JEFFERSON CITY — The groundwork was laid Monday to make the 2009 Missouri legislative session a repeat of the 2008 debate over making it a crime to coerce an abortion. Monday was the first day to pre-file bills for the 2009 session.
The abortion bill, one that got significant attention last year but did not pass, would require doctors to inform women about abortion alternatives.
During last year's session, the bill stalled on the floor of the Senate when Democrats threatened to filibuster. In 2009, Republicans will hold three more seats in the Senate, making a similar move more difficult.
Under the bill, doctors would be required to provide information such as color photographs of a fetus, a video and information about whether a fetus can feel pain.
The bill would also make it a misdemeanor to coerce someone into an abortion.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, said the primary reason women get an abortion is pressure from family members or a spouse.
"It gives women a way out if they know they don't have to have an abortion," Davis said.
Davis said the bill is important for people on both sides of the issue because "it's about choice." She said some women don't have a choice because they are coerced into a decision.
Another bill filed for the session would ban welfare recipients from receiving help if they test positive for drugs. Recipients would only be tested if the Social Services Department has reason to believe they are on drugs.
"We do drug testing in a lot of other industries. I thought, 'If you want to earn public assistance you ought to be drug free,'" said Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, the bill's sponsor.
The bill would impact those applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a state program designed to provide financial assistance to families with children in which the parent does not make enough money to support themselves.
If the drug test is positive, the recipient can be declared ineligible for the program for three years. Child eligibility would not be affected.
A similar bill was filed in the House of Representatives. Stouffer said if both chambers work on the same issue, it can be stronger.
Another bill filed in both chambers would allow Missourians to vote early, starting three Wednesdays before election day.
The bill's sponsor in the Senate, Sen. Rita Days, D-St. Louis County, said advanced voting has been on her legislative agenda for years, but she thinks voting problems in the November election might spur the bill through the legislature.
"We looked at the number of people who were disenfranchised by the long lines and problems when it comes to voting," Days said. "The time has come for us to open the avenue for people to vote in different ways."
Rep. Michael Frame, D-Eureka, proposed the bill in the House and said the amount of voters who turned out for the 2008 election will be enough incentive to propel the bill forward.
Other bills proposed include:
- A bill submitted by Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, which would make it a class A misdemeanor to have a beer bong, alcohol in a gelatin form or a container holding more that one gallon of alcohol on Missouri rivers. The bill would also ban the distribution of beads commonly associated with Mardi Gras that are intended to cause fighting, nudity or obscene language.
- A ban on using mobile phones while driving unless using a hands-free component. The bill includes a provision for emergency calls.
- Making it a felony to own, carry or discharge an unlicensed stun gun.
Columbia's Democrat legislators pre-filed three bills Monday including:
- Reps.-elect Mary Still and Chris Kelly and Rep. Paul Quinn supported a bill to cap the interest rate for payday lending at 36 percent.
- Kelly, Still and Rep.-elect Stephen Webber also pre-filed a bill to add robo calls, or automated phone messages, to the no-call list. Before the recording could start, a live operator would have to ask permission to play the recording. "It's not really specific to political calls but would cover all robo calls," Still said.
- Kelly, Quinn and Still also pre-filed a bill to allow early voting in the state, which is similar to other bills filed in the House and Senate. Still said the bills will probably be merged together.