Serving in the Missouri General Assembly since 2007
Legislative Column for the Week of Sept. 19, 2016

Senator Curls' Biography
Senator Shalonn "Kiki" Curls, a Democrat, represents part of Jackson County (District 9) in the Missouri Senate. After serving in the Missouri House since 2007, she won a special election to the Missouri Senate in February 2011. Senator Curls won re-election to the Senate in 2012. <<more

Capitol Office
201 W. Capitol Ave.
Room 434
Jefferson City, MO 65101
(573) 751-3158

District Office
4609 Paseo Blvd.
Suite 102
Kansas City, MO 64110
(816) 923-6000

Affordable Care Act
The federal Affordable Care Act, also known as the ACA, puts you in charge of your health care. Under this law, passed in 2010, you have the stability and flexibility you need to make informed choices about your health.

For more information on how the ACA can benefit you, please click here or visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website at

To sign up for health insurance coverage, please click here or visit the Insurance Marketplace website at

If you or someone you know are at-risk of suicide, there is help available, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or the website

Reflecting on the 2016 Veto Session

On Wednesday, Sept. 14, members of the General Assembly convened for the annual veto session, which gives lawmakers the opportunity to override measures that have been vetoed by the governor. Passing a bill during regular session only requires a simple majority, whereas a successful veto override requires a two-thirds majority in each chamber, or 23 votes in the Senate and 109 votes in the House. Unfortunately, with Republican supermajorities in both chambers, Missouri’s Democratic legislators faced an uphill battle this year in terms of preventing several controversial bills from being overridden. 

One of those measures is House Bill 1631, a voter identification bill that will require Missouri citizens wishing to vote in a public election to present a specific form of photo ID at the polls. The voter ID issue is one Missouri legislators have been grappling with for the last 10 years — previous bills have passed only to be vetoed or struck down by the courts because they were deemed unconstitutional. And yet, year after year, proponents of voter ID laws insist they are necessary to prevent fraud and preserve the integrity of the election process. They claim the issue of in-person voter fraud has been underreported and that instances are actually much more common than we believe them to be; they continue to claim this despite the fact there has not been a single case of in-person voter fraud in Missouri.

House Bill 1631 passed with a companion referendum (House Joint Resolution 53) that voters must approve this November in order for it to take effect. So although the Legislature overrode the governor’s veto of HB 1631, it is Missouri voters who will have the final say on the matter. I am hopeful the people of Missouri will recognize this latest voter ID legislation for what it really is — a solution in search of a problem and a total failure to recognize that voting is a fundamental right in this country, not a privilege.

The House and Senate supermajorities also voted to override the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 656, an ill-conceived gun bill with deadly implications. This one piece of legislation lowers the standard for the use of deadly force, eliminates the requirement for life-saving gun safety training and allows people who have already been denied a concealed carry permit to carry a concealed firearm. Regardless of what proponents of SB 656 claim, we should all be concerned about how this legislation will negatively impact the safety of our law enforcement officers and constituents.

I would like to end this column with the following excerpt from the governor’s June 27 press release on SB 656:

“In a letter to the Governor, Missouri Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Ahlbrand wrote, ‘Make no mistake, we are staunch supporters of the Second Amendment.  We feel, however, that the enactment of SB 656, specifically the allowance of giving anyone not currently prohibited from possessing a firearm, the ability to carry a concealed firearm without a permit, will cost not only citizen lives but will also be extremely dangerous to law enforcement officers.’

‘The Missouri Police Chiefs Association is concerned for the safety of citizens and officers, through the loss of the balance that has existed in Missouri relating to the carrying of concealed weapons for the past several years, and the language in SB 656 that will even allow those persons convicted of crimes to use a verdict that includes a suspended imposition of sentence (SIS) to legally carry a concealed weapon,’ said MPCA President Chief Paul Williams.  ‘During a time that balanced approaches and solutions are needed more than ever to face increasing challenges, there is no need to create an imbalance, and potentially decrease the safety of citizens and police officers alike, through such a profound change in Missouri’s concealed carry law, which has served this state well over the past several years.’”

