MPA Capitol Report 4/12/2024

In Legislative News, Legislative Reports, Legislative Resources On
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MPANewsBook: Statehouse News for MPA Members
This report is written by Missouri School of Journalism students for publication by MPA member newspapers in print and online.


The Missouri News Network has stories this week on the rise in motorcycle deaths after the state removed helmet requirements and the latest on an omnibus crime bill and Senate maneuvering over Planned Parenthood and other state funding.

If you have thoughts or questions, contact Mark Horvit at or Fred Anklam at





Repeal of universal helmet law tied to rise in motorcycle fatalities


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JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Department of Transportation said Thursday that there is a correlation between the rise in motorcycle fatalities and the repeal of the universal helmet law in 2020.

Since 2020, motorcycle fatalities have increased 47% and 2023 was the deadliest year on record for motorcycle fatalities with 174 deaths, according to MoDOT.

MoDOT presented its report on motorcycle fatalities to the House Transportation Accountability Committee, detailing an increase in motorcycle fatalities since 2018.

“We’ve seen that in other states,” said Jon Nelson, assistant to the State Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer at MoDOT. “Whenever they’ve repealed a helmet law, (there are) similar increases.”

In 2020, Missouri legislature repealed a law that required all motorcyclists over 26 to wear a helmet, so long as the rider could provide proof of health insurance.

“I don’t disagree that the helmet laws made a difference in the number of fatalities,” said Committee Chairman Don Mayhew, R-Crocker. “I think that’s pretty obvious.”

Mayhew asked if there were other factors that influenced the increase in fatalities. Traffic volumes on highways have returned to pre-pandemic levels, but other vehicle fatalities are declining in Missouri, according to MoDOT.

Nelson said that of the motorcyclists killed while not wearing helmets, about 50% were unlicensed or improperly licensed.

“I don’t think any one area, including public policy, is the silver bullet to fix any of this,” Nelson said. “These are layers of protection to improve safety.”

“That begins with public awareness, education, certainly public policy has a role to play in that enforcement of that public policy,” he added.

The committee listened to the report but did not discuss reversing the repeal of the universal helmet law.



Senate embarks on several high profile bills


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JEFFERSON CITY — Senate inaction for much of Tuesday over a bill that would defund Planned Parenthood marked the beginning of what will be a critical period in the legislative session and a reminder of how fraught the last few months in the Senate have been.

The body has 24 days to pass two major bills: the state budget and the Federal Reimbursement Allowance for Medicaid. Passing the budget is a constitutional requirement and funds all state government functions, including things like the University of Missouri system, public K-12 education and state law enforcement.

The FRA is a federal subsidy that reimburses Missouri healthcare providers for the state taxes they pay. This helps healthcare facilities keep costs down while treating state and federal healthcare system patients.

FRA represents a major funding source for the state. If the extension doesn’t pass there would be a $4 billion gap in the state budget.

Standing in the way of the budget and FRA extension is the desire of the far-right Freedom Caucus Republicans to pass a law that would ban Missouri Planned Parenthood from receiving both state and federal funds.

To reach that end, Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, brought forward a House-passed bill Tuesday that bans money going to organizations affiliated with an abortion facility. Even though Planned Parenthood facilities in Missouri are not allowed to provide abortions, they are affiliated with the national organization, which does provide abortions in some states.

“There have been many efforts over the years to defund Planned Parenthood. That effort has been made in budget bills,” Coleman said on the Senate floor.

Noting those efforts were overturned by the state Supreme Court, she added: “This bill is an effort to put that conversation to rest by putting it in our state statutes, (so) that it is abundantly clear to the state of Missouri that people who are engaged in providing abortions shall be ineligible to be part of the Medicaid program.”

Democrats, who note that Planned Parenthood provides a range of women’s health services beyond abortion, rose to challenge the bill.

Sen. Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette, offered an amendment to protect in vitro fertilization, which has been a priority for Democrats. The effort to defund Planned Parenthood relates to reproductive health, providing them the avenue to offer the amendment on in vitro fertilization.

“I don’t think it’s a politician’s place to get involved in a woman’s private health care decisions, including those who want to grow their families through IVF,” McCreery said while introducing the amendment. “The underlying bill that we’re talking about (to ban funding for abortion affiliates), is going in the wrong direction.”

With that move, Democrats began a filibuster that they said they were prepared to continue overnight. However, shortly after midnight the amendment was withdrawn and the bill passed on a party-line vote.

Senate leaders have expressed interest in extending the federal FRA without any restrictions, such as the Planned Parent defunding favored by the Freedom Caucus. Their concern is that federal officials will end the reimbursements if any state restrictions are put in place.


