With new year, new laws kick in

Friday, December 31, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The state's DNA profiling system will get larger, additional school employees will be subject to background checks and food sellers will be shielded from obesity lawsuits under several Missouri