Thursday, July 14, 2005

Update: Missouri Governor Signs Controversial Bill

Don't Worry; We'll Fix It, Guv Says--Just Ignore It Meanwhile, Blunt Suggests

Missouri Governor Matt Blunt late Wednesday signed SB 420, the convoluted legislation that some local governments say will force the removal of Internet access to public records. But Blunt called for a special session of the legislature to repeal the the information provisions of this complex bill that affect local government. The new law goes into effect on August 28; a special session would commence in September. Blunt suggested that local governments not implement the law before the legislature revises it. [Story, Columbia Daily Tribune, 7/14/05].

SB 420 was sponsored by Sen. Rob Mayer of Dexter, Stoddard County, in southeast Missouri and handled in the House by Rep. Richard Byrd of Kirkwood, St Louis County, who died while the bill was pending. The legislation allows elected and appointed officials to request their personal information be removed from internet sites. Byrd reportedly was troubled by the murders of the husband and mother of a federal judge in Chicago.

But in apparent violation of the Missouri constitution, SB 420 was amended to contain a number of distinct and unrelated topics. For example, it adds to state law several important crime provisions. The bill expands the number of offenses that apply to the child placement prohibition and creates new guidelines when one child is abusing another child to protect the child who is being abused. The bill changes newborn abandonment laws, removing the minimum age requirement and raising the maximum age restriction to one year. The bill also allows cities and counties to adopt fees on marriage licenses and civil cases that would help support domestic violence shelters.

The linking of numerous, disparate subjects in legislation is illegal in many states. However, such prohibitions are often ignored by legislators in order to leverage the passage of less popular provisions. It's not clear what the idea was with SB 420, but the inclusion of so many eleemosynary issues no doubt made a gubernatorial veto politically impossible.

Jackson County Executive Katheryn Shields had said that the information provisions would cause her county to end on-line access to marriage records and real estate records.

"“I would have to take all the (land) records off,"” Clay County Recorder of Deeds Bob Sevier told the Kansas City Star.

But St. Louis County officials said they weren't concerned because they have technology for restricting access to sensitive online information instead of removing the records.

The Missouri Press Association and the Missouri Land Title Association also had urged the governor to veto the bill.

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