Look for Senator Nasheed’s full-page Legislative Session Review in the St. Louis American next week.
The final week of the 2016 Missouri General Assembly Legislative Session saw a deluge of legislation passed by both chambers in the hurry to beat the constitutionally mandated 6 p.m., May 13 deadline.
“During my 10 years here at the Capitol, it has always been the final week of Session that has generated the most emotion and controversy. With the scramble, it’s easy to forget how blessed we are to work in this beautiful building,” said Sen. Jamilah Nasheed. “I am happy to get back home for the summer, but I am already excited for the opportunity to return next year and continue to serve the people of St. Louis.”
On Wednesday, May 11, the General Assembly truly agreed and finally passed Senate Bill 588, Senate Bill 603 and Senate Bill 942, a bipartisan expungement bill. The bill marked the first of its scale in over a decade, and will allow most ex-offenders to petition for an expungement of their non-violent criminal records. Senator Nasheed, a sponsor of the bill, had been pushing expungement legislation since the start of her legislative service almost ten years ago. “This bill is not perfect, but it is a huge step forward,” Sen. Nasheed said.
The climax of the week came late during the night on Thursday, May 12, when Democrats successfully blocked a veto override of House Bill 1891, the so-called Paycheck Deception Bill. After several hours of debate, Democrats sat down to allow for a vote shortly after midnight.
“We felt that the other side did not have the votes, and thankfully we were right. It is still alarming though how many of my colleagues refuse to stand up for the middle class,” Sen. Nasheed said.
On the Floor
HB 1891 originally passed the Senate on a 23-7 vote in March. Although one Republican who had previously voted against the bill switched to support the override, two senators who initially had supported the measure – one Republican and one Democrat – flipped to ensure the override fell short.
The bill sought to impose new procedural barriers to the efficient and timely collection of union dues. Although supporters claimed the bill only would apply to government employee unions, its broad language also would have extended its requirements to many private sector unions.
Aside from paycheck deception, the most controversial issue to be debated during the week was gun safety. Republicans pushed two bills, Senate Bill 663 and Senate Bill 656, which would have loosened restrictions designed to prevent gun violence.
Senate Bill 656 included the hotly contested “Stand Your Ground” provision which rose to national prominence after the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida. “Stand your ground laws promote vigilante justice and allow for a single person to become judge, jury, and executioner. That’s not what our justice system is based on,” Sen. Nasheed said.
Senator Nasheed held the floor for over an hour to stop the bill, but in the end, the majority party was able to push through SB 656, which became the first expansion of a ‘Stand Your Ground’ in any state nationwide, since the Trayvon Martin shooting in 2012.
Bills & Committee
This week, major pieces of Senator Nasheed’s legislation was truly agreed and finally passed:
- Senate Bill 588: Expungement – Allows residents of Missouri to petition to have their record expunged after a given period of time. Senator Nasheed’s language ensured that convictions for non-violent offenses like drug possession and prostitution were included in the list of offenses that could be expunged. “I see my expungement legislation as an economic development bill,” Sen. Nasheed said. “Individuals who have paid their debt to society deserve a second chance to uplift themselves and contribute to their communities.” The bill was truly agreed and finally passed on May 13, and will now head to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
- Senate Bill 833 – Prohibits the shackling of children and pregnant women during court appearances and during labor. Senator Nasheed’s Bill, was added as an amendment to SB 618, including language that would specifically prohibit the use of shackles for pregnant women during labor and post-partum. Senate Bill 618 has been placed on the House Calendar to be voted on before the end of the legislative session.
- SCR 50: Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – My Suicide Prevention resolution will establish an awareness month in Missouri. Suicide touches so many of us. Yet, it is so rarely discussed. My resolution will help to bring the issue out of the shadows.
On May 6, the governor signed the remaining appropriations bills that make up the $27.26 billion state operating budget for the 2017 fiscal year. Only four line-item budget vetoes were issued to eliminate a total of $875,000 in spending authority that had been approved by lawmakers.
Four of the line-item vetoes, which totaled $375,000, involved revenue from the World War II Trust Fund that the governor said lawmakers had appropriated for purposes not allowed by the law creating the fund. The final line-item veto of $500,000 for health information exchange services was due to language that the governor said unfairly provided favorable treatment to certain service providers.
