the first degree to be electronically monitored if he or she moves to a different county or city not within a county until that move is completed.
The Senate has referred the bill to its committee on Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence.
The Missouri House has voted to criminalize what is often called, “revenge porn;” 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.
House Bill 1558 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.
People who sue makers of cars and their components after sustaining injuries related to those products could be awarded less money if they weren’t properly using a seat belt, under a bill being considered in the Missouri House.
Right now a person filing such a suit could see damages reduced up to 1-percent, but only if expert evidence is presented showing that failing to properly use a seat belt could have contributed to his or her injuries. Representative Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon), the sponsor of House Bill 1264, said such evidence is almost never presented if only because experts typically cost more to hire than the 1-percent mitigation would amount to.
HB 1264 would remove that 1-percent limit and the requirement for expert evidence, and leave to a jury the decision of whether the seat belt could have made a difference. The jury would also have the option of whether to adjust damages by any amount. The bill is going to be amended so that it will deal only with products liability cases.
Ellebracht favors an earlier version of the bill that would increase the cap on the mitigation of damages from 1-percent to 25-percent rather than remove it entirely. Schroer plans to amend that version of the bill to match language the Senate is considering, which removes the cap entirely.
Both representatives hope the legislation will have the added effect of compelling more Missourians to wear their seat belts.
The Committee on Litigation Reform is expected to vote on HB 1264 next week.
House lawmakers continue to lay out a slate of proposed ethics reforms they believe would help restore the public’s trust in Missouri’s elected officials.
Columbia Democrat Kip Kendrick presented to the House Committee on General Laws, House Bill 217, an omnibus bill encompassing a series of measures offered by other members of his caucus. He said each proposed reform is based on promises made by candidates during the recent campaign cycle – promises that he says were endorsed by voters based on which candidates made those promises and won.
Two key provisions would build on work already done by the House toward ethics reform that House Democrats say they want to take farther than earlier proposals. One aims to ban gifts and monetary donations from lobbyists to elected officials.
Kirkwood Democrat Deb Lavender is carrying the Democrats’ version of a proposed gift ban, House Bill 212. She told lawmakers her bill would be tougher than House Bill 60, passed two weeks ago by the House.
Kirkwood Democrat Deb Lavender is carrying the Democrats’ version of a proposed gift ban, House Bill 212. She told lawmakers under House Bill 60, passed two weeks ago by the House, organizations could exploit a provision that lets them provide meals for legislators at events as long as all members of the General Assembly and all state lawmakers are invited.
The other provision proposes extending the prohibition on elected or appointed officials or legislators becoming lobbyists from six months to five years after their term has ended, and would apply that to certain legislative staff. It is also found in House Bill 213, sponsored by Representative Joe Adams (D-University City).
Other provisions in HB 217 propose prohibiting any candidates’ committees from transferring their funds to their candidate’s family members; requiring former candidates to dissolve their candidate committees; and letting the Missouri Ethics Commission prosecute criminal cases and initiate civil cases if the state Attorney General declines to pursue either regarding an alleged ethics violation. Those provisions are found in House Bill 214 (Tracy McCreery), House Bill 215 (Mark Ellebracht), House Bill 216 (Crystal Quade), respectively.
Republicans have their own proposals to further reform Missouri ethics laws. Ballwin Representative Shamed Dogan wants to ban gifts from lobbyists to local government officials.
Dogan said such officials are held to a much lower standard than legislators.
Republican Tom Hurst (Meta) presented House Bill 150, which would exempt individuals not paid to lobby from having to register or report as a lobbyist.
Hurst said he wants members of the public to know that they can talk to elected officials about issues that concern them without having to file as a lobbyist, and without fear of being prosecuted for failing to file.