For a complete list of all veto overrides, click here or visit the Senate website at

State Lawmakers Consider Crime Legislation; Pass FY 2017 Budget

With just two weeks left of the 2016 legislative session, state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are working hard to get their priority legislation passed. One of those measures is a voter identification bill that prompted Senate Democrats to launch another filibuster Wednesday evening. If passed into law, House Bill 1631 would require Missouri citizens to present a specific form of photo ID at the polls.

Year after year, proponents of voter ID laws insist they are necessary to prevent fraud and preserve the integrity of the election process. They claim the issue of voter ID fraud has been underreported and that instances are actually much more common than we believe them to be; they continue to claim this despite the fact there have been no documented cases in Missouri.

Voter ID is an issue Missouri lawmakers have been grappling with for the last 10 years — previous bills have passed only to be vetoed or struck down by the courts because they’ve been deemed unconstitutional. The bottom line is voting is a fundamental right in this country, and we should never try to disenfranchise entire segments of the population (e.g., the poor, the elderly and minorities) from exercising that right. With just a few weeks left of session, Senate Democrats will continue to stand against House Bill 1631 for as long as it takes.

There are also several crime bills still making their way through the process. One of those is Senate Bill 588, relating to the expungement of criminal records. This measure, which includes language I sponsored in Senate Bill 603, provides that a person may petition for the expungement of records relating to any infraction, municipal offense, misdemeanor or felony. Exceptions include any offense involving the use or possession of a weapon or the infliction of forcible compulsion, physical injury or death upon another person, or any offense requiring registration on the sex offender registry.

In addition, SB 588 changes the length of time a person must wait before petitioning for expungement from 20 to five years for a felony and from 10 to three years for a misdemeanor, infraction or municipal offense. Completion of the sentence or probation is still required.

Senate Bill 590 is a sweeping overhaul of the newly revised criminal code. The bill’s primary provision seeks to bring Missouri in line with federal sentencing guidelines. Under current law, offenders who were under the age of 18 at the time they committed first degree murder must be sentenced to life imprisonment without eligibility for probation, parole or conditional release. In June 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama ruled that a mandatory life sentence without parole for juvenile criminal offenders is unconstitutional.

Under SB 590, a person who was 16 or 17 years old at the time of the crime may be sentenced to either a minimum of 50 years or life without parole. A person who was under the age of 16 may be sentenced to a minimum of 35 years or life without parole. The measure outlines procedures for juveniles who were sentenced to life without parole prior to June 25, 2012.

Senate Bill 590 also includes provisions to prohibit the shackling of juveniles and pregnant women and creates a pilot program in St. Louis City for the purposes of reducing and preventing violent crime.   

Finally, on Thursday, April 21, Missouri lawmakers approved the state’s $27.1 billion spending plan for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2017. This year’s budget allocates a record level of funding for K-12 public schools, which will receive an increase of $71 million, with a portion of this money going toward early childhood services. We have also increased funding for early childhood special education and the Missouri Preschool Program by $21.2 million and $1 million, respectively. The budget increases funding for state scholarship programs, including an additional $4 million for Access MO, $2.5 million for A+ and $500,000 for Bright Flight.

Missouri’s colleges and universities will receive a 4 percent across-the-board increase in performance and equity funding. The University of Missouri System, which includes the UMKC, will only see a $3.8 million cut — half of what the House originally proposed.

Fiscal Year 2017 begins on July 1 and runs through June 30, 2017.

Senate Begins Work on FY 2017 State Budget

Following the annual legislative spring recess, the Missouri Senate returned to the Capitol on Tuesday and immediately began its work on the state's $27 billion operating budget for Fiscal Year 2017, which begins on July 1. Passing the state budget is the General Assembly's only constitutionally required duty.