During a news conference announcing his budget actions, the governor also called into question the legal validity of language Republican lawmakers had inserted in one of the bills purporting to prohibit Planned Parenthood facilities in Missouri from receiving funds for providing women’s health care services unrelated to abortion. Public funding of abortion is already prohibited by general state law.
“We will continue to analyze the legal ramifications of this language, and work to ensure that we continue to provide access to essential health services,” Nixon said.
Restrictions On Police Body Camera Footage Passed
On a vote of 154-1, the House of Representatives on May 10 voted to send legislation to the governor that would restrict public access to footage from police body cameras. The bill doesn’t require police officers to wear body cameras while on duty. Such a requirement has been a top goal of those seeking to improve police accountability.
Under House Bill 1936, body camera footage would automatically be closed to public view if recorded in a place where someone would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a residence, school or medical facility. However, those depicted in closed footage would be entitled to access, the public exemption notwithstanding. Footage recorded in public settings would remain open under the state’s Sunshine Law.
The new restrictions to public access would also apply to dash-cam footage from patrol cars. However, since vehicles mostly operate in public areas, it is unclear how much of a practical effect this change would have on public access to video from such cameras.
Photo Voter ID Measure Headed For November Ballot
The decade-long fight by Missouri Republicans to limit voting access moves to the ballot box after the House of Representatives voted 110-39 on May 12 to grant final approval to a proposed constitutional amendment giving lawmakers the legal authority to require government-issued photo identification in order to vote. The measure, House Joint Resolution 53, bypasses the governor and automatically goes on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot for voter ratification.
Both the House tally and the 24-8 Senate vote a day earlier fell along straight-party lines with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. While Republicans claim photo voter ID is necessary to combat voter fraud, voter impersonation – the only type of fraud it could prevent – is virtually non-existent. Democrats say the real purpose is to disenfranchise large number of minority, elderly and disabled voters, since members of these groups are the most likely to not have a photo ID and tend to vote Democratic.
The GOP-controlled General Assembly first sought to enact a photo voter ID law in 2006, but the Missouri Supreme Court struck it down for imposing new conditions on the right to vote in violation of the state constitution. Republican lawmakers later approved a proposed constitutional change to authorize photo voter ID, but it didn’t go on the 2012 ballot as scheduled after a judge ruled supporters had crafted unfair and deceptive ballot language for the proposal.
On May 5, lawmakers approved companion legislation, which faces an expected veto by the Democratic governor, to implement the photo voter ID requirement starting next year. However, even if lawmakers override the veto, that measure won’t become effective unless voters ratify HJR 53.
Five Ballot Initiative Petitions Turned In by Deadline
Separate measures seeking to legalize medical marijuana, ban new sales taxes on services and re-impose campaign contribution caps, along with two competing proposals to increase tobacco taxes, could go before Missouri voters this year after ballot initiative petitions on those subjects were submitted by the May 8 deadline.
The secretary of state’s office has until Aug. 9 to determine if each petition has the minimum number of valid signatures to go on the Nov. 8 ballot. A proposed change to state law requires about 100,000 signatures from registered voters to qualify for the ballot, while a proposed constitutional amendment must have a minimum of about 160,000 signatures.
The rival cigarette tax proposals are being funded in large part by competing factions of the tobacco industry. One, a proposed constitutional amendment, is being pushed by large tobacco companies that pay into the national tobacco settlement over the companies’ past deceptive marketing practices. That measure would increase the state cigarette tax by 60 cents per pack and impose an additional surcharge of 67 cents per pack on discount brands produced by companies that aren’t party to the settlement. Most of the revenue under this proposal would be earmarked for early childhood education.
Those discount cigarette manufacturers are helping fund the other proposal, a statutory change to increase the cigarette tax by 23 cents a pack, with no extra surcharge on certain brands. The revenue from this measure would be earmarked for the state road fund. Missouri’s existing cigarette tax of 17 cents per pack is the lowest in the nation.
The remaining three initiatives are all proposed constitutional amendments. The medical marijuana proposal would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to treat certain conditions and impose a 4 percent tax on its sale. The ban on new sales taxes on services is a preventive measure pushed by the Missouri Association of Realtors to keep lawmakers from expanding the scope of services on which sales taxes can be charged in the future. The campaign contribution measure would cap contributions to individual candidates at $2,600 and donations to political parties at $25,000. Anonymous donations in excess of $25 would be prohibited.