Sen. Andrew Koenig’s Capitol Report for May 15, 2020

The Final Day of the 2020 Legislative Session

Friday, May 15, marks the final day of the 2020 legislative session. This year has been somewhat unconventional, as we dealt with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges it created. My colleagues and I had to take a break to work remotely for a couple of weeks while our federal, state and local leaders addressed the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. During the last few weeks of session, we focused on our priorities and passed many important reforms that make our state a better place to live, work and raise a family.

 Justice for Victims of Sexual Assault

I am extremely proud to report that one of my top legislative priorities was passed by the General Assembly and sent to the governor’s desk. Senate Bill 569 establishes a secure, electronic tracking system for sexual assault forensic evidence (SAFE) kits. Through this legislation, victims of sexual assault will be able to easily track the status of their kit throughout the legal process. For years, there have been serious issue with how SAFE kits were processed in our state. In fact, the Missouri attorney general’s SAFE Kits Initiative Inventory Report found more than 6,000 SAFE kits –nearly 90 percent of Missouri’s backlogged rape kits – remain untested. I knew when I read this report I had to do something to help solve this problem in our state. Each of these 6,000 rape kits represents a person, not a statistic. They deserve our support and the opportunity to have their case investigated by law enforcement.

In addition to the SAFE kit tracking system, Senate Bill 812 was added to SB 569. This language establishes the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights, which includes rights and protections for survivors of sexual assault during any medical examination or interaction with law enforcement, prosecuting attorney and defense attorney. Senate Bill 951 was also added to SB 569. This language establishes the Justice for Survivors Act, which directs the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to establish a statewide telehealth network to provide forensic exams for victims of sexual assault. I believe this action further demonstrates our state’s commitment to supporting victims of sexual assault by giving them the protections and rights they deserve.

Fresh Start Act of 2020

This year, I once again filed the Fresh Start Act. This legislation, Senate Bill 647, was added to House Bill 2046, which was passed by the General Assembly. The Fresh Start Act of 2020 states that an individual cannot be disqualified from practicing in an occupation that requires a license solely or in part because of a previous conviction of a crime, unless the crime is directly related to the responsibilities and duties of the licensed occupation. This legislation is about second chances and giving people access to a better life. I believe it is difficult enough for individuals with convictions to re-enter society and find a job. As a state, we should not be putting roadblocks in the way of our citizens’ ability to provide for their families and live productive lives. I am grateful my colleagues voted to pass the Fresh Start Act of 2020 as a part of HB 2046, and I am hopeful the governor will sign this legislation into law.

Tax Relief for Victims of 9/11

In addition, I am proud to report that Senate Bill 742, the Christopher J. Bosche Memorial Act, was included in Senate Bill 676 and passed. This legislation provides an income tax exemption for families of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This act is named in honor of Dr. Christopher Bosche, an emergency room physician who died of complications from cancer developed from his exposure as Ground Zero responder after the 9/11 attacks in New York City. Of the 63 first responders and survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks who live in Missouri, three have passed away from health complications from the attack. Many of these brave men and women are still suffering from injuries and illnesses developed as a result of their incredible service in the days following the terrorist attack. This income tax exemption is just a small amount of relief for these incredible men and women as a show our appreciation for their dedicated service.

Stimulus Payments

Missouri residents will owe no state income taxes on federal coronavirus stimulus payments now that legislation has been approved by the General Assembly. Senate Bill 676 exempts the $1,200 checks many Missourians received through the federal CARES Act from state income calculations. The checks were already free of federal taxes, but were subject to income taxes in Missouri. It is important to me that these stimulus payments are tax-free so they can truly help Missouri’s families through this difficult financial time.

I am proud of the work my colleagues and I accomplished during the 2020 legislative session even with our shortened legislative session. I believe we passed some important legislation to improve the lives of all Missourians. Thank you for your continued support. It has been an honor to represent you in the Missouri Senate as a member of the historic One Hundredth General Assembly.

I look forward to sharing more news with you soon. Have a great weekend!