Dozens of new state laws take effect today, dealing with health, protecting seniors and victims of sex crimes, municipal courts, education, and more.
One that received particular attention during the legislative session is the municipal courts reform bill, SB 5, prompted in part by the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, Junior in Ferguson just more than a year ago. Proponents of change said municipal courts particularly in the St. Louis region were collecting too much in traffic tickets and fines and adding to social injustice in the region. The new law lowers the limit on how much of a city’s annual revenue can come from those sources and also sets minimum standards for courts and additional standards for municipal governments and law enforcement in St. Louis County.
Another bill becoming law today requires Missouri public and charter schools who teach sexual education to include information about sexting, sexual predators, and online predators.
Proponents hope the change will protect children by teaching them to recognize and respond to dangers, but critics didn’t like that broader legislation to reform sex education in Missouri wasn’t given consideration.
After years of work by multiple lawmakers, Missouri law will now specify what mental health needs insurance companies must cover related to eating disorders. State law has already required that companies cover treatment for mental health issues including eating disorders, but a lack of specificity meant patients’ claims were often denied. That left those patients’ treatment plans in jeopardy after they met body weight or other targets, and it fell to families to pick up the cost of the mental health care needed to prevent a relapse.
The bill becomes law today but it gives insurance companies until January 1, 2017 to implement the changes. Advocates say the law puts Missouri ahead of other states in dealing with this issue.
Victims of sexual assault in Missouri can now seek orders of protection from their attackers. Advocates told Missourinet such orders, created in 1980, have never been available to rape or sexual assault victims; only to victims of domestic violence and stalking.
Under the same bill, the state can now intervene when children are being sexually abused by other children. State law previously allowed the Children’s Division to investigate cases of abuse involving an alleged perpetrator with care, custody, or control of the victim.
The legislation also requires licensed care centers in Missouri to have sleep policies based on the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Another bill that becomes law today, but for which largely becomes effective January 1, 2016, reduces the length of time a person can spend on the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Governor Jay Nixon vetoed that bill but the Republican-led legislature voted to overturn that veto before the session ended.
Legislation that aims to protect seniors from financial exploitation also becomes law today. Missouri is one of few states in the nation to enact something like the Senior Savings Protection Act. It allows financial agents to put a 10-day hold on transactions they believe could be attempts at exploitation of a person 60 or older or with a disability. During that hold the broker-dealer must contact state investigators and can reach out to the person’s family or guardians.
The bill had bipartisan support, including from Secretary of State Jason Kander.
Some of the other bills becoming law today create an advocate for the military in Missouri, create a margin insurance subsidy for the state’s dairy farmers, and require that liquid nicotine for e-cigarettes be in child-safe packaging.