Protecting our Vulnerable

Greetings Friends of the 144th!

This past week as I read our local papers, I saw a letter to the editor that caught my attention. It was titled, “Pick Up Your Trash, Please” by Wayne Roderman, Ellington.  This has been an issue that has been bothering me for quite some time. I picked up the phone to call Wayne but didn’t have his number so I decided to write about it. I do a lot of driving and everywhere I go I see litter. It is a terrible site to see and it seems as if no one cares anymore.

What happened to the days when people promoted a clean environment?  Remember the commercial that played on TV with the Indian man shedding a tear at the littered American landscape? I think about that commercial often when I see litter across our landscape.

During the recent Stay At Home Order, I challenged families to adopt a road or area near their home and clean it up with their children. I’m not sure how many people took me up on the challenge but if we would each do our part we can, “Make America Beautiful Again”. Thank you Wayne for speaking out about this issue.

Legislation to Protect Missouri’s Most Vulnerable Children Signed into Law (HB 1414)

Missouri’s most vulnerable children will have additional protections and better opportunities for happy, healthy lives thanks to legislation approved by the Missouri General Assembly. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson on Monday, July 13.

The legislation, which will reform Missouri’s foster care system and provide additional help to homeless children, received overwhelming bipartisan support during the abbreviated 2020 legislative session. 

Even in a pandemic-shortened legislative session, the legislature prioritized our most vulnerable children by passing this sweeping child protection bill. This bill improves transparency, modernizes, and expands best practices to ensure that the foster care system remains focused on the best interests of each child.

The bill includes key provisions to protect children throughout Missouri. Under the bill, homeless youth will have access to a birth certificate for free, have access to health coverage through Medicaid, and will be able to seek mental health care. The bill also clarifies that a child’s attendance in court hearings should only take place when the judge and family support believe it’s in the best interest of the child.

The legislation makes substantive changes to the state’s system of foster care. It creates temporary alternative placement agreements, a mechanism to provide services to parents and family placement to ensure safety of children not brought into foster care. The bill also ensures timely risk assessments within 72 hours of child abuse and neglect reports. Additionally, it ensures foster parents have access, at the time of placement, to full medical records of a child placed with them.

The bill also fixes a background check duplication issue for child care providers and allows for non-expiring child care licenses.

Some of the provisions contained in HB 1414 are also contained in SB 653, which was signed by the governor on July 13. With the governor’s signature, both bills are now set to become law on August 28.

Legislation Signed into Law to Protect Victims of Sexual Assault (SB 569)

The governor has signed legislation meant to better ensure justice is served for victims of sexual assault. The bill contains provisions meant to protect the rights of victims by requiring all hospitals to provide rape kits, giving survivors access to a tracking system for sexual assault evidence, and creating a Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights.

The goal of the legislation is to ensure allegations of sexual assault are quickly and accurately investigated, and to protect victims from being further victimized. The House handler of the bill said it will take important steps to protect the rights of victims and help bring those who have committed assault to justice.

A report done by the state attorney general found that more than 6,000 Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) kits remain untested in Missouri. The legislation approved by the General Assembly would give victims of sexual assault access to a secure electronic tracking system for these SAFE kits. With this, victims would be able to track the status of their kit throughout the legal process. The bill also requires the Department of Public Safety to develop a centralized repository for evidence that is temperature-controlled to preserve the integrity of the kits and diminish degradation.

To better support victims of sexual assault, the bill also establishes the Justice for Survivors Act. The act directs the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to establish a statewide telehealth network to provide forensic exams for victims of sexual assault. The measure is meant to address the fact that some hospitals are unable to conduct a complete forensic examination or properly collect evidence because they do not have a sexual assault nurse examiner on staff. The Justice for Survivors Act would require all hospitals to provide a forensic exam for victims of sexual assault by 2023. The act would provide assistance with in-person training on how to perform rape kits, and 24/7 access to a certified sexual assault examiner via the telehealth network.

The bill also establishes the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights, which includes rights and protections for survivors of sexual assault during any medical examination and interactions with law enforcement, the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney. The bill includes the right to consult with employees or volunteers of rape crisis centers during any examination or interview, the right to receive notice of these rights prior to an examination or interview, the right to a prompt analysis of the forensic evidence, the right to shower at no cost after a forensic exam and the right to choose the gender of the law enforcement officer who interviews them. With the governor’s signature, the bill is set to become law on August 28.

Governor Signs Legislation to Combat Drug Trafficking (HB 1896)

Gov. Mike Parson has signed legislation that will increase penalties for trafficking the dangerous drug fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and the use of which can easily result in overdoses.

The bill will make it a Class B felony to knowingly distribute, make, or attempt to distribute or make, more than 10 milligrams of fentanyl or its derivatives. Making or distributing 20 or more milligrams will be a Class A felony. The legislation will also increase the penalties for trafficking one gram or more of Rohypnol or any amount of GHB, both of which are often used in sex crimes. The bill also includes offenses for possessing and purchasing the dangerous drugs.

The legislation also contains provisions that will require individuals affiliated with licensed or certified medical marijuana facilities to submit fingerprints to the Highway Patrol for a state and federal criminal background check. The state constitution requires the state health department to verify these individuals have not committed a disqualifying felony, but the legislation was necessary to give the department access to the FBI’s national fingerprint database. The bill will also prohibit the sale of edible marijuana-infused products that are designed, produced, or marketed in a manner to appeal to persons under 18 years of age, including candies, gummies, lollipops, cotton candy, or products in the shape of a human, animal, or fruit.

Wide-Ranging Health Care Bill Signed into Law (HB 1682

Another bill approved by the General Assembly and signed into law by the governor contains a number of provisions meant to improve the health and well-being of Missourians.

The bill establishes the Long-Term Care Dignity Act to help Missourians save money for the care their loved ones will need later in life. The act will allow an individual to open a long-term care savings account to be used to pay a qualified beneficiary’s eligible long-term care expenses. The bill creates a 100 percent income tax deduction for contributions to the account up to $8,000 for an individual or $16,000 for married individuals filing jointly.

The legislation also provides free COVID-19 testing for those who need it. The bill will cover the cost of testing up to $150 if a health care provider recommends the test be done. The bill authorizes the Department of Health and Senior Services to utilize available federal funds to pay for the test.

Additionally, the bill creates the Postpartum Depression Care Act to help new mothers experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression. The bill is meant to address the fact that Missouri currently ranks sixth in the nation for its high rate of maternal mortality, with postpartum suicide as the second leading cause of death for new mothers. It will provide women who screen positive for postpartum depression with postpartum depression care through Medicaid for up to one year. It also encourages certain health care providers to give information on postpartum depression to new parents, and offer voluntary screening for new mothers during their regularly scheduled well-woman and well-baby check-ups following pregnancy.

The legislation also bans vaping in public schools. The bill specifies that no person can use vapor products in any indoor area of a public elementary or secondary school building or on school buses. The bill does allow school boards to set policies on permissible uses of vapor products in any other non-classroom or non-student occupant facility or outdoor school grounds.

The bill contains several other provisions dealing with issues ranging from the creation of various health awareness months, to medical marijuana regulations, to remote dispensing site pharmacies.

I hope you have a Wonderful Week! As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have. As your Representative, I am here to assist you however I can. I can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 573-751-2112. Please do not contact me via social media. These messages are easy to overlook and may not be responded to in a timely manner.

Chris Dinkins is the area’s state representative for the 144th Legislative District. She can be reached by email – [email protected] or by telephone:   573-751-2112. 

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