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MCADSV Legislative Update - February 28, 2020
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MCADSV members advocate at the Capitol on priority legislation

MCADSV member agencies met with legislators every week in February as part of Missouri Capitol Advocacy Days. Discussions focused on MCADSV priority legislation and the impact of Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding. Members of the Missouri General Assembly held numerous committee hearings on several of MCADSV’s priority bills during February. These measures included a range of legislation: a Senate bill to enhance the state’s systems for sexual assault forensic evidence collection and storage; a House bill to eliminate the statute of limitations for filing civil suits for damages from childhood sexual abuse; a House bill to waive birth certificate costs for domestic violence victims and homeless youth; a Senate bill to establish a sexual assault victims’ bill of rights; a House bill to increase the annual amount available to be awarded as tax credits for donations to domestic violence shelters; and a Senate bill to establish 50/50 custody in child custody cases that passed a committee with exceptions sought by MCADSV to protect parents who are victims of domestic violence. Also during a February committee hearing, some lawmakers themselves echoed MCADSV’s position of opposition to a House bill that would disallow public assistance recipients from accessing cash from their benefit cards. Other MCADSV-supported bills that await committee hearings include Senate and House bills that would include custody of pets in Orders of Protection and a Senate bill to establish a statewide telehealth network for sexual assault forensic examinations. 

 

MCADSV’s MOmentum Webcast Series: episode focuses on 2020 public policy priorities
This 12th episode of the MOmentum series is now on our YouTube channel—it focuses on our public policy work and priorities for the year.
Tune in here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpOT9jsRmTQ&t=6s

 
 
Appropriations

During February hearings on appropriations bills, members of House appropriations committees did not make any recommendations to reduce grant program funding for domestic and sexual violence victims’ services in the proposed state budget for Fiscal Year 2021. Legislators on the Senate Appropriations Committee and the House Budget Committee did, however, engage during hearings in a bipartisan critique of the administration of federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant funds by the Department of Social Services. As advocacy to problem-solve the issues related to those essential grants continued throughout February, MCADSV staff and advocates with member organizations had productive VOCA-focused meetings with lawmakers.

Funding for domestic and sexual violence services remains unchanged from current levels, unless noted below.

House Bill 2008: Department of Public Safety (DPS)
The DPS budget book contains additional program detail and past spending on the following: 
  • State Services to Victims Fund (SSVF) grants: $2 million
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grants: $3.29 million
  • "Victims’ Compensation Programs:” $11.6 million. These funds support direct compensation to victims, the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) program, and the child abuse forensic exam fund.
  • Rape Kit Testing: $1 million, federal funds. This is a New Decision Item (NDI) for the Crime Lab operated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. 
  • Witness Protection Program: $1 million. This is a NDI budget item.

House Bill 2011: Department of Social Services (DSS)
The DSS Family Support Division budget book contains additional program detail and past spending on the following:
  • Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants: $63,736,877. This is a decrease of $4,629 from current funding.
  • Victims of Sexual Assault grants: $910,000. This is a decrease of $250,000--the amount of the FY20 funds designated for a specific program in St. Louis City.
  • Domestic violence grants (state and federal): $11.1 million. 

House Bill 2010: Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS)
This DHSS budget bill and budget book do not provide specific line-item information on the Rape Prevention and Education (RPE) grant program.


ACTIONS ON PRIORITY LEGISLATION

 

Sexual Assault

Bill to remove statute of limitations for civil suits for child sexual abuse awaits House floor action
HCS House Bill 1411 (Rep. Sheila Solon, R-St. Joseph)
MCADSV supports
HCS HB 1411 awaits House floor action. The bill would remove statute of limitations for filing civil suits to recover damages for personal illness or injury resulting from childhood sexual abuse. Current law has a 10-year statute of limitations.

 

Senate committee hearing held on bill that would establish Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights and Task Force on Sexual Assault
House Bill  2554 (Rep. Becky Ruth, R-Festus)
House Bill 2595 (Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold)
Senate Bill 812 (Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville) 
MCADSV supports
A Senate committee hearing was held Feb. 19 on SB 812. Several amendments sought by MCADSV are included in a committee substitute bill that is not yet publicly posted. These changes cross-reference to existing state law defining rape crisis centers, rape crisis advocates and confidentiality rights at those programs. HB 2554 includes these changes while HB 2595 mirrors current SB 812 language. These bills are part of a state-by-state campaign sought by a national survivors’ organization, RISE. The bills have three main components that would create: 1) a sexual assault survivors’ bill of rights; 2) requirements for the Attorney General to file suit against those who violate survivors’ rights; and 3) a "Missouri Rights of Victims of Sexual Assault Task Force.” MCADSV continues to seek additional amendments to the bill, including changing from a Task Force set in state law to a time-limited Attorney General’s Task Force, as has previously been done for a range of topics. 