The budget process begins with the governor and the Office of Administration. Around the time of the annual State of the State address in mid-January, the governor's proposed budget is released. The Executive Budget then goes to the House, where it is divided into separate appropriations bills. After making their way through the committee process, the individual bills are debated on the House floor. Once passed, the budget bills are taken up by the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which I am a member. It is at this point that we consider the House's changes and prepare our own recommendations, and this is where we picked up the process on Tuesday.

This year's budget is based on a projected general revenue growth of 4.1 percent, or about $366 million. As in every year, education and health care spending have largely dominated the conversation. While a lot can still happen, the House’s version of the budget is calling for significant cuts to both Medicaid and higher education funding, including $7.6 million from the University of Missouri system, which includes the UMKC.

Senate floor debate on the budget is expected to begin within the next week or two. The Legislature has until May 6 to complete the budget.

Raising Awareness of Childhood Cancer

On Tuesday, I presented Senate Concurrent Resolution 42 to the Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee. This resolution designates Nov. 14, 2016, as Neuroblastoma Cancer Awareness Day.

Neuroblastoma is a type of cancer that forms in the sympathetic nervous system of infants and young children. It is responsible for 12 percent of all cancer deaths in children under 15 years of age and accounts for about 7 percent of all cancers in children. It is also the most common type of cancer among infants. Roughly 650 new cases of neuroblastoma are diagnosed each year in the United States. Sadly, a child dies every 16 hours from the disease.

Physicians frequently face major challenges in diagnosing neuroblastoma because the symptoms are very similar to more common and less serious childhood illnesses, which result in delayed diagnosis. For roughly two out of three children, the disease has already spread to other parts of the body by the time they are correctly diagnosed.

The National Cancer Institute spends less than 3 percent of its budget, and the American Cancer Society directs less than 2 percent of its research dollars towards pediatric cancer. Pediatric AIDS research receives four times more funding than childhood cancer even though childhood cancer is 20 times more prevalent.

The children suffering from neuroblastoma often undergo treatment involving chemotherapy and surgery, and they experience prolonged painful symptoms. The families of children with neuroblastoma suffer as well — they must deal not only with the possibility of losing their child, but also with roughly $40,000 a year in out-of-pocket medical expenses, even with insurance coverage. The children and families suffering from neuroblastoma deserve recognition and support in their battle against this painful and deadly disease, and that is why I once again have sponsored legislation raising awareness of childhood cancer.

On Wednesday, the Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee conducted a hearing on Senate Bill 1010, legislation I filed expanding Missouri’s “Farm-to-School Act” and program. Currently, the Farm-to-School program connects Missouri farmers and schools to provide students with locally grown agricultural products for school meals and snacks, and to strengthen local farming economies. Senate Bill 1010 simply changes the Farm-to-School Act to the “Farm-to-Table Act,” opening up the program to institutions such as correctional facilities, hospitals, nursing homes and military bases.

The act also requires the Department of Agriculture to develop program goals and requires participating institutions to purchase at least 7 percent of their food products locally by Dec. 31, 2019.

Legislation Calling for Meaningful Justice Reform Heard in Committee

This week I was happy to see several of the measures I filed this session take another step forward in the legislative process. On Wednesday I presented four bills to the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. Two of the bills are part of my ongoing efforts to affect meaningful reform in Missouri’s criminal justice system.

Senate Bill 604 seeks to reduce recidivism rates by requiring the Department of Corrections to enhance its educational and job training program offerings for offenders. Through SB 604, we hope to increase the number of offenders who earn GEDs, provide job and life skills training, work with schools and employers to offer a variety of training programs that provide occupational certification or licensure, and ensure offenders transitioning from incarceration back into society have a copy of any certification or license they earned. Reducing recidivism rates is a win-win scenario for all parties: it increases public safety, provides offenders with a path toward true and lasting rehabilitation, and decreases the enormous cost of housing these offenders for years.

Senate Bill 674 requires the Board of Probation and Parole to review the case history and prison record of any offender who is incarcerated, serving a sentence of more than 15 years, has no prior felony convictions, has served at least 15 years and has exhausted all state and federal appeals. Following the review, the board must report, within a reasonable time, a recommendation to the governor on whether to deny or grant executive clemency.

