The Session Ends
The 2022 legislative session has come to a close. It was a contentious four and half months but, in the end, we were able to accomplish quite a bit of good with a number of important measures crossing the legislative finish line. We passed relatively few bills, but many of the bills that made it to the governor’s desk became omnibus legislative packages, containing numerous provisions.
I am incredibly pleased to announce my Senate Bill 775 is waiting on the governor’s signature. This legislation includes recommendations made by the Rights of Victims of Sexual Assault Task Force. Throughout 2021, the 13-member task force gathered input about the challenges and obstacles faced by survivors of sexual assault. We talked to members of law enforcement, prosecutors, health care professionals and victims’ advocates, and SB 775 reflects much of what we learned. The bill updates Missouri’s rape shield law and contains a revised Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights, among other provisions. The survivors bill of rights outlines services and accommodations victims should expect as they report a crime, seek care and participate in the investigation and prosecution of the offense. The process of coming forward will still be incredibly intimidating and difficult but, hopefully, this legislation will remove some of the hurdles and help reduce the trauma as survivors seek justice and attempt to get perpetrators off the street.
Passage of this legislation was truly a collaborative effort, as I co-sponsored the bill with a female colleague from the minority party who served with me on the task force. All the women in the Senate came together and fought to get the bill across the line, but many of our male senators also stood with us. It was really encouraging to see that kind of comradery.
I’m also pleased to announce the Correctional Center Nursery Program legislation I co-sponsored was included in Senate Bill 683, a package of legislation related to child care. This provision will create a nursery facility at the women’s prison in Vandalia. Currently, when an incarcerated woman gives birth while in custody, the baby is removed and placed in foster care. This legislation will allow the child to stay with the mother and preserve the critical bond that is so essential for the child’s development. This program will be especially beneficial to women sentenced to 120-day treatment programs through Missouri’s drug courts, as the mother will be in a controlled environment and in recovery when the child is delivered. Similar programs have proved highly successful in other states, and I’m thankful that I got to be a part of helping get this bill across the line.
Two other measures I sponsored this year have also made it to the governor’s desk as amendments. I filed Senate Bill 692 at the behest of local school districts who faced as much as $150,000 in lost funding due to an unintended error in previously passed legislation. My language to correct accounting for attendance in half-day educational programs was included in the education bill. I was also pleased legislation I sponsored relating to addiction mitigation medication, Senate Bill 1037, was passed as part of a health care bill originating in the House.
Another measure that crossed the line this year is the Compassionate Care Visitation Act, which was included in Senate Bill 710, a package of legislation focusing on health care. This was not my legislation, but it’s something near and dear to my heart. My father passed away from COVID last year, and I wasn’t able to be there with him. To not be allowed to visit or care for a family member in their final days is painful, and it’s not right. The bill we passed allows the family to be with their loved one in the hospital.
Perhaps the most important bill we passed this year was House Bill 1878, an election integrity measure. This legislation requires voters to present a photo ID before they cast a ballot. Also, electronic voting machines will be eliminated, and all votes will be hand-marked on paper ballots. The machines that count ballots won’t be allowed to be connected to the internet and we’re banning “ballot harvesting” and drop boxes for absentee ballots. This is a big election year, and we need to be sure we don’t have the same sorts of problems other states saw in the last presidential election.
Lastly, the General Assembly finally passed a redistricting bill and approved a new map of Missouri’s congressional districts. It’s not the map I wanted, but it’s a strong 6-2 map and it should keep us out of the courts. The new map makes only minimal changes to the Eighth Congressional District, but it adds more of the suburban areas of Jefferson County than I would prefer. I worry about including more metropolitan voters in what has traditionally been a rural district. Still, we’ll be fine. It was good to get it done before the session ended.
I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Holly Thompson Rehder, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Rm 433, Jefferson City, MO 65101, send an email to Holly.Rehder@senate.mo.gov or visit www.senate.mo.gov/Rehder.