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Racially restrictive property deeds banned in Missouri

Racial covenants and housing
Michael B. Thomas for NPR
The Shelley House, located in The Greater Ville neighborhood in north St. Louis, set the backdrop for a landmark 1948 U.S. Supreme Court decision that made widespread racially restrictive covenants unenforceable. Still, the language has persisted on deeds for decades.

Gov. Mike Parson also signed off on a record $47.5 billion budget but cut a $500 million income tax credit. And he signed a series of bills primarily focused on health care policy, including one that eases visitor limitations at health care facilities.

The seven bills Parson signed Thursday include measures eliminating racially restrictive covenants on deeds and changing health care policy rules and regulations.

Future recorded deeds within Missouri will no longer be able to reference restrictions related to a person’s race, color, religion or national origin.

The person submitting the deed will be responsible for complying with the law. Recorders of deeds could refuse to accept deeds that violate the law. But deeds in violation would still constitute a valid transfer of property.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Craig Fishel, said it’s not about removing history but instead about cleaning it up.

“When the next homeowner comes to buy a piece of property, they read the deed and there's no negative thoughts or anything. It's just bringing us up to current standards and conditions that we live in today,” said Fishel, R-Springfield.

An investigation by St. Louis Public Radio last year into racial covenants revealed about 100,000 properties in St. Louis and St. Louis County still have covenants restricting homeownership on the basis of race, ethnicity and religion. The practice was used to segregate neighborhoods.

Although the Fair Housing Act of 1968 made such covenants illegal, tens of thousands of them are still tied to existing deeds.

Property owners will be able to remove a prohibited covenant by filing for a certificate of release.

This Missouri State Capitol on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, in Jefferson City, Missouri.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Lawmakers in the Missouri Capitol, photographed in December 2021 in Jefferson City, passed a record budget last session.

Record budget

In addition to signing policy bills into law, Parson signed a state operating budget totaling around $47.5 billion, the last day he could do so as the upcoming fiscal year begins Friday.

Parson issued 32 line-item vetoes, totaling close to $644 million.

The largest is the veto of $500 million intended to go toward a one-time, nonrefundable income tax credit. Parson previously expressed skepticism about the credit, saying he thought the bill was too quickly put together.

While Parson vetoed the appropriation of the tax credit, there has not been action yet on a separate bill authorizing the tax credit itself.

Also vetoed within the American Rescue Plan bill is $83 million toward the construction and maintenance of a Highway Patrol Law Enforcement Academy, with Parson citing a higher-than-anticipated cost.

Many of the vetoes in this bill, such as $10 million toward a grant program for charter school maintenance, were due to them not being in Parson’s original budget recommendations.

Kept in the American Rescue Plan budget bill is over $460 million for capital improvement projects for Missouri’s higher education institutions, over $411 million for investments in drinking water, stormwater and wastewater infrastructure and $250 million to expand broadband availability.

Within the regular budget, around $214 million toward fully funding the state’s contribution toward school transportation remained, along with an additional $17.5 million from the Budget Stabilization Fund.

Funding for teacher raises, which Parson stated the need for during his State of the State address, also remained.

The governor also did not issue any vetoes on the bill funding the Department of Social Services, meaning the state has fully funded its Medicaid program, including its expansion population, for the next fiscal year.

Changes to health facility visitation

A trio of bills related to health care also became law after Parson signed them on Thursday. One of them changes visitation policy for people in hospitals, hospices and long-term care facilities.

The new law establishes the No Patient Left Alone Act, barring health care facilities from stopping patients from receiving visitors.

Now, they must allow in-person contact with at least two “compassionate care visitors” at the same time during visiting hours. The law also requires a visiting hour period of at least six hours, including on evenings, weekends and holidays.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, facilities limited or even prohibited visitors in an attempt to stop greater disease spread.

Sen. Bill White, R-Joplin, said the pandemic revealed new areas where new rules became necessary, like visitation policies.

“There's no acceptable reason why you have patients dying without their spouses, without their children, being isolated for periods of time,” White said.

The bill has received criticism for taking away health care facilities’ ability to create their own policies as they navigate unforeseen situations.

However, under the law, facilities can enforce some limitations. Examples include limiting the number of visitors at one time based on the size of the building, where visitors can go within the building or even access to a patient.

The same law establishes an essential caregiver program, in which a patient during a state of emergency can designate someone for in-person contact.

“I think when we look back on it, we know how important love is for one another and how important at those times that there is something to be said about seeing a loved one and making sure you're by their side,” Parson said.

A different bill Parson signed contains provisions on health care as it relates to schools.

One part of the bill authorizes school-contracted agents trained by a nurse to administer an epinephrine auto syringe to a student experiencing a life-threatening reaction.

Another requires school nurses in public and charter schools to develop individualized health care plans for students with epilepsy and seizure disorders. All school employees would be required to complete training every two years on caring for students with epilepsy and seizure disorders.

“One in 10 people in this country will have a seizure at some point in their lifetime. We don't know when they're going to happen. So it's great that we're going to have this professional development out there where people will be able to handle somebody who has a seizure,” said Sen. Doug Beck, D-Affton.

Another law includes amendments to the state’s Medical Student Loan Program. It adds psychiatry, dental surgery, dental medicine and dental hygiene students to the list of who is eligible for the program. It also increases the loan amount students could receive each academic year from $7,500 to $25,000.

The legislation also reduced the number of times the Department of Health and Senior Services must inspect licensed adult day care centers. Currently two inspections per year is the requirement. The new law would require at least one surprise inspection in that same period.

Changes to the state’s organ donation laws are also included in the law, barring hospitals, physicians or others from considering the COVID-19 vaccination status of a possible organ donor or recipient at any point in the transplant process.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahkkellogg

Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.