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Mo. Gov. Nixon signs 6 bills into law, OKs drug testing for some welfare recipients

Mo. Gov. Jay Nixon
(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)
Mo. Gov. Jay Nixon

Updated 5:37 p.m. to reflect implications of other bill signings regarding human trafficking and domestic violence.

According to a press release, Mo. Gov. Jay Nixon has signed 6 bills into law this afternoon.

Here's a roundup of some of the issues addressed by some of the laws, followed by a full list of those signed below:

Drug testing for some welfare recipients (HB 73)

The first of the bills listed below, House Bill 73, requires drug screens for some individuals receiving or applying for certain welfare benefits. The legislation, signed Tuesday, applies to the program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Officials will administer drug tests when they have reasonable cause to believe an applicant or recipient is using illegal drugs. Those who refuse to be checked or who test positive and don't complete a substance abuse program will be ineligible for benefits for three years.

Critics say the testing law unfairly targets one group of people. But supports contend that people who use illegal drugs should not get public assistance.

Human trafficking (HB 214)

People convicted of human trafficking in Missouri will face longer maximum sentences. The legislation addresses convictions for trafficking for slavery, forced labor or sexual exploitation and abuse through forced labor.Those crimes now carry maximum sentences of 15 years in prison. Under the bill, possible sentences would range from five to 20 years. The measure also allows fines of up to $250,000.

The bill also authorizes the state Department of Public Safety to develop procedures for identifying trafficking victims and for educating officials about existing state and federal laws on the crime.

Domestic violence (SB320)

Attorney General Chris Koster says a new Missouri law will strengthen the legal protections for domestic
violence victims.

Gov. Jay Nixon signed the legislation Tuesday without any fanfare. It includes several recommendations from an attorney general's task force that Koster said conducted the first comprehensive review of domestic violence laws in 30 years.

The legislation creates a single definition for domestic violence within Missouri's statutes. It gives judges greater discretion about the specific requirements and prohibitions they can include in orders of protection. It also spares people asking courts to enforce protection orders from having to pay filing fees.

Another provision removes an expiration date for a program giving victims of sexual assault, rape, stalking and domestic violence an alternative mailing address.

As stated in the release, Gov. Nixon signed the following bills into law:

  • House Bill 73, which requires certain applicants for and recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program benefits to be tested for illegal drug use and the benefit card to include a photo of the recipient or payee.  
  • House Bill 214, which changes the laws regarding human trafficking.      
  • House Bill 431, which changes the laws regarding foster care and adoption and establishes the Missouri State Foster Care and Adoption Board and a task force on foster care recruitment, licensing, and retention.
  • House Bill 604, which establishes a task force on foster care recruitment, licensing, and retention and the Missouri State Foster Care and Adoption Board and changes the laws regarding parental rights and foster care placements.
  • House Bill 631, which authorizes a person or corporation to designate a tax refund to the Developmental Disabilities Waiting List Equity Trust Fund and the American Red Cross Fund.

The governor has until Thursday to act on unsigned legislation, which becomes law even without his signature. That includesa billthat would ban abortions in Missouri after 20 weeks except in medical emergencies or if the fetus isn't viable. Current law includes an exception for the mental health of the mother as well.

Nixon said his staff is catching up on reviewing legislation after dealing with a spate of severe weather in May and June. He says he's close to a decision about the abortion measure.

"Until we get [the reviews] completed, I don't want to comment" on the bills, he said."We have a constitutional deadline coming up this week, we will meet that constitutional deadline, and I don't mean in any way, shape or form to say I'm too busy, but it was just a busy time."


Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.