Robert Collins photo.
The first session of the Missouri 100th General Assembly closed on May 17. In a release, Missouri KidsFirst said it was delighted to share that in the final week, the General Assembly came through for kids.
“Legislators passed a number of our priority bills, including an omnibus education bill that contained Missouri KidsFirst’s language related to addressing and preventing child sexual abuse in schools. Additionally, a child protection omnibus passed that included a handful of bills we supported. Finally, appropriations for our priority programs were maintained in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget which also included an increased spending authorization for Victims of Crime Act funds of $18 million over FY 2019 levels, bringing the total funds to $63 million. We are very grateful to Missouri lawmakers and our fellow child advocates for their hard work this year and look forward to supporting the implementation of these new laws,” said Jessica Seitz, director of Public Policy for Missouri KidsFirst.
Priority legislation that was Truly Agreed and Finally Passed (TAFP):
Education Omnibus (SS #2 SCS HCS HB 604). Our top priority, HB 739 sponsored by Representative Rocky Miller (R-Osage Beach) passed as a part of a floor substitute to HB 604 on the final day of session. HB 739 was a comprehensive bill designed keep children safe from sexual abuse in schools. We worked extensively on this legislation throughout session and are very pleased with the final language. The bill contains five key provisions:
▪ Requires full disclosure between school districts about a former employee regarding any confirmed violation of a board policy related to sexual misconduct with a student. Also requires school districts, before offering employment to a teacher, to contact the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to obtain employment history and then to contact their most recent employer.
▪ Requires school board members to receive training on identifying signs of sexual abuse of children and danger signals of potentially abusive behavior between adults and children.
▪ Requires students in grades six and up to receive trauma-informed developmentally-appropriate sexual abuse prevention training. Guidance and training materials to implement this section will be developed by DESE and the Missouri Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children, a task force established in statute and chaired by Missouri KidsFirst.
▪ Requires comprehensive background checks on school volunteers who have regular contact alone with children including coaches, tutors, mentors and chaperones.
▪ Closes a loophole in Missouri’s definition of child abuse regarding relationships between children and school personnel to clarify that abusive behavior that occurs outside of school hours or off school grounds is included in the definition.
Child Protection Omnibus (CCS SS SCS HCS HB 397) contains multiple child-focused bills drawn from 11 separately filed bills, including several supported by Missouri KidsFirst including:
▪ Allows an affirmative defense to the charge of prostitution to be offered by anyone younger than 18 who can also demonstrate coercion. Those young people would be hotlined to Department of Social Services as a victim of abuse (child sex trafficking).
▪ Allows for the expungement of prostitution convictions for persons convicted of the offense when they were younger than 18
▪ Modifies provisions related to record confidentiality in child fatality review panels (HB 877/SB 305)
“Nathan’s Law” which limits the number of children who could be cared for by unlicensed in-home child care providers to six (with no more than three children under the age of two) (SB 336):
▪ Allows DHSS to deny an application for a child care facility license if it will be located within 1,000 feet of a place where a registered sex offender resides or receives treatment (HB 826/SB 386)
▪ Fixes a glitch to ensure access to health insurance for children in foster care until age 26 (HB 1067/SB 514)
▪ Removes protections for websites promoting online prostitution (FOSTA) (HB 882/SB 37)
The House and Senate passed the 2020 Fiscal Year state budget (July 1, 2019-June 30, 2020) and the two budget bills of highest priority to us—House Bill 10 (Department of Mental Health & Health and Senior Services) and House Bill 11 (Department of Social Services)—contained the following programs:
▪ Child Advocacy Centers funded at FY2019 levels: $2.95M
▪ Victims of Crime Act (VOCA): $63.7 million, an $18 million increase from FY2019 levels. The Senate also added language requiring grants to be awarded competitively.
▪ Maintained funding for SAFE-CARE at FY2019 levels, including renewal of the $250,000 to implement a regionalized medical response to child abuse, provide daily review of cases of children under four and provide medical forensics training to medical providers and multi-disciplinary team members
▪ Missouri Children’s Trauma Network funded at FY2019 levels: $500,000
▪ Evidence-based mental health trauma treatments for abused children (Medicaid supplemental case management fee): $1.25M ($430,000 General Revenue & $820,000 Federal)
For a full list of legislation supported and monitored by Missouri KidsFirst this year, including summaries and links to the bills, check out 2019 Legislative Tracker at http://www.missourikidsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/Legislative-Tracker-2019-Session-FINAL.pdf.