I also presented two bills aimed at making it easier for concerned citizens to help keep their neighborhoods clean and safe, and for tenants to recover their money if their deposits were unfairly kept.

There are numerous abandoned buildings throughout the Kansas City area. These buildings not only become gathering places for criminal activities, but also devalue the surrounding neighborhood, both economically and culturally. Senate Bill 742 allows certain people to enter abandoned property to secure it, remove trash and graffiti, and maintain the grounds. It also provides immunity from civil and criminal liability. As legislators, we should be encouraging responsible stewardship in our communities. If there are individuals who are willing to step up and dedicate their time and energy to improving our neighborhoods, then we should do what we can to assist them in their efforts. That is exactly what SB 742 does.

Finally, Senate Bill 743 expands the amount of damages a tenant can recover from a landlord who has wrongfully held any portion of their security deposit and prohibits landlords from commingling their tenants’ security deposits with their own personal funds. The bill also provides that landlords must keep tenants’ security deposits in a bank, credit union or depository institution that is insured by an agency of the federal government; however, any interest earned belongs to the landlord.

Leaving Behind the Stigma of Past Crimes

How long are we going to make individuals who have paid their debt to society carry the stigma of their past crimes? It is a question Missouri lawmakers have been debating for years and are once again trying to answer.

Technology has made it extremely easy to check a person’s criminal background, and every mistake is out there for the public to see. This means that even though a person has served their time, they may continue to pay for their past crimes for years, decades and sometimes the rest of their life. From being denied housing to the enormous difficulty of finding a decent job, they continue to be punished at nearly every turn.

Under current Missouri law, individuals can petition to have certain criminal records expunged, but the list of eligible crimes is extremely limited and a person must wait 10-20 years before they are even able to request an expungement. Despite public support to overhaul this process, the Legislature has been unable to agree on a better system.

For the second year in a row, I have filed legislation to help the men and women who have paid their debts to society take back their lives and livelihoods. Senate Bill 603, which was heard in committee on Tuesday, Jan. 26, expands the crimes eligible for expungement to any infraction, municipal offense, misdemeanor or felony. Exceptions include any violent crimes or offenses requiring registration on the sex offender registry. The bill also allows a person to petition for expungement 10 years after completing their sentence and probation for a felony, and 5 years after completing their sentence and probation for a misdemeanor, infraction or municipal offense.

The legislation in no way guarantees these individuals will be granted expungement. It does, however, modernize the expungement process to deal with new technologies, and allows those who have served their time to more easily move on from their past crimes. It is my sincere hope that Missouri lawmakers do not let these important reforms fall by the wayside for yet another year.

Missouri Senate Continues with Municipal Court Reform Efforts

Last session the Missouri Legislature came together to pass meaningful municipal court reform legislation in the form of Senate Bill 5. The measure aimed to put an end to the abusive traffic ticketing practices that were occurring in some of our municipalities by reducing the amount of revenue municipalities could keep. The provisions of SB 5 have since gone into effect and our judicial system is the better for it.

As part of an effort to expand on last year’s municipal court reforms, legislation has been filed this session that further restricts a municipality’s ability to use fines to generate revenue. In addition to reducing the maximum allowable fine for minor traffic violations and municipal code violations from $300 to $200, Senate Bill 572 seeks to place municipal ordinance violations under the same caps as those passed in SB 5, which specifically apply to traffic violations. The bill also requires municipalities to remit any collected funds that exceed the cap allowance to the Department of Revenue for the county school fund. The Senate voted Thursday, Jan. 28 to pass SB 572. It now goes to the House for further debate.

Another piece of reform legislation under consideration in the Senate is Senate Bill 765, banning traffic ticket quotas. Currently, requiring or encouraging a political subdivision employee to issue a certain number of traffic citations is only illegal in St. Louis County. If signed into law, SB 765 would make traffic ticket quotas illegal in any political subdivision in the state.

Senate Website | Current Media | Sponsored Bills

Subscribe | Unsubscribe