We are fast approaching the end of the Spring session and things are really picking up here as my colleagues are getting desperate to pass what they can before the deadline hits. Despite this I am continuing to advocate for what’s best for the people of Northeast Missouri. Here is some of the highlights that we passed this past week:

House Moves to Help Domestic Violence Victims (HB 1135)

Members of the Missouri House have approved legislation meant to help victims of domestic violence get away from abusers and move on with their lives.

Under the bill, victims of domestic violence, who are engaged with an agency accredited with the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic Violence, would receive a one-time fee waiver for obtaining a copy of a birth certificate.

Supporters say individuals who leave a home where abuse occurs often leave behind birth certificates, as well as other documents and identification. When they attempt to obtain new forms of identification such as a driver license or attempt to open a bank account, it is difficult to do so without a birth certificate. The fee to get a new copy is often a burden to a survivor faced with numerous other expenses while trying to start down a new path in life.

The bill also provides a free birth certificate to any homeless or unaccompanied youth, and allows an unaccompanied youth to obtain a birth certificate without consent or signature of a parent or guardian.

The bill now is now under consideration in the Missouri Senate.

House Bills Sent to the Senate

HB 681 extends from January 1, 2020, to December 31, 2025, the expiration of the fee collected from retailers for the disposal of old tires. Supporters say the scrap tire fee has helped to clean up millions of abandoned tires across Missouri. The bill would allow the Department of Natural Resources to continue to clean up abandoned tires.

HB 1162 requires the Department of Economic Development to maintain a record of all federal grants awarded to entities for the purposes of providing, maintaining, and expanding rural broadband in the state of Missouri. In cases in which funds have been retained, withheld or not distributed due to failure to meet performance standards or other criteria, the department must seek to have the funds awarded to another eligible, qualified Missouri broadband provider. Supporters say the bill would keep grant funds in Missouri instead of returning the funds to the federal government to reallocate. This would ensure that funds remain in the state to bring broadband to the rural areas.

HB 1002 requires dump trucks to be equipped with mud flaps that have up to 12 inches of ground clearance, instead of the eight inches required for other vehicles. Supporters say that mud flaps should be raised from 8 inches to 12 inches. Mud flaps on dump trucks get caught on piles and rip off. Raising mud flaps will help dump trucks maneuver better. This bill will allow mud flaps to be adjusted and prevents wasting mud flaps. The purpose of the bill is to save drivers money and to facilitate consistency. Supporters also say that there are 13 states that do not require mud flaps and only three states have the eight inch requirement.

HB 585 establishes the “Taxpayer Protection Act.” For all tax years beginning January 1, 2020, this bill requires paid tax return preparers to sign any income tax return or claim for refund and provide the preparer’s Internal Revenue Service preparer tax identification number. Supporters say the bill will help prevent fraud and also serve as a consumer protection measure to help prevent taxpayers from being taken advantage of by unqualified tax preparers or criminals.

Important Seatbelt Bill is Truly Agreed Upon and Finally Passed

In a addition to these, SB 30 was truly agreed upon and finally passed through both chambers. This bill outlines that in actions arising out the design, construction, manufacture, distribution, or sale of a motor vehicle factory equipped with a safety belt, failure to wear a safety belt by the plaintiff shall be admissible as evidence of comparative negligence or fault, causation, absence of a defect or hazard, and failure to mitigate damages. Under current law in any civil action to recover damages, failure to wear a safety belt is not allowed as evidence of comparative negligence, but may be introduced to mitigate damages. Supporters say that current law ties the hands of auto manufacturers as juries are asked to evaluate seatbelt designs and this limits juries’ decision-making abilities. They should not be limited in how much they are able to reduce awards when an occupant decides not to use a seatbelt. The current statute has been in place since the ’80s and it is time to allow juries to contemplate a person’s failure to wear a seatbelt when determining awards. Plaintiffs should be held accountable for failing to wear a seatbelt, just as they are if they speed.

Thank you for reading my capitol report. I am honored to represent you.

-Greg Sharpe