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  • 26 Jan 2017 12:36 PM | Anonymous

    My first few posts concerning the 2017 Missouri legislative session have focused on the House Judiciary Committee. In this post let’s take a look at two interesting bills in the Senate.

     SB200 – This is the same as SB591, which we looked at in the 2016 legislative session before it went through some modifications. This bill changes the standards applicable to expert witnesses in Missouri pursuant to RSMo 490.065. Jessi Baker’s official Senate summary on this is good so I’m going to copy it here:

    "This act provides that current standards for admitting expert testimony in a civil action shall apply to legal actions adjudicated in probate court, juvenile court, family courts, or in actions involving divorce, marriage, adoption, child support orders, or protective orders.

    In all other legal actions an expert witness may testify in a court proceeding if the expert has specialized knowledge that will help the trier of fact understand the evidence, the testimony is based on sufficient facts and the product of reliable principles, and if the expert has reliably applied such principles to the facts of the case.

    An expert may base an opinion on facts in the case that the expert has been made aware of or personally observed. If experts in the particular field would reasonably rely on those kinds of facts in forming an opinion, the facts need not be admissible for the opinion to be admitted. If the facts would otherwise be inadmissible, the proponent may disclose them to the jury only if their probative value outweighs their prejudicial effect.

    An expert witness shall not testify on the defendant's mental state which constitutes an element of the crime. An expert witness may state an opinion without first testifying to the underlying facts, but may be required to do so on cross-examination.

    A real property owner is competent to testify as to the reasonable market value of his or her land, in accordance with certain case law listed in the act."

    SB 277 – Senator Paul Wieland (R-Jefferson County) seeks to have the death penalty removed as a potential punishment for first-degree murder. This would cause repeal to numerous sections is Chapters 546 and 565 of Missouri’s Revised Statutes. This bill was tried the last few years in the Senate and for several recent years in the House. Any chance it will pass this time?  If it did, would Greitens sign it? I can’t recall from the campaign his stance on the death penalty, if any. He did campaign on being tougher on violent crimes though, which would certainly include first-degree murder.


    Tim West, MO Legislative Monitor
    LAKC Board of Directors

  • 24 Jan 2017 8:31 PM | Anonymous

    First an update on bills discussed in the first post on this series of bills referred to the Judiciary Committee: HB 35 and HB 50 were voted do pass on the 19th after a hearing on the 17th.  HB 34 was referred to Legislative Oversight. 

    Also voted do pass on the 19th was HB 285.  This bill sponsored by Nathan Beard (R - Pettis/Johnson) creates a requirement that a responsive pleading be filed in response to a motion to modify child support or maintenance.  The bill would add the following sentence to RSMo 452.370.1: "A responsive pleading shall be filed in response to any motion to modify a child support or maintenance judgment."  Further, the bill would add a similar sentence in RSMo 454.500 and change the word "may" to "shall" in reference to filing a responsive pleading in RSMo 425.747.

    So what else does the Judiciary have to consider?

    HB 72 would change the rules concerning the method of determining compensation in condemnation cases related to high voltage power lines.  The bill, among other things, provides property owners with the opportunity to get treble damages and an award of attorney fees in litigation.  I'll need to look at this more because it is not readily apparent to me how this bill is philosophically consistent with the Governor's message on the need for tort reform.  Rep. Joe McGaugh (R - Chariton/Carroll/Ray) can tell you more about this if you are interested.

    Committee Vice Chair Corlew (R - Platte/Clay) has sponsored HB 152 which seeks to establish the "Armed Offender Docket Pilot Project" in Jackson County Circuit Court.  Even if the bill passed, it would be up to the Circuit Court to determine if they wanted to implement the docket as it comes with no money but rather authorizes the Circuit Court to charge a surcharge in an effort to pay for the docket, which would have a dedicated judge.  I haven't spoken to any of the Jackson County judges about this bill to determine if this would be beneficial so let me know if you have any insights.

    I'll provide another update after the Committee's next hearing on the 24th.


    Tim West, MO Legislative Monitor
    LAKC Board of Directors

  • 18 Jan 2017 6:14 AM | Anonymous

    We are still early in the 1st Regular Session of the 99th General Assembly, but let's take a look at a few of the bills that have been referred to the Judiciary Committee.

