April 20, 2014

House approves ‘Pop Tart’ bill to protect kids pretending to have weapons in school

A bill has been sent to the state Senate that is meant to protect children simulating a weapon during play at school from criminal or civil penalties, fines or other punishments.

Representative Mike Kelley (R-Lamar) calls it the “Pop Tart” bill, stemming from an incident last year in a school.

“A child was eating a pop tart, and the shape of his Pop Tart happened to resemble a gun,” Kelley explains, “and that child was disciplined and suspended from school for having a pop tart that happened to be shaped like a firearm.”

The bill raised concerns among some Democrats, including Genise Montecillo (St. Louis), who challenged his contention that the legislation represented a “common sense” policy. She says it goes against other state laws.

“These are the procedures that school districts put in place as part of the Safe School Act to keep schools safe,” Montecillo told Kelly. “You’ve got a provision in here that children can have toy guns in school and there’s no punishment if they violate school policy for toy guns.”

Kelley stressed to Montecillo that the bill would allow guns only up to 2 inches in size.

“I don’t care what size it is,” she told him.

Kelley assured Representative Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) that the legislation would not take local districts’ power to set policy and make decisions about what would and would not be allowed.

“I just want to make suer that local school districts can make their own policies that will negate this,” Newman told Kelley.

“They definitely can, ma’am,” Kelly told Newman.

The proposal went to the Senate on a 110-39 vote.

House turns Common Core elimination bill into plan to develop new standard

The state House has turned a bill that would have completely scrapped in Missouri the Common Core education standard into one that will give it a chance, while developing its potential successor.

Representative Kurt Bahr (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Kurt Bahr (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The original bill filed by Representative Kurt Bahr (R-St. Charles) would have prevented the implementation of Common Core State Standards in Missouri without legislative approval. The bill was amended on the House floor to allow those standards to progress while a commission is created to create a new standard. 

Bahr says the amendments came from language the Senate is considering.

“We’re going to create the process in which we’re going to look at the standards and say, ‘How do we want to move forward for standards for the State of Missouri?’” Bahr tells Missourinet. “Are we simply going to blanketly accept Common Core standards or are we going to have Missouri standards written by Missouri teachers, Missouri parents and the stakeholders within Missouri and then change our assessments so that they are in-house?”

Some lawmakers who say they didn’t oppose Common Core did have problems with how its impact would be assessed, saying teachers might have suffered poor evaluations as a result of poor student performance while adjusting to the new standards. One of the amendments to the bill would prevent assessment test scores from the 2014-15 school year from counting toward school accountability or accreditation.

Representative Genise Montecillo (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Genise Montecillo (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“I think this sort of alleviated some of the members’ concerns,” says Representative Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis). She says with the changes approved Tuesday the bill, “was a good compromise and it doesn’t put districts in a bind that they have to dismantle what they’ve been working towards.”

The proposal would create a 14-member work group with members selected by the state’s professional teachers’ organizations, associations of state school boards and charter schools, the speaker of the House, the Senate president pro-tem, the governor, the lieutenant governor, the commissioner of higher education and the heads of state-approved baccalaureate-level teacher preparation programs.

That group will develop standards for English, language arts, math, history and government and present recommendations to the Board of Education next year. Those standards would then be implemented in the 2016-17 school year.

Bahr says during the two years before implementation, while Common Core is in place in Missouri, it will be evaluated and recommendations could include partial or full implementation of it.

The proposal would need another favorable vote to go to the Senate.

House endorses its version of federal gun law nullification legislation

The House has given initial approval to a bill meant to nullify federal gun laws within the state.

Representatve Doug Funderburk (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representatve Doug Funderburk (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The bill, HB 1439,¬†would deny state law enforcement agencies and courts the power to enforce federal gun laws and would make anyone deemed in violation of a Missourian’s Second Amendment Rights liable to legal action by that Missourian.

Other versions of the legislation would have made law enforcement officers subject to criminal prosecution for enforcement of the gun laws targeted by the measure. Sponsor, Representative Doug Funderburk (R-St. Peters) says he removed that language at the request of law enforcement.

“This is what law enforcement said was their most deep, heartfelt concern about the bill from last year and the bill that I originally filed this year,” said Funderburk.

The bill would also allow specified school personnel to carry concealed weapons with specific training. Representative Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville) says that will serve as a deterrent to anyone who would consider carrying out a school shooting.

