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State budget advances with increases in domestic and sexual violence funding 

In March, MCADSV gained bipartisan legislative support in the House to increase funding for sexual and domestic violence services in the state budget for Fiscal Year 2018. Several MCADSV priority bills gained legislators’ support and advanced through the legislative process in March. These included bills that would: strengthen responses to sexual assault victims in long-term care facilities; raise the age of marriage to 17; include county and municipal convictions for domestic assault and harassment offenses as penalty enhancements for subsequent similar cases in state courts; require public posting of the National Human Trafficking Hotline number and website; and allow electronic monitoring of individuals who violate Orders of Protection.

In March, MCADSV also gained the filing of a Senate bill that would allow the establishment of local Domestic Violence Fatality Reviews. An additional new Senate bill was filed that would protect the personally identifying information of victims and witnesses in criminal cases and allow them to participate in the Safe at Home address confidentiality program.

The legislative challenges in March included the withdrawal of a MCADSV-supported bill to address domestic violence and firearms and the filing of a replacement bill that MCADSV opposes and the National Rifle Association supports. Other bills opposed by MCADSV that had committee hearings in March included legislation that would weaken protections in child custody laws for domestic violence victims and a House bill to end the waiver of guardian ad litem fees for Legal Services clients in child custody cases.

MCADSV also spent a significant amount of time in March advocating on a range of issues related to the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants administered by the Department of Public Safety (DPS).


Appropriations
House budget committee passes increased state funding for SV/DV services

On March 28, the House Budget Committee passed Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations bills that included increased state funding for sexual and domestic violence services in the Department of Social Services budget. MCADSV was able to gain an increase of $250,000 for sexual assault services after a House appropriations committee in March zeroed out the $500,000 increase that was initially proposed by Gov. Eric Greitens in February. The House is expected to begin floor debate on the budget bills during the first week of April. Those bills then would advance to the Senate.

House Bill 11: Department of Social Services (DSS)

HB 11 includes increased funding for sexual and domestic violence services in the FY18 DSS budget:

  • $250,000 increase for sexual assault services, for a total of $750,000 in state funding;
  • $250,000 increase for domestic violence services, for a total of $8.7 million in state and federal funds.

House Bill 8: Department of Public Safety (DPS)

HB 8 includes level funding for all crime victims’ grant programs in the FY 18 DPS budget, except for the State Services to Victims Fund (SSVF):

  • State Services to Victims Fund (SSVF): $2.8 million, a reduction of $800,000 from current funding—resulting from reduced collection of court costs and crime fines that support SSVF
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), STOP and SASP grants: $2.69 million, federal funds
  • Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants: $37 million, federal funds
    • Funding for an additional 3 FTE positions to administer VOCA grants in the Crime Victims Services’ Unit, from VOCA administrative funds.

MCADSV advocacy continues to gain release of VOCA funds, implementation of new rules

DPS released budget materials to House members in March, as part of the state appropriations process, that show an unspent Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) fund balance of $67 million in federal funds. MCADSV used this documentation in March to continue its years-long advocacy related to the release of VOCA funds and the adoption of proposed first-time rules to guide the Department’s administration of the VOCA grant program. No subsequent actions by DPS to finalize the proposed new VOCA rules yet have occurred.

MCADSV continued multiple levels of advocacy on numerous issues related to VOCA grants. MCADSV’s advocacy included meetings with leadership in DPS, the Governor’s staff, the Lt. Governor, the State Auditor, legislators in both the House and Senate, and Missouri’s federal Congressional delegation.

MCADSV continues to advocate that DPS:

  • release VOCA funds in requests for additional funding that have been pending since January;
  • pay grantees their overdue invoices for services provided since January; and
  • promulgate first-time rules to guide the administration of VOCA grants.

The proposed first-time rules to guide the Department’s administration of VOCA grants were published for public comment in February. These would implement in Missouri the new 2016 federal rules for VOCA that expand the types of services eligible for funding. The proposed rules also would establish new procedures for grant applications, objective standards for grant evaluations and a transparent appeals process. MCADSV staff worked in 2016 with DPS on the drafting of the new rules and submitted public comments about them on behalf of Coalition members.

 

Actions on priority legislation

 

CHILD CUSTODY

Bills would require clear and convincing evidence to rebut presumption for shared custody
Senate Bill 377
Sponsor: Sen. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau
MCADSV opposes

House Bill 724

Sponsor: Rep. Kathy Swan, R-Cape Girardeau
MCADSV opposes
A Senate hearing on SB 377 was held on March 29. Both SB 377 and HB 724, the similar House bill, would create a rebuttable presumption for judges to award equal parenting time in all custody cases unless “clear and convincing evidence” that such an award is not in the best interest of the child(ren) involved. This is a higher standard for evidence than current law and would be difficult for most domestic violence victims to meet. MCADSV advocacy centered on the negative impact of the Senate bill, which would weaken current protections for parents and children who are victims of domestic violence. No hearing was held in March on HB 724.

House committee passes bill to end waivers of guardian ad litem fees in custody cases involving Legal Services’ clients
House Bill 765
Sponsor: Rep. Robert Cornejo, R-St. Peters
MCADSV opposes
HB 765 was passed by a House committee after a hearing in March. The bill, opposed by MCADSV, would end waivers of payment for guardian ad litem (GAL) fees in custody cases, fees that currently are waived for indigent parties represented by Legal Services and law school clinics. Ending the waivers of GAL fees would create financial barriers to low-income parents in custody cases, who would have to pay half of these fees that can range from $1,000 to $10,000 per case. Legal Services staff report that nearly all of the custody cases in which they represent domestic violence victims include GAL fees. Current law waives not only the GAL fees, but also filing fees and service fees for indigent litigants represented by Legal Services and law school clinics.


FIREARMS

House Second Amendment Preservation Subcommittee holds informational hearing on domestic violence and firearms
House Bill 742

Sponsor: Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis
MCADSV supports
During a March 28 informational House subcommittee hearing that included a discussion of HB 742, MCADSV was able to provide a 30-minute overview on the issues of firearms and domestic violence and the lack of Missouri laws to protect domestic violence victims from gun violence. The hearing began with a discussion of HB 742, which would enact in Missouri law the federal provisions that prohibit domestic violence offenders and protection order respondents from possessing firearms. Despite the engaged discussion among committee members, no action was taken on HB 742.

House gun bill would allow domestic violence offenders and protection order respondents a 24-hour waiting period before having to relinquish their firearms
House Bill 1068

Sponsor: Rep. Donna Lichtenegger, R-Jackson

MCADSV opposes

HB 1068 was filed on March 1. It is a domestic violence firearms bill, supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA), which replaces an earlier bill filed by Rep. Lichtenegger (HB 766) that MCADSV supported. HB 1068 only would apply a firearms prohibition to protection order respondents as they are defined in the original mid-90s federal gun laws, which excludes the more expansive provisions in Missouri law that include dating couples, sexual assault and stalking victims. HB 1068 also would enact a 24-hour waiting period before protection order respondents would be subject to enforcement of the gun prohibitions. MCADSV continued to meet with the bill’s sponsor and House leadership in March to discuss the dangers to victims that are inherent in the bill’s provisions.

House and Senate domestic violence gun bills still not referred to committees for hearings
Senate Bill 318
Sponsor: Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis
MCADSV supports
House Bill 658
Sponsor: Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis
MCADSV supports
These House and Senate bills to restrict firearms from domestic violence offenders, SB 318 and HB 659, still have not been referred to committees for hearings. Each of these bills would enact in Missouri law the current federal provisions in effect since 1997 that prohibit firearm possession by those convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence and protection order respondents.


SEXUAL ASSAULT

Bills advance that would strengthen responses to sexual assault victims in long-term care
Senate Bill 301

Sponsor: Sen. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau

MCADSV supports

House Bill 919

Sponsor: Rep. Joe Don McGaugh, R-Carrollton

MCADSV supports

House Bill 551

Sponsor: Rep. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City

MCADSV supports

MCADSV testified in support of SB 301, HB 919 and HB 551 during committee hearings in March. All of these bills would require reports to law enforcement agencies when a resident of a long-term care facility was sexually assaulted. Current law only requires that calls be made to the elder abuse hotline when a mandated elder abuse reporter discovers that a long-term care resident has been sexually assaulted.

Hearing held on bill to eliminate statute of limitations for filing childhood sexual offense civil suits
House Bill 519

Sponsor: Rep. Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City

MCADSV supports

A House committee hearing was held March 28 on HB 519. The bill would r
emove the current 10-year statute of limitations for filing civil lawsuits for damages resulting from crimes of sexual abuse of a child. HB 519 also would allow prosecutions for child abuse to be commenced at any time. Current Missouri law has a time constraint that requires prosecutions for unlawful sexual offenses involving a person 18 years old or younger must be commenced within 30 years after the victim reaches the age of 18.

Bill to expand sexual assault victims’ eligibility for crime victims’ compensation referred to House committee for a hearing
House Bill 396
Sponsor: Rep. Sara Unsicker, D-St. Louis
MCADSV supports
HB 396 was referred on March 29 to a House committee for a hearing. HB 396 would expand sexual assault survivors’ access to Crime Victims’ Compensation by expanding their eligibility to receive compensation if they: made a police report up to 7 days after an assault; obtained an Order of Protection; and/or obtained a sexual assault forensic examination (SAFE) or related medical care. Current Missouri law requires victims to notify law enforcement within 48 hours of an offense to be eligible for Crime Victims’ Compensation payment.

MCADSV advocates for DPS to seek federal grant to fund sexual assault forensic evidence tracking system as proposed in House bill
House Bill 578
Sponsor: Rep. Donna Lichtenegger, R-Jackson
MCADSV supports
During a late February hearing on HB 578, it was projected that it would cost $2.6 million to implement a statewide rape-kit tracking system in Missouri as proposed in the bill. In March, given the lack of state funds for such a tracking system, MCADSV joined with a Missouri-based company that has created rape-kit tracking and victim-notification software to advocate for the Department of Public Safety to apply for a federal grant to fund a pilot tracking system in Missouri.

MCADSV proposed changes included in amendments to sex offender registry bill
House Bill 431
Sponsor: Rep. Kurt Bahr, R-St. Charles
MCADSV monitoring
No action occurred during March on HB 431 after it was passed by a House committee in February. The bill would create a three-tiered system that categorizes sex offenders by seriousness of the committed offense. HB 431 also would set specific time periods, based on the tiers, after which offenders who do not reoffend could petition courts for removal from the registry. HB 431 was amended in committee and included changes sought by MCADSV to include human trafficking offenses that mistakenly had not been in the original bill.

Criminal offense created for “nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images”
House Bill 706
Sponsor: Rep. Jim Neely, R-Cameron
MCADSV supports
No action occurred in March on HB 706 after a House committee hearing was held in February. HB 706 would create a new class D felony offense of “nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images” to address what often is termed “revenge porn.” HB 706 would criminalize the dissemination of sexual images of a person who did not consent to the sharing of the image(s).


DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Bill filed to allow local jurisdictions to establish Domestic Violence Fatality Reviews
Senate Bill 511

Sponsor:
Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield
MCADSV supports

SB 511 was filed on March 1 and is scheduled for a committee hearing on April 3. The bill would allow the establishment of Domestic Violence Fatality Reviews through locally convened panels. These review panels would be convened by the local prosecutor or circuit attorney and include domestic and sexual violence program representatives, law enforcement, health care providers and other professionals. SB 511 specifies that the meetings and proceedings of the review panels would not be open meetings but reports of the panels’ findings and recommendations would be required to be publically released. The bill also would allow municipalities to establish Domestic Violence Fatality Reviews. MCADSV continues to work with the bill’s sponsor on amendments to SB 511 to correct drafting errors.

Bill would include county and municipal convictions for domestic assault and harassment offenses to be included in enhanced penalties provisions for repeat offenders
House Bill 1133

Sponsor: Rep. Kevin Corlew, R-Kansas City

MCADSV supports

HB 1133 was filed on March 1 and is scheduled for a committee hearing on April 4. The bill would add convictions of county or municipal ordinances, which if filed in state court would be domestic assault or harassment offenses, as prior convictions that result in enhanced penalties for domestic assault fourth degree or harassment in the second degree offenses. HB 1133 also adds the new Class E felonies to the law requiring fines upon conviction to be paid into the Crime Victims’ Compensation fund. HB 1133 is termed a “clean-up” bill to correct errors and omissions in the revisions of the Criminal Code that became effective on Jan. 1, 2017.


CRIME VICTIM/WITNESS PROTECTIONS

Senate bill would prohibit intimidation of victim/witnesses in criminal cases, increase protection of their personal information and add victim/witnesses to Safe at Home program
Senate Bill 513

Sponsor:
Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield
MCADSV supports

In March, SB 513 was filed and then referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing. SB 513 would require a court order to release personally identifying information of victims and witnesses in criminal cases. That information then only would be released to defense counsel and not criminal defendants themselves. The bill also would add additional protections for children and disabled people who testify as victims/witnesses in criminal cases. SB 513 would allow these victim/witnesses to participate in the Safe at Home address confidentiality program. MCADSV met in March with Sen. Dixon’s staff on amendments to the Safe at Home sections of SB 513.


HUMAN TRAFFICKING

House passes bill to increase legal age of marriage to age 17
House Bill 270
Sponsor:  Rep. Jean Evans, R-Manchester
MCADSV supports
The House passed HB 270 on March 16 by a vote of 139-1. The bill then advanced to the Senate and awaits a Senate committee hearing on April 5. HB 270 would raise the age required for a person to obtain a marriage license to 17 from the current age of 15. As amended during the House process, HB 270 also would not allow the issuance of a marriage license to a person 21 or older if the other party to the marriage is younger than 17. The bill is proposed as a legal mechanism to address human trafficking in instances where teenaged girls are legally “married” and then trafficked.

Bills advance to require national human trafficking hotline/website posters in public places
House Bill 261
Sponsor: Rep. Cloria Brown, R-St. Louis
MCADSV supports

Senate Bill 68

Sponsor: Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis
MCADSV supports
During March, two bills that would address human trafficking advanced and were placed on the House and Senate calendars for debate. Both HB 261 and SB 68 would require posters advertising the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline in public places such as hotels, truck stops, hospital emergency rooms, and sites of public transportation. HB 261 would include the national trafficking resource website on the posters.

No action in March on bill to allow expungement of trafficking victims’ convictions for prostitution
Senate Bill 344
Sponsor:  Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis
MCADSV supports
No action was taken during March on SB 344 after a February committee hearing. The bill would establish a legal process to expunge the criminal records of persons who have pled guilty to, or been convicted of, the offense of prostitution while “under the influence of an agent."


CRIME VICTIMS' COMPENSATION

Bill advances to increase funding for crime labs from crime victims’ compensation fund
House Bill 743
Sponsor: Rep. Kathie Conway, R-St. Charles
MCADSV monitoring
HB 743 was passed by a House committee in March. The bill would increase funding for state crime labs from court costs and fines collected upon criminal convictions that fund the Crime Victims’ Compensation program. MCADSV continues to seek amendments to ensure that HB 743 does not reduce the funding formula for the State Services to Victims Fund (SSVF) grants, which also are funded through court costs and fines.


HOUSING PROTECTIONS

No action after hearing on bill to allow sexual and domestic violence, stalking victims to terminate a lease, change locks, and be protected from discrimination as tenants
Senate Bill 289
Sponsor: Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis
MCADSV supports
No action was taken during March on SB 289. At the end of February a Senate committee substitute for SB 289, containing an amendment sought by MCADSV, was presented during a committee hearing. SB 289 would allow a tenant to terminate a lease agreement if the tenant or her/his dependent is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. The bill would allow tenants to seek to terminate a lease, with notice to landlords that includes either a protection order or documentation from law enforcement, a domestic or sexual violence program, judge or medical professional. SB 269 also would allow tenants to change locks on their rented dwellings, at their own expense. Finally, the bill would prohibit landlords from terminating or refusing to renew a lease based on a tenants’ status as a victim.

House victims’ tenant rights bill filed with narrower scope than Senate bill
House Bill 1066

Sponsor: Rep. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield

MCADS monitoring

HB 1066 was filed March 1. It would allow those with a protection order to change locks on their rented housing within 48 hours of obtaining the order.


ORDERS OF PROTECTION

Bill to allow electronic monitoring of protection order violators remains on Senate calendar
Senate Bill 99
Sponsor: Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar
MCADSV supports
During March, SB 99 remained on the Senate calendar for floor debate after earlier passage by a Senate committee. The bill would allow electronic monitoring of a protection order respondent who is charged with or found guilty of violating an Order of Protection. Courts would order electronic monitoring of a protection order violator only after receiving the informed consent of the victim of the offense.

No further action in March on bill to prevent charges against respondents if petitioners initiate communications
House Bill 59
Sponsor: Rep. Lindell Shumake, R-Hannibal
MCADSV opposes
After a February committee hearing, no further action occurred during March on HB 59. The bill, opposed by MCADSV, would amend protection order law so that respondents would not be in violation of an order if they respond to communication initiated by the petitioner. Current Missouri law defines a violation of a protection order as occurring when the respondent initiates communication with a petitioner.

Protection order bill with criminal penalties for petitioners withdrawn from hearing
House Bill 237
Sponsor: Rep. Mike Kelley, R-Lamar
MCADSV opposes
No action occurred during March on HB 237 after MCADSV achieved the withdrawal of the bill from a scheduled February House committee hearing. HB 237 would create criminal penalties for any protection order petitioner who initiates communication with the order’s respondent.

UNPAID LEAVE FROM WORK

No hearings in March for unpaid leave from work bills for sexual and domestic violence victims
Senate Bill 268
Sponsor: Sen. Jill Schupp, D-St. Louis
MCADSV supports
House Bill 842
Sponsor: Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis
MCADSV supports
No hearings were held in March on two bills that would create unpaid leave from work for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking. SB 268 and HB 842 both would create unpaid leave from work for victims to obtain services, medical care, legal assistance and to participate in court proceedings.


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ONLINE RESOURCE LINKS FOR 2017 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

The links below will provide online access to information on bills, legislators, committees and actions of the Missouri General Assembly during the 2017 legislative session.

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

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

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