    HB 32 - This seeks to add a paragraph to RSMo 621.035 to allow Enrolled Agents and CPAs to represent individuals and businesses before the administrative hearing commission on matters "relating to the assessment or reassessment of taxes or any other tax-related matter."  I have no idea what "other tax-related matter" means but you can ask the bill's sponsor, Gary Cross (R - Lee's Summit).

    HB 34 - This bill seeks to update Article's 1 and 7 of Missouri's Commercial Code to match the current version of the UCC.  That seems like a sensible proposal by Representative Dean Plocher (R - Town and Country).

    HB 35 - This bill seeks to create a rule of evidence regarding the admission of breath analyzer results for those allegedly intoxicated.  The bills seeks to abrogate the holdings of Stiers v. Director of Revenue, 477 S.W.3d 611 (Mo. 2016).  This was introduced by Rep. Plocher.

    HB 50 - This bill, introduced by Rep. Rebecca Roeber (R - Lee's Summit / Greenowood), seeks to eliminate the division assignments between Kansas City and Independence that exists in the 16th Judicial Circuit.  RSMo 478.463 and 478.464 designate where each division resides.  Ms. Roeber's bill would strike those designations leaving the statutes to state only that there would be 19 circuit judges and 10 associate circuit judges.  I have not inquired or heard of the motivation behind this bill or what, if any reaction, it has received from Jackson County judges.  If you have any insight on this, I would love to hear about it.

    I'll be back in a few days with a few more bills that our judiciary committee is likely to address this session.

    Tim West, MO Legislative Monitor
    LAKC Board of Directors

  • 04 Jan 2017 5:45 PM | Anonymous

    What's at the top of the GOP-controlled House's agenda?

    Right to work.  Governor Greitens campaigned on a promise to pass a bill that prohibits Unions from mandating dues, legislators pre-filed bills and today, in his Opening Day address, House Speaker Todd Richardson said he would refer a bill to the Economic Development Committee tomorrow (1/5/17) and asked that the Committee get the bill to the House floor ASAP.

    Ethics Reform.  Speaker Richardson said: "A gift ban will be the first bill out of this House."  Now whether this bill will have any teeth and actually have a reforming effect is anyone's guess, but the GOP, starting at the top with President Trump, is at least attempting to get reform soundbites.

    Charter Schools.  Speaker Richardson today spoke about the need to expand access to charter schools.  A review of the currently filed bills suggests that this is an idea without a plan, but time will tell.  Keep an eye on HB189, offered by Kathryn Swan, which would establish a savings plan for K-12 educational expense and fits hand-in-glove with expanding charter schools.  Charter schools are likely to be the subject of renewed discussion in light of Trump's selection of Betsy DeVos, an advocate for charter school expansion, to be the Department of Education Secretary.


    Tim West, LAKC MO Legislative Monitor
    LAKC Board of Directors

  • 28 Nov 2016 9:48 AM | Anonymous

    With a Republican super majority in the legislature and Republican Eric Greitens replacing Democrat Jay Nixon as holder of the veto stamp, there could be a lot of legislation passed and signed into law that has had the legs the past few years.  For those of us in Kansas City area, that means concern or joy (depending on your perspective) over the prospect of another bill to repeal the 1% earnings tax.

    For those of you that view a repeal bill as negative, including the 77% that voted in favor of the 1% tax the last time it was on the ballot, you have good reason to believe that a repeal bill will not be part of the 2017 agenda.  First, Senator Kurt Schaefer, the big proponent of the repeal bill was term limited out of office.  Second, Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr, who sponsored a repeal bill last session recently said that he does not intend to sponsor a similar bill this session.

    So, what will be at the top of the Republican legislative agenda for 2017?  Let me know what you think should or shouldn't be the legislature's focus?   

  • 15 Sep 2016 5:28 PM | Anonymous

    Missouri's veto session began on Wednesday, September 14.  By the end of the day, 13 of Governor Nixon's 20 vetoes had been overridden.  I'll address the impact of other bills in future posts, but the bill getting all the attention is that which allows concealed carry without a permit and expands the so-called stand your ground law.  This is the bill that lead KC Mayor Sly James to fear that the legislature would "double down on stupid."  As Mayor James said earlier today (Thursday the 15th), this result was not surprising.  The Kansas City Star had made an overly optimistic pitch about how the veto might not be overridden now that some Republicans had begun to express concerns over citizens carrying weapons without a permit and without the benefit of training classes.  That was never a realistic possibility as this was always going to be a party line vote.  The NRA was heavily supportive of this bill that makes Missouri the 10th state where concealed carry is permissible without a permit.  The law takes effect January 1, 2017.