Representative Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis) isn’t convinced that is the proper role for a teacher.

“I have no issue with having trained, real police officers in our schools. I think that’s a good idea. I encourage that. I’ve seen the effect and the impact that they’ve had in my school district. I do have issue putting folks that have sort of a pseudo police officer training and having folks filling two different roles.”

The proposal would not allow public hearings by school districts before the allowing of armed school personnel on school grounds.

Those House Democrats that oppose the legislation dismiss it as unconstitutional.

“On its face it contradicts our oath of office,” says Representative Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis). “It’s going straight to court if it becomes law.”

The legislation would prevent a medical practitioner from being required to ask a patient about his or her gun ownership status or to disclose such information except in specific circumstances.

The proposal would bar the disarming of a person carrying openly or concealed unless he or she is under arrest and lowers the minimum age at which one can obtain a concealed carry permit from 21 to 19.

It requires another favorable vote to go to the Senate.

House lawmakers offer messages of support to stricken sponsor of breastfeeding bill

The state House has given initial approval to legislation meant to lift restrictions on breastfeeding and give breastfeeding mothers the ability to opt out of jury duty. The original bill was offered by Representative Rory Ellinger (D-University City), who is battling liver cancer and was not able to be at the Capitol as the bill was debated.

Representative Rory Ellinger (courtesy Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Rory Ellinger (courtesy Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Ellinger filed a bill addressing the jury duty issue in response to an incident in which a judge in Jackson County found a Lee’s Summit woman in contempt of court and put a $500 fine against her on hold until the end of the legislative session, to see if lawmakers would weigh in on such situations.

An amendment offered by Representative Kurt Bahr (R-St. Charles) changed the bill to require judges to excuse breastfeeding mothers from jury duty if the mother requests it and has a statement from her physician that she is a nursing mother.

His amendment would also clarify that a mother can nurse a child or express breast milk in any public or private place she is otherwise authorized to be and requires only that she use discretion. It would also specify that breast-feeding a child does not fall under the state’s statutory definition of sexual conduct or contact, or violate laws against public indecency or indecent exposure.

See the legislation, HB 1320

Bahr says he and other lawmakers wanted to address other concerns for mothers while making sure Ellinger would get the credit.

“I filed the same language that the Senate had,” says Bahr, “One of the reasons I wanted to go ahead and change his bill as much as I did is so that the Senate would in fact accept his bill and pass his bill, so when it’s signed by the Governor it will be Representative Ellinger’s bill number.”

Ellinger was said to be listening to debate from home, and lawmakers offered him emotional messages of support among their comments on the legislation.

Representative Genise Montecillo (D-St Louis) said, “Representative Ellinger and I didn’t always see eye to eye in policy but I think we both are very passionate when we come from our positions. The one thing I never doubted was his dedication to what was important. Rory, I hope you’re doing well. You’re in my prayers.”

The legislation needs another favorable vote to go to the Senate.

Earlier story: Proposed jury duty exemption stirs discussion of breastfeeding age limit

House endorses tax credit increase for pregnancy resource centers

The House has given initial approval to a bill that would increase the amount available in tax credits for pregnancy resource centers from $2-million a year to $2.5-million beginning in fiscal year 2015.

The centers offer doctor services, counseling on alternatives to abortion, and assistance with finances, budgeting and long-term support to women primarily between the ages of 16 and 24 who are dealing with unexpected pregnancies. Proponents say the centers keep those women from having to get such support from the state and so represent a good use of state tax dollars.

The centers have been criticized, however, by supporters of abortion rights, who say some centers present deceptive information regarding abortion. Those who oppose the bill say the state should not support such activities with tax credits.

Representative Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis) raised that issue to the bill sponsor, Representative Kevin Engler (R-Farmington).

“Most of them do wonderful work,” says Montecillo, “I just want to make sure women are getting good and accurate medical information so they can carry their children to term safely.”

Engler says he shares her concern.

“Most of the bills that your members are going to focus on from that area are going to get killed. That’s just the reality,” Engler tells Montecillo. “I’d like to work with you on coming up with something … maybe not legislative … that we can put out and say, ‘This is what you can do. You are getting tax credits from the State of Missouri, therefore you need to have some responsibility of doing things.”

Engler says the award of tax credits to those organizations and whether they are presenting accurate information becomes an issue of upholding the State Constitution in his mind.

Another favorable vote would send that measure to the Senate.

The bill is HB 1132.