With a fall of a gavel, the First Regular Session of the 101st General Assembly came to a close last Friday. It’s been a busy and productive five months in the Missouri Senate, and we’ve accomplished a great deal. Of all our successes this year, I am particularly proud of two measures that I guided through the legislative process: Senate Bill 53, a major package of public safety legislation, and Senate Bill 51, a measure that shields small businesses and health care workers from unwarranted lawsuits related to COVID-19.
Senate Bill 53 began as an effort to address officer shortages at the Kansas City Police Department. Following up on legislation passed in 2020 that relaxed residency requirements for police officers in St. Louis, I proposed a similar measure for the KCPD. The requirement that officers live in the city limits discouraged otherwise-qualified applicants and causes veteran officers to leave the force. My legislation extends the residency limits to a 30-mile radius around the city limits, providing police officers greater choice of where to live and raise their families. Also included in the bill, is a provision I sponsored creating a new felony offense of “doxing” a police officer. This practice of exposing an officer’s private information online (or otherwise) in an effort to intimidate or harass them is becoming all too common in our modern, electronic age. Police face enough danger on the streets. They should not have to worry about their family’s safety at home.
As the legislative process progressed, Senate Bill 53 increased in both scope and significance. Working with Senate and House colleagues, the bill became the primary public safety measure before the General Assembly this session. Legislation increasing compensation for county sheriffs, requiring prisoners who receive COVID-19 relief checks to pay restitution to victims, and new statutes regarding police officer licensing and certification were added to the bill. Eventually, the bill encompassed more than three dozen separate provisions relating to law enforcement and courts.
Members of both parties – from both chambers of the Legislature – contributed to the bill. Working closely with law enforcement groups and prosecutors, we arrived at a comprehensive legislative package that increases public safety in communities across our state. I believe one of my senate colleagues was correct when he described Senate Bill 53 as “the most significant bipartisan legislation to come through the body in many recent years.” We hear a lot about the inability of lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to work together collaboratively in government. I think this bill is living proof of the fact that whenever we put our heads together and work hard, we’re able to get good bipartisan legislation across the finish line.
In the closing hours of the 2021 session, the House of Representatives approved my Senate Bill 51, fulfilling the governor’s request for legislation shielding businesses and health care facilities from lawsuits related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Absent evidence that a restaurant, retail store or other business showed willful misconduct or acted recklessly, they won’t be held accountable for someone contracting the virus. The legislation, which also includes protections for churches, medical facilities and manufacturers, will provide Missouri employers the confidence to reopen their business and get our economy back to where it was pre-pandemic.
It is my great honor to represent the citizens of Platte and Buchanan counties in the Missouri Senate. Please contact my office at (573) 751-2183, or visit www.senate.mo.gov
–State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer