Bill targets sex offenders
By Alexandra Nicolas
LIBERAL, Mo. — Lydia Down, who was hiking at Prairie State Park on a chilly day, stopped to talk about a proposal by state Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington.
Engler’s bill — Senate Bill 758 — would prohibit sexual offenders from going to state parks and historic sites. In its original form, the bill would have required certain sexual offenders to ask permission or to notify the site superintendent, but language is being prepared that would ban certain sexual offenders from state parks entirely.
Engler was not available for comment, but Floyd Gilzow, deputy director for policy with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, said concerns were heightened by an incident in which a person contacted staff members about a sexual offender in a state park. He would not provide specifics about when or where.
“We didn’t have any authority to ask him to leave,” Gilzow said of the offender.
Asked about the bill, he said: “It’s to help our rangers deal with situations when they arise. Certainly, we want to do as much as we can to keep our park residents safe.”
Down, a mother of four and a frequent visitor to Prairie State Park, said she likes the idea, but she isn’t sure it’s practical.
“I want my kids safe, but how are they (park rangers) really going to know?” she said. “It’s not like they wear signs or something.”
Engler’s bill is just one of the dozens pre-filed in the Missouri Senate, which began its session last week and which gets under full steam today.
Everything from prenatal child abuse to displaying a burning cross is on the agenda. The wide spectrum of bills also includes illegal immigration and concentrated animal feeding operations.
Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, has proposed legislation that would criminalize chronic prenatal consumption of a controlled substance. Offenders could face charges of child abuse, a Class C felony, and/or child endangerment, a Class A misdemeanor.
“The purpose of the bill is to protect children from abuse at all stages,” Goodman said.
While he is preparing language that would prevent women from escaping punishment by having abortions, he said SB 766 is not intended as anti-abortion legislation.
“My goal is not to go beyond the situation I’m addressing,” he said.
Sen. Jason Crowell, R–Cape Girardeau, is sponsoring legislation that would deny driver licenses to illegal immigrants. Crowell also is the sponsor of a bill meant to keep illegal immigrants from obtaining state or local benefits.
“If I invite you over to my house for dinner, you’re invited. Let’s have dinner,” Crowell said. “But if you come in my back door and steal out of my bread pantry, I’m going to be angry.”
Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, wants to see SB 738, which deals with concentrated animal feeding operations, pass this time.
“I first introduced this bill three years ago,” he said. “I want to get this done.”
The legislation would give the DNR more control over enforcement of state air, odor and water pollution standards, and would allow the state to impose harsher punishment for violators, including surcharges. Companies that violate state standards at least six times in a 12-month period would forfeit their CAFO-related permits.
“The department doesn’t really have enough power to act, and the penalties aren’t strong enough,” Nodler said.
The bill was inspired by multiple issues in Missouri, including complaints against Renewable Environmental Solutions in Carthage over odors allegedly coming from its plant.
Nodler said he aims to “sneak it through” if necessary so the bill won’t be bogged down with amendments that could stall its passage. Last year, a similar proposal was saddled with 23 drafted amendments, he said.
“The best chance this has is if it comes up on a day when half the senators are asleep and not paying attention,” Nodler said.
Sen. Yvonne Wilson, D-Kansas City, has introduced legislation that would criminalize the display of a noose or the burning of a cross for the purposes of intimidation.
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