    Tim West
    MO Legislative Monitor
    LAKC Board of Directors

  • 08 Sep 2016 6:51 PM | Anonymous

    The selection committee for the Coburn Award is seeking nominations for Legal Aid of Western Missouri’s Honorable H. Michael Coburn Community Service Award. This award was created in 1995. The Committee will select an award winner whose noble work and honorable efforts in service to the community will serve as an inspiration to others in the legal profession.

    Qualifications:

    • Current member of the Missouri Bar practicing in the Jackson County area.
    • Demonstrated, in the spirit of Legal Aid, outstanding service to advancing the administration of justice on behalf of low-income people in the Jackson County area.
    • Outstanding service to the community with a particular emphasis on volunteer activity and leadership, other than work directly for bar associations (pro bono case work on behalf of low-income people that is done through a bar association may be considered).


    The Procedure:

    The nomination form, along with appropriate supporting materials. Applications must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 4, 2016 by The Coburn Community Service Award Committee, c/o Legal Aid of Western Missouri, 1125 Grand Avenue, Suite 1900, Kansas City, Missouri, 64106. Applications may also be submitted on-line to glombardi@lawmo.org. Any questions should be directed by e-mail to Gregg Lombardi at glombardi@lawmo.org.

    Deadline for nominations to be received by Legal Aid is 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 8, 2016.

    Download a nomination form.


    Past Coburn Award Recipients Include:

    2015 Pat Stueve
    201 Suzy Block
    2013 Steve Chinn
    2012 Dale Irwin
    2011 Denise Henning
    2010 Janeen deVries
    2009 Charley German
    2008 James Heeter
    2007 Matthew J. O’Connor
    2006 Richard W. Miller
    2005 Lisa Gentleman
    2004 Honorable Jon Gray
    2003 Courtney Koger
    2002 Honorable Justine Del Muro
    2001 C. Patrick McLarney
    2000 John Kurtz
    1999 John Johnston
    1998 Honorable Christine Sill-Rogers
    1997 Elaine Drodge Koch
    1996 Honorable Hal Lowenstein
    1995 Bronwyn Werner

  • 06 Sep 2016 10:35 AM | Anonymous

    Governor Nixon vetoed 22 bills in the 2016 regular session.  The veto session in which the General Assembly will consider only those bills returned by Governor Nixon convenes on September 14.  SB 586, relating to charter schools, has already been overridden.  Here is a short summary of some the bills vetoed by the Governor this last session:

    *         HB1414 [SCS HB 1414] - This bill would have allowed for a voluntary reporting of agricultural information that is now mandatory.  Governor Nixon vetoed the bill arguing the public has the right to know the information.

    *         HB1432 [SS#2 SCS HCB HB 1432] - This bill requires a hearing within 60 days of an employee being placed on administrative leave.  Governor Nixon vetoed the bill arguing that it would make it harder for employers to punish employees and would give procedural rights to employees not currently entitled to such protections.

    *         HB 1631 [SC#2 SCS HCS HB 1631] - This is Missouri's take on a voter ID bill, requiring government-issued photo ID to vote.  This is similar to a bill that Nixon vetoed in 2011.  We'll see if there are votes to override the veto this session.

    *         SB 591 [SCS SB 591] - This bill would modify Missouri's statute regarding expert testimony to essentially put in place the Daubert standard used in federal courts and many other states.  The bill had a fair number of Republicans vote against it on its initial passage so it is doubtful there will be the votes to override the veto.

    *         SB 847 [SS#2 SB 847] - This bill would have ramifications for the collateral source rule and damages evidence in personal injury cases.   If passed, parties could introduce evidence of the actual cost, rather than the value, of the medical care or treatment to the plaintiff.  The bill would also repeal a provision of law which provides that there is a rebuttable presumption that the value of the medical treatment provided is represented by the dollar amount necessary to satisfy the financial obligation to the health care provider. The bill would provide that the actual cost of the medical care or treatment shall not exceed the dollar amounts paid by or on behalf of a patient whose care is at issue plus any remaining amount necessary to satisfy the financial obligation for medical care by a health care provided after adjustment for any contractual discounts, or price reduction.