Deadline for Missourians to weigh in on broadband coverage looms


missouri news network

JEFFERSON CITY — The Department of Economic Development’s office has set a deadline of April 23 for Missourians to submit challenges to the state’s broadband coverage map.

The challenge process will assist in the allocation of $1.7 billion in federal funding provided by the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.

Missourians can challenge whether their addresses are underserved with broadband speeds below 100 megabits per second (mbps) for downloads and 20 mbps for uploads. These are the new required minimum speeds from the Federal Communications Commission for high-speed broadband as of March.

Missourians can also claim their addresses are unserved, meaning they receive broadband under 25 mbps for downloads and 3 mbps for uploads.

“We want anybody to fill out a challenge if possible. We want every home to be served, and this challenge process will allow us to be able to hear from the community,” said BJ Tanksley, director of Missouri’s Office of Broadband Development.

There have been over 5,000 challenges so far.

Internet providers will have 30 days to rebut any claims of underserved or unserved communities. The Office of Broadband Development will then identify which challenges are valid.

After the rebuttal process is complete, the office will submit a list of the challenges to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. This will outline how much money they want to budget for different internet providers based on proposals for BEAD money from the providers. The office will propose that money be allocated based on what communities the provider wants to serve, how many people will be served and how much it will cost.

The first round of awards will be announced in the fall on a rolling basis. A second round of applications will open in late fall to early winter, with funds to be awarded in spring 2025.

The Missourian previously reported that 15% of Missouri households are either unserved or underserved by an internet provider. The state hopes to have reliable internet connection accessible to every household by 2028.

“Internet providers have been notified of when we want to get this done. Obviously implementation isn’t always a perfect prediction but we expect to be able to hold to that goal,” Tanksley said.

Challenges to the map may be submitted after the April 23 deadline, but will not be considered for BEAD money allocation.



Senate committee hears omnibus crime bill


missouri news network

JEFFERSON CITY — The Senate Judiciary Committee briefly heard a House omnibus crime bill Monday that mirrors a bill vetoed by Gov. Mike Parson last session.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Lane Roberts, R-Joplin, said he crafted the bill to update Missouri criminal law in multiple ways while avoiding the veto that befell last session’s version.

One new provision added to the bill, HB 1659, would keep 12- and 13-year-old felony offenders from being tried as adults.

Currently, offenders between the ages of 12 and 18 can be certified to stand trial as adults if they are charged with a “dangerous felony,” defined as murder, serious injury, or an attempt at either.

This bill would raise the minimum age to 14 for a child to be charged as an adult.

Marcia Hazelhorst, executive director of the Missouri Juvenile Justice Association, testified in favor of raising the minimum age.

“Certifying a young person as an adult is a pretty serious event,” Hazelhorst said. “One that you only do as the last resort when the court has determined there are no existing resources within the juvenile court system to support trying to rehabilitate a young person.”

Legislative leaders hope to pass an omnibus crime bill that would address a variety of issues without drawing Parson’s veto.

While the governor was largely in favor of last year’s omnibus crime bill, his office took umbrage with a provision that would require the state to pay out restitution to offenders who were exonerated with DNA evidence after their initial trial.

The governor’s office highlighted that such trials take place on the local level, with a locally elected prosecutor and locally selected jury, so the burden of paying restitution to exonerated offenders should come from local budgets — not the state’s.

Finally, there was concern that it would be possible for some sex offenders, including those who committed sexual exploitation of a minor, to have their records expunged.

The bill heard Monday doesn’t include any of the same provisions that caused the governor heartburn.

However, a Senate omnibus crime bill with a similar focus to HB 1659 will attempt to get a criminal exoneration provision in front of Parson. SB 754 will specifically disallow expungement for sex offenders convicted of promoting sexual performance of a child.

“There’s still plenty of time left in the session. If (HB 1659) could get out of the Senate in its current position, then it has a real shot,” Roberts said. “I think the governor will look at this bill, and the provisions that are in the bill are such that he would sign it.”

Other provisions in the omnibus HB 1659 crime bill include:

  • “Blair’s Law,” which would create harsher punishments for those who endanger others with celebratory gunfire.
  • “Max’s Law,” which would create harsher punishments for offenders who injure or kill law enforcement animals.
  • Creation of a “Stop Cyberstalking and Harassment Task Force,” responsible for making recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly on how to prevent specific cyber crimes.
  • A provision that would allow a municipality to create a division of civilian oversight within its police department.


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