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Nixon Signs Bill Revamping Missouri's Funeral Protest Law

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed several bills passed during the 2014 regular session into law Friday.

Tweak to funeral protest law

First, Nixon signed  House Bill 1372, which fixes a legal issue with Missouri's ban on protests at funerals.

In 2006, Missouri enacted a law banning protests at  funerals and named it for Army Spc. Edward Lee Myers of St. Joseph, who died in 2005 while serving in Iraq. His funeral in St. Joseph was picketed by members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. The church claims that the deaths of members of the U.S. military is God's punishment for homosexuality in America.

The 2006 bill established two versions of the same law. The first barred protests at funerals outright, regardless of where they took place, from one hour before the start of the service until one hour afterwards.  The second version, which was to take effect if the former were ruled unconstitutional, would criminalize protests within 300 feet of a funeral service or a funeral procession.

A panel of the 8th District U.S. Court of Appeals struck down the first version in 2008, but delayed acting on the fall-back version.  Then in 2013, a second panel from the same federal appeals court ruled that both versions were too broadly written.  However, the panel also said that the if the word "procession" were removed from the second version the law would then be OK.

The bill signed Friday follows that recommendation, leaving out the ban on protests along funeral procession routes.  First-time offenders who violate the 300-foot buffer zone face fines of up to $500 and up to six months in jail, while repeat offenders face double those amounts.

EBT card use

Nixon also signed legislation Friday that further regulates food stamps in Missouri.

Senate Bill 680 lifts a ban on convicted drug felons from getting food stamps, if they meet certain conditions.  Those include enrolling, participating in, or successfully completing a substance abuse treatment program, and not committing another drug-related offense for one year after being convicted or released from custody.

The new law also bars the use of EBT cards to buy alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, and lottery tickets. A similar law passed last year banned EBT card use in liquor stores, casinos, and adult-oriented businesses.  In addition, EBT cards will be suspended if their holders don't make a purchase within Missouri for 90 days or longer, as a means of identifying those who may have moved out of state.

Nixon also signed the following bills into law Friday:

House Bill 1201 (surface mining)

House Bill 1237 (changes regarding nonresident entertainer income tax)

House Bill 1302 (wood-burning stoves and heating devices)

House Bill 1779 (allows advanced practice registered nurses, APRN's, to order use of restraints in mental health facilities) 

House Bill 1882 (public employee retirement plans)

Senate Bill 529 (modifies Missouri Public Prompt Payment Act)

Senate Bill 530 (termination of parental rights)

Rachel Lippmann contributed to this report

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

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