 

Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence

No hearings scheduled on bills to establish statewide telehealth network to increase access to sexual assault forensic exams 
House Bill 2582
 (Rep. Keri Ingle, D-Lee's Summit)
Senate Bill 951 
(Sen. Jill Schupp, D-St. Louis)
MCADSV supports
No hearings have been scheduled for HB 2582 and SB 951. They are parallel bills. The bills are titled the "Justice for Survivors Act" and would establish, by July 1, 2022, a statewide telehealth network for sexual assault forensic examinations.

 

Senate bill to update rape kit tracking system and storage of unreported kits awaits Senate floor action 
SCS Senate Bill 569 (Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester)
House Bill 1815 (Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove)
MCADSV supports
A Senate committee passed a Senate Committee Substitute for SB 569 on Feb. 3; the bill now awaits Senate floor debate. No House committee hearing has been scheduled for HB 1815. Both of the bills would enhance systems for sexual assault forensic evidence:

  • A secure, web-based system would be established for tracking sexual assault offense forensic evidence collected as a “rape kit.” The tracking system would allow sexual assault victims/their designees to track, obtain reports, and receive updates on the status and location of their kits and be notified of any updates.
  • All professionals involved in the system of collection and disposition of sexual assault forensic evidence would be required to participate in the tracking system.
  • A state-operated centralized storage repository would be established for unreported rape kits and timeline for storage of unreported kits.
  • The bills would make all records entered into the electronic tracking system confidential and not subject to disclosure.

 

Firearms

No action on bills that would prohibit firearm possession by domestic violence/stalking offenders and protection order respondents
House Bill 2131 (Rep. Doug Beck, D-St. Louis)
House Bill 2724 (Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis) 

Senate Bill 563 (Sen. Jill Schupp, D-St. Louis)
MCADSV supports
No hearings have been scheduled for HB 2131, HB 2724 or SB 563. These identical bills would prohibit firearm possession by those convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense, offenders convicted of second degree stalking, and respondents to Full Orders of Protection. The bills also would require the Missouri State Highway Patrol to include these individuals in the FBI’s NICS database of those prohibited from firearm/ammunition possession and purchase. SB 563 and HB 2131 each would modify the crime of unlawful possession of a firearm by including those who are convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense or those who are respondents to a Full Order of Protection.

MCADSV advocacy message on firearm bills
It is important to clarify MCADSV’s support for specific domestic violence firearms bills, which differ from other “red flag” gun bills and “extreme risk protection order” legislation. The domestic violence firearms bills are specifically focused on those who were judged by the courts and convicted or found to have harmed family members and intimate partners.

 

Child Custody

Senate bill to establish 50/50 custody awaits Senate floor action; both bills have compromise domestic violence language
Senate Bill 531 (Sen. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau)
House Bill 1765 (Rep. Kathy Swan, R-Cape Girardeau)

MCADSV monitoring
After it was passed by a Senate committee in January, SB 531 advanced to the calendar for Senate floor debate. SB 531, and the parallel measure HB 1765, would establish domestic violence as a primary cause to rebut the legal presumption, newly created in the bills, that it is in the best interest of children that judges award 50/50 equal parenting time to both parents in all custody cases. The standard for rebutting this presumption is a “preponderance of evidence” that includes the occurrence of domestic violence by one parent against the other. 

MCADSV advocacy message on 50/50 custody bills

For many years MCADSV has advocated in opposition to 50/50 custody bills, informing legislators of the impact of abusers’ use of custody and visitation to continue their abuse against a divorcing parent who is a victim of domestic violence. MCADSV advocacy led to the inclusion of protections for abuse victims in the 2020 bills. Should those protections be lessened or if harmful amendments are added to the bills, MCADSV will oppose the legislation.

