Sen. Karla May’s May Report for the Week of March 22, 2021

On the Floor

This week, the Missouri Senate debated a wide-ranging police reform bill. Senate Bill 53  prohibits the use of respiratory chokeholds by police unless deadly force is authorized, and allows officers who engage in sexual conduct with individuals in custody to be charged with a class E felony.  The bill also prevents officers who have been discharged from one department for wrongdoing from being able to simply move to another department. During debate on SB 53, I was able to successfully amend the legislation to create the Critical Incident Stress Management Program, which will help provide services to officers coping with stress and psychological trauma stemming from incidents while on duty. Another part of my amendment creates a police use-of-force database and requires the Department of Public Safety to annually publish the data reported by law enforcement agencies throughout the state. I believe many of the measures included in SB 53 will help improve the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve, as well as promote accountability and transparency at a time when it is desperately needed.

The Senate also debated Senate Bill 1. This bill extends the sunset of Missouri’s federal reimbursement allowances (FRA) program from Sept. 30, 2021, to Sept. 30, 2022. The FRA is an important funding measure that allows the state to draw down federal dollars to support MO HealthNet, Missouri’s Medicaid program. While the original bill simply extended the program by another year, an amendment was added to it that would prevent MO HealthNet from covering certain family planning drugs and devices. This has raised questions about whether SB 1 now risks taking Missouri out of compliance with federal rules and jeopardizes federal funding for MO HealthNet. The amended bill is still pending in the Senate.

The Senate also debated, and ultimately defeated, a bill restricting local health officials’ abilities to respond to health emergencies. Senate Bill 12 includes language limiting the duration of public health orders to no more than 15 calendar days in a 180-day period before requiring two-thirds approval from a governing body; prevents public health measures that “directly or indirectly” restrict the free exercise of religion during a state of emergency; and prevents hospitals from changing visitation policies beyond their regular visitation and security protocols. After being debated for several hours, Senate Bill 12 failed to receive an initial round of approval from the Senate when it came up for a vote.

Lastly, the Senate passed out of the chamber Senate Bill 283, relating to alcohol. This legislation allows restaurants or restaurant bars to sell alcoholic beverages to-go if a customer ordered a meal and if the drinks are in tamper-proof, sealed containers.

Bills and Committees

Senator May’s Legislation:

It was a busy week in committee, as I was able to present several of my bills to my fellow senators.

In the Senate’s General Laws Committee, I presented two bills. The first, Senate Bill 488, establishes the Economic Distress Zone Fund. The money from this fund would support nonprofits working to deter crime in high-crime areas. Senate Bill 488 also creates a fund to help police officers handle stress after a critical incident. The second bill, Senate Bill 551, similarly creates mental health programs for law enforcement officers.

I also presented Senate Bill 319, establishing the Missouri Video Lottery Control Act, to the Senate’s Appropriations committee. The legislation allows the State Lottery Commission to implement a system of video lottery terminals (VLTs) which would be allowed to operate in places such as fraternal organizations, veterans’ organizations, truck stops, liquor stores, bars and restaurants. My hope is that this legislation will shore up loopholes in the state’s gambling laws, while providing opportunities for businesses to participate in this new venture.

In the Senate’s Progress and Development Committee, I presented Senate Bill 610. This bill designates March 26 of each year as “Pioneering Black Women’s Day” in honor of Gwen B. Giles, who was the first Black woman to serve in the Missouri Senate. With this legislation, I hope we can honor Sen. Giles and other Black women in history who were trailblazers and recognize the opportunities they created for Black women in Missouri and across the country.

Additionally, my Senate Bill 323, which allows school districts to offer elective social studies courses on the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, was approved by the Senate’s Education Committee on March 23.

Judiciary Committee:

Four bills were presented in the Senate’s Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee this week:

  • Senate Bill 312 creates provisions relating to privileged communications in criminal matters.
  • Senate Bill 374 modifies provisions relating to the conditional release of offenders.
  • Senate Bill 402 creates provisions relating to admissible evidence in court.
  • Senate Bill 487 creates provisions relating to bail.

Commerce Committee:

The Senate’s Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee discussed five bills this week:

  • Senate Bill 184 allows electrical corporations to operate and use broadband infrastructure.
  • Senate Bill 185 establishes provisions relating to certain trespass and inverse condemnation actions against public utilities
  • Senate Bill 214 states that certain records of municipally owned utilities such as individually identifiable customer usage and billing records may be closed under the Sunshine Law.
  • Senate Bill 246 creates a state sales tax exemption for utilities, equipment and materials used to generate or transmit electricity.
  • Senate Bill 558 modifies provisions relating to common sewer districts.

Rules Committee:

The Rules Committee heard two resolutions this week:

Other News

COVID-19 Update:

As of March 25, 2021, the Missouri COVID-19 Dashboard reports an average of 295 new COVID-19 cases per day over the past week.

As of March 24, the City of St. Louis Health Department has reported a total of 20,462 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the City of St. Louis.