The end of session brought more legislation than could be reported in one of my Capitol Reports. This week I’m highlighting legislation pertaining to children. Watch for further updates next week on the successes of the 2021 Legislative Session. For a complete list, I encourage everyone to research all bills for more information by going to house.mo.gov and click on Legislation. I encourage you to sign up to receive my full Capitol Report by emailing me at Tim.Taylor@house.mo.gov.
Protecting Victims of Domestic Abuse (SB 71 and SBs 53 & 60)
SB 71 will allow victims of domestic abuse to obtain lifetime orders of protection against their abusers. Under current law, a court can issue an order of protection for up to one year. SB 71 will allow courts to issue protection orders for any length of time the judge feels is appropriate, up to and including a lifetime. The change is meant to spare victims from the trauma of having to revisit their abuse in court each year to extend an order of protection. The bill also adds protections against electronic stalking.
Protecting Children from Abuse (HBs 557 & 560)
HB 557 creates stronger protections for young people in unlicensed, faith-based reform schools. The bill was prompted by news articles detailing the mental, physical, and sexual abuse suffered by children in some of these schools. The bill aims to protect children by requiring all such facilities to notify the Department of Social Services of their existence, and requiring background checks for employees and volunteers. Additionally, it requires the schools to comply with health and safety standards, gives parents full access to see their children, and provides a method for children to be removed when abuse or neglect is suspected.
Putting Newborns on a Path to Success (HB 429 and HB 432)
HB 429 seeks to protect newborns from potential abuse by creating the Birth Match Program. The bill requires data sharing between state departments that would better allow the state to offer prevention and crisis management support to families who may need it. The bill orders data sharing between the Children's Division of the Department of Social Services and the State Registrar's office to compare birth reports with reports of parents who have been convicted of certain crimes or have a termination of parental rights in order to ensure the safety of the child and provide services, if needed.
Supporting Victims of Abuse (HB 432)
HB 432 contains a provision that creates the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act to provide assistance to survivors of domestic or sexual violence. The provision requires employers with 20 or more employees to provide reasonable workplace safety accommodations and allow unpaid leave to survivors of domestic or sexual violence. The amount of unpaid leave required would be limited to one week for employers with fewer than 50 employees, and two weeks at larger workplaces. Reasons for unpaid leave include attending hearings, accessing the courts, addressing physical or mental health issues and finding new living quarters.
Providing a Safe Place for Newborns (HB 432)
A provision in HB 432 will modify the state’s existing Safe Place for Newborns Act, which allows a parent to permanently give up a newborn up to 45 days old without prosecution, as long as it is done safely and in accordance with the law. The legislation would allow a parent to relinquish a newborn to a device known as a newborn safety incubator. This would allow for a parent to anonymously relinquish a child to an incubator that is climate controlled with an alarm that notifies 911 when a baby is present.
Enhancing Support for Foster and Adoptive Parents (HB 429 and HB 430)
HB 429 and HB 430 will provide additional financial assistance to Missouri families who provide a stable home to children in need. HB 429 authorizes an income tax deduction for Missouri taxpayers for the expenses related to providing care as a foster parent. The bill will authorize a deduction of up to $5,000 for married couples or single parents, provided that individuals who are married but file separately can only claim up to $2,500 each. The bill also contains additional improvements to the state’s adoption regulations and proceedings.
HB 430 expands the state’s existing $10,000 tax credit to any child adopted by Missouri taxpayers on or after January 1, 2022. Currently the credit applies only to adoptions of special needs children. The bill also increases the annual limit on the amount of tax credits that can be authorized from $2 million to $6 million and expands the tax credits for contributions to domestic violence shelters and maternity homes.
Preventing Misuse of Seclusion and Restraint (HB 432)
HB 432 contains a provision that will prevent the misuse of disciplinary practices known as seclusion and restraint. The bill provides stronger definitions for the practices and regulates how they can be implemented and utilized. Seclusion and restraint are disciplinary practices used by some schools when dealing with kids who pose a threat to themselves or others. The practice is meant to be used as a last resort and involves restraining the child or removing him or her to a separate space. The bill will require:
· Schools to create policy that prohibits the use of restraint and seclusion, including “prone restraint,” for any purpose other than situations or conditions in which there is imminent danger of physical harm to self or others.
· Any incident requiring restraint or seclusion to be monitored by school personnel with written observation
· Ensures parents and guardians are promptly notified when schools have used the measures on their child, and it mandates annual trainings for the school personnel who use them.
It is my honor to serve the constituents of District 48. If you have questions, concerns, or input, please feel free to contact me at 573-751-0169 or you can reach my Legislator Assistant, June, at June.Cardwell@house.mo.gov.