 

Orders of Protection

House hearing held on bill that would clarify the stalking definition in Orders of Protection
House Bill 1341 
(Rep. Lane Roberts, R-Joplin)
MCADSV supports
A House committee hearing was held Feb. 13 on HB 1341. A House committee substitute is expected. The bill would revise and clarify the definition of stalking in Order of Protection law in Chapter 455 RSMo (the bill would not change the definition of the criminal offense of stalking). The sections below show the bill’s proposed new language in bold and current law to be changed in [brackets]:

  • “Stalking" is when any person purposely engages in [an unwanted] a course of conduct [that causes alarm to another] directed at a specific person[, or a person who resides together in the same household with the person seeking the order of protection when it is reasonable in that person's situation to have been alarmed by the conduct] and knows or should know that the course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of a third person or suffer other emotional distress.
  • "Course of conduct" means [a pattern of conduct composed of] two or more acts [over a period of time, however short, that serves no legitimate purpose. Such conduct may include, but is not limited to, following the other person or unwanted communication or unwanted contact] including, but not limited to, acts in which the stalker directly, indirectly, or through a third party follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates to or about a person by any action, method, device, or means or the stalker interferes with a person's property;
  • "Emotional distress", means significant mental suffering or distress that may, but does not necessarily, require medical or other professional treatment or counseling.

 

No hearings scheduled for bills to include pets in Orders of Protection
House Bill 2626 (Rep. Sheila Solon, R-St. Joseph)
Senate Bill 959 (Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis) 
MCADSV supports
No hearings have been scheduled for HB 2626 and SB 959. The identical bills would allow those seeking Orders of Protection to have the orders grant them legal custody and protection of their pets from the person who has harmed them. All adult and child Ex Parte and Full Orders of Protection would include specific provisions in the orders allowing a judge to grant a petitioner custody and control of pets. The bills would allow the court to order payments to the petitioner for medical costs for a pet abused by the respondent.

 

Vital Records

Two House bills combined that would waive costs for copies of birth certificates for domestic violence victims and homeless youth
HCS House Bills 1300 & 1286 (Rep. Chris Dinkins, R-Annapolis)
House Bill 1286 (Rep. Patricia Pike, R-Adrian)
House Bill 1579 (Rep. Keri Ingle, D-Lee's Summit)
Senate Bill 826 (Sen. Bill White, R-Joplin)
MCADSV supports
HB 1300 and HB 1286 were combined into one bill and passed two House committees. The bill would provide a one-time waiver of the cost for a birth certificate for domestic violence victims and homeless youth. Two additional bills are similar but both HB 1579 and SB 826 only provide the cost waivers for homeless youth. SB 826 had a Senate committee hearing Feb. 19. 

 

Domestic Violence Tax Credits

House committee hearing held on bill that would increase the domestic violence tax credit program and modify its definition 
House Bill 2349 (Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold)
Senate Bill 958 (Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester)
MCADSV supports
A House committee hearing was held Feb. 26 on HB 2349. Both HB 2349 and SB 958 would increase the annual amount of domestic violence shelter tax credits to $3 million per year for donations made after July 1, 2021. The bills also would allow tax credits for donors to the Weinman Shelter in St. Louis, changing the tax credit law to qualify it, the only domestic violence shelter in Missouri established as part of a governmental entity (St. Louis County government). 

 

Housing

House committee hearing held on bill that would prevent victims of domestic violence from being evicted due to local public nuisance ordinances
House Bill 1657 (Rep. Raychel Proudie, D-Ferguson)
MCADSV supports
A House committee hearing was held Feb. 27 on HB 1657. The bill prohibits a landlord from using local “public nuisance” ordinances to evict a tenant who seeks assistance at the housing property from law enforcement or emergency services. Currently, in some municipalities, if a local ordinance includes contacting law enforcement as part of their public nuisance ordinance, then it is allowable to evict a victim of domestic violence who contacts law enforcement for help during a domestic assault.

 

Public Assistance

House committee hearing held on bill to disallow cash withdrawals from TANF or SNAP benefit cards
House Bill 1708 (Rep. John Eggleston, R-Maysville)
MCADSV opposes
A House committee hearing was held Feb. 12 on HB 1708. The bill would prohibit public assistance and food stamp recipients from using their electronic benefit cards to obtain cash from their benefit accounts for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and/or SNAP.



 

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ONLINE RESOURCE LINKS FOR 2020 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

The links below will provide online access to information on bills, legislators, committees and actions of the Missouri General Assembly during the 2020 legislative session.

House bills: www.house.mo.gov  Home page menu, top right “legislation” field to find bills

Senate bills: www.senate.mo.gov Home page menu, top right “bill search” field to find bills

Current Missouri statutes: http://revisor.mo.gov/main/Home.aspx