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Missouri legislature signs off on a pair of public safety bills

By: - May 12, 2023 9:11 am

Some language is duplicated between the two bills; for instance, both contain language removing restrictions on fentanyl test strips (Scott Olson/Getty Images).

The Missouri General Assembly passed two lengthy public safety bills with wide-ranging provisions Thursday, covering topics from celebratory gunfire to fentanyl test strips.

Both bills are headed to the governor’s desk.

One bill, SB186, returned to the Senate from a conference committee with the House having expanded it from 13 pages to over 180. Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, voiced concern about the bloat, a common consequence of incorporating many smaller pieces of legislation into one bill.

“I’m always concerned with passing something that ends up coming over here and we have just a few minutes to look through it, with all these provisions,” Brattin said.

The legislation formerly contained a provision targeting St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, which would have allowed the governor to appoint special prosecutors over violent crimes. With Gardner’s resignation last week, the provision was removed.

The bill makes several changes to the definitions and classifications of different crimes, adding a number of expanded felony categories.

Notably, the bill will make it a felony to interfere with the transportation of livestock.

Sen. Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette, and Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, expressed opposition to the creation of new felony offenses, noting that the language used would technically make it a felony to stop a vehicle moving livestock so the animals could be fed.

“I’ve got some pretty serious heartburn about the number of new felonies that we are creating in this piece of legislation,” McCreery said. “When somebody is convicted of a felony, it has a tremendous negative impact on their life.”

The bill also adds new protections on personal information of judges, creates a new misdemeanor of selling products that can be used to fool drug tests and adds a list of factors judges must consider when setting bail.

The second bill, SB 189 contains a provision called “Blair’s Law,” which creates the crime of unlawfully discharging a firearm if someone fires a gun “with criminal negligence” within a municipality.

Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, explained that the bill was motivated by and named for 11-year-old Blair Lane, who was accidentally killed by celebratory gunfire on July 4, 2011, in Kansas City. Lane’s mother, who has advocated for the passage of the legislation, was in the gallery.

“This weekend is Mother’s Day,” Razer said. “And when she was in my office earlier, she said she wanted to be down here because she hoped that for Mother’s Day this year she could finally see this pass the General Assembly.”

Some language is duplicated between the two bills; for instance, both contain language removing restrictions on fentanyl test strips.

This story originally appeared in the Columbia Missourian. It can be republished in print or online.

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