UPDATE: Several new state laws take effect Thursday

Wednesday, August 27, 2008 | 7:42 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri politicians may soon be awash with money. Boaters, however, may need to think twice before washing down another beer.

A new law taking effect Thursday in Missouri will repeal the state's campaign contribution limits, allowing candidates to accept big checks for the November elections.

Some of the new laws


Repeals the state's campaign contribution limits, thus allowing candidates to receive large donations for the November elections. Requires contributions of more than $5,000 to be disclosed within 48 hours.


Lowers Missouri's threshold for drunken boating to 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content, instead of 0.10 percent.


Repeals a treasurer's office policy barring financial incentives for ethanol plants and other value-added agricultural cooperatives that have any state officials or their relatives as investors. Allows such incentives so long as state officials own less than 2 percent of the business.


Bars electric or natural gas companies from shutting off service when the temperature is likely to rise above 95 degrees or the heat index above 105 degrees within 24 hours.


Makes the ice cream cone the official state dessert.


Requires people to prove they are legally in the country when applying for public benefits; fines employers who misclassify workers as contractors instead of employees.


Makes it illegal to harass others by computers, text messages and other electronic devices, a response to the suicide of a St. Charles County teen.


Makes it a misdemeanor crime for employers to order employees to get microchip implants.


Creates the crime of mortgage fraud and expands administrative power to investigate allegations.


Allows advanced practice nurses to write prescriptions for some controlled substances, including nausea and cough medicines and pain relievers.


Prohibits family members from overruling the organ donation consent of their deceased relatives. New organ donor symbols will be placed on drivers' licenses.


Allows the Missouri Public Service Commission to retroactively authorize a power plant built by Aquila Inc. in Cass County without proper authorization, potentially avoiding a court order to tear it down.


Requires governments to reduce their property tax rates whenever assessed property values rise by more than inflation.


Makes it a specific felony to steal certain wire and pipes. Requires scrap metal dealers to retain for two years copies of the photo identifications of people selling them more than $50 in metals, such as copper or aluminum.


Requires sex offenders to submit their e-mail addresses, instant message names and other online identifiers to a state registry. Requires registered sex offenders to remain in their homes between 5 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on Halloween and post a sign stating: "No candy or treats at this residence"


Prohibits heavy trucks from driving in the far left lane of highways having three or more lanes in urban areas.


Repeals a 2007 law that made it easier for landowners to incorporate their property as a village, thus avoiding county planning and zoning rules.



Another new law will lower Missouri's boating while intoxicated threshold from 0.10 percent to 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content. The tougher law kicks in just in time for Labor Day weekend, a popular boating period.

In Missouri, Aug. 28 is the standard effective date for the scores of bills passed during the annual legislative session. It bumps up against a holiday weekend this year because Labor Day falls on the earliest possible date.

Among the other new laws are those related to Internet harassment, scrap metal theft and mortgage fraud, as well as new restrictions on public benefits for illegal immigrations.

The Missouri State Water Patrol plans to enforce the tougher drunken-boating law during a sobriety checkpoint this weekend at the Lake of the Ozarks.

The patrol has run radio ads and posted signs at marinas to try to get the word out about the lower drunken-boating threshold. The Lake of the Ozarks Water Safety Council also has passed out promotional materials about the change, which applies statewide.

The new boating law matches a 0.08 percent blood-alcohol limit adopted for Missouri's roads in 2001. It also makes several other water-law changes, including a requirement that boats come to idle speed within 100 feet of emergency vessels displaying flashing lights.

A night boat speed limit of 30 miles per hour - previously in place on the largest lakes and rivers - will be expanded to cover all Missouri waterways. And a ban on boaters obstructing the traffic flow on lakes will be expanded to rivers and streams as well.

"The biggest one is the drop in the legal threshold for intoxication," said Water Patrol Sgt. Gerard Callahan. "Our officers will be enforcing that. A lot of the other ones, there will be a break-in period," meaning boaters may receive warnings instead of tickets.

Politicians already have had a warm-up period for big-bucks fundraising.

Thursday marks the second time in as many years that Missouri's campaign contribution limits have been lifted. After being repealed in January 2007, candidates took in five- and six-figure checks for the next half year, until the Missouri Supreme Court reinstated the limits.

The court did so on a technicality, determining lawmakers had linked the repeal to a separate provision found to be unconstitutional. Most major candidates then refunded the money they had received above the retroactively reinstated limits.

But the Republican-led legislature responded in May by again voting to repeal donation limits. This time, there was no court challenge. So that means an end to the caps of $1,350 for candidates for statewide office, $675 for state Senate candidates and $325 for state House candidates.

The timing could work out particularly well for politicians needing to rebuild their campaign accounts after contentious Aug. 5 primaries.

U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, for example, says he "expended essentially all of the resources we had raised" in defeating Treasurer Sarah Steelman in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Hulshof is starting from scratch raising money to compete against Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon in the general election.

Hulshof spokesman Scott Baker said the campaign has no special fundraising events planned to coincide with the repeal of the contribution limits.

When candidates do reap large donations, they will face new reporting requirements. Beginning Thursday, any time a candidate or political committee receives a donation of at least $5,000, they must report it to the Missouri Ethics Commission within 48 hours.

That's on top of an existing, unchanged requirement to report within 24 hours any contributions of at least $250 received within 11 days of an election.


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