    Tim West, MO Legislative Monitor
    LAKC Board of Directors

  • 19 Jul 2016 12:26 PM | Anonymous

    Let's say an applicant just so happened to be convicted of a felony or misdemeanor crime in the past and he'd like to have that removed from his criminal record as it is proving a hindrance to gaining employment.  As of January 1, 2018, it will be much easier.  This legislative session SB588 was passed and recently signed by Governor Nixon.  The bill expands the type of crimes that are eligible for expungement, removes the limitation of one expungement per Circuit Court and shortens the time before expungement can be sought.  Previously one would have to wait 10 years for a misdemeanor and 20 years for a felony.  Now, just 3 years and 7 years respectively.  Keep in mind there are still a lot of crimes that are not eligible to be expunged.

    If a conviction is expunged, the applicant is no longer required to disclose the conviction in most circumstances.  The bill expressly says that after expungement, an application may answer no to the conviction question on an application.  Convictions must still be disclosed when seeking certain licenses (including professional licenses) and for certain jobs where employers are prohibited from hiring individuals with certain convictions.  The bill puts the burden on the employer to inform the applicant of this.

    While Governor Nixon stated that this bill balances the interest of those previously convicted of certain crimes with the interest of employers, this will create new challenges for employers.

    Tim West, LAKC Board of Directors
    MO Legislative Monitor

  • 14 Jul 2016 8:35 AM | Anonymous

    Following up on Senate Bill 5 from last year, which reacted to the DOJ's critical report of the Ferguson Municipal Court system, this year Senate Bill 572 was passed and has been signed by the Governor.

    The Governor's staff prepared the following statement for him to proclaim: "The purpose of municipal courts is to protect our communities, not profit from them," said Gov. Nixon. "This bill builds on the landmark reform legislation I called for and signed last year, and will help ensure all our municipal courts operate with fairness, openness and accountability."

    So, what does SB572 really do?  First, understand that it has a lot of provisions and is not a focused bill.  It requires municipalities in St. Louis County to review their construction codes by 2018, but not to adopt any particular updates.  So, just not sure what that will accomplish or why the Missouri Senate needed to tell municipalities in St. Louis County to do that.

    But the meat of the SB and what Gov. Nixon was talking about is that the act changes the definition of court costs to exclude any certified costs, and to include fines added to the annual real estate tax bill or a special tax bill of a property owner for the cost of nuisance abatement and removal. The definition of minor traffic violation is modified to include traffic ordinance violations for which no points are assessed to a driver's driving record and amended charges for any minor traffic violation and adds a definition for municipal ordinance violations.

    The maximum allowable fine for minor traffic violations has been lowered from three hundred dollars to two hundred twenty-five dollars. For municipal ordinance violations committed within a twelve month period beginning with the first violation: the maximum allowable fine is two hundred dollars for the first offense, two hundred seventy-five dollars for the second offense, three hundred fifty dollars for the third offense, and four hundred fifty dollars for the fourth and subsequent offenses. No court costs shall be charged to defendants found to be indigent. Municipal courts are also required to not charge defendants for costs associated with community service alternatives.

    Municipal ordinance violations and amended charges for municipal ordinance violations are added to the calculation limiting the percentage of annual general operating revenue that can come from fines and court costs for minor violations and to provisions regarding fines, imprisonment, and court costs in municipal court cases. Municipal ordinance violations are also added to municipal disincorporation provisions if a municipality fails to remit excess annual general operating revenue to the Department of Revenue for the county school fund and the disincorporation threshold has been lowered from sixty percent to a majority of participating voters.
    This act also specifies that the state is not liable for the debts of a municipality that is financially insolvent.  So, Missouri has effectively limited the amount of proceeds that municipalities can generate through policing  and the Courts, which will put many municipalities into financial jeopardy so the State needed to clarify they weren't going to be responsible for those messes.

    While SB572 does impose a limit on the number of municipalities one can be a judge in - 5 (remember we are talking about a lot of small communities here where muni court is once or twice a month at night), it does nothing to address the requirement for being a municipal court judge.  That's right, if you are between the ages of 21-75 and live in the State of Missouri, you can be a municipal judge.  A law degree is not needed - maybe that would be a good place to start on reforming our municipal court system.

    Tim West, LAKC Board of Directors
    MO Legislative Monitor

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