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Breast-Feeding Protection Bill, Sponsored By Ailing Lawmaker, Sent To Gov. Nixon

Tim Bommel, Mo. House Communications

  Legislation to expand legal protections in Missouri for breast-feeding moms is on its way to Gov. Jay Nixon.

State Rep. RoryEllinger, D-University City, is on leave from the legislature after being diagnosed with liver cancer, but his bill is on a fast track to passage. The bill would allow breast-feeding moms to be excused from jury duty and would mandate that breast-feeding in public does not equal indecent exposure or conduct.  Fellow Democrat JosephKeaveny of St. Louis sponsored Ellinger's bill in the Senate.

"His health has taken a severe downturn," Keaveny told the Senate Monday.

Keaveny described Ellinger as a good friend. The two of them roomed together in Jefferson City during legislative sessions.

"I think everybody could learn a lot (from Ellinger)," Keaveny said.  "Some of the younger people could really learn a lot about dedication, and focus and purpose, and loyalty (from Ellinger)."

The bill and its passage are being hailed as a tribute to Ellinger.  It received first-round approval March 27, and Ellinger was said to have listened in on on the debate.  One day later it passed unanimously, 150-0, with one "present" vote.  Senate leaders on Monday suspended the rules so that the bill could be given final passage and sent to Nixon as soon as possible because of Ellinger's "deteriorating health."  The Senate vote was also unanimous, 31-0.

Ellinger sponsored House Bill 1320 after a Kansas City-area woman faced contempt of court charges last fall for bringing her 7-month-old child to court when she was summoned for jury duty.  The judge in the case asked Missouri lawmakers to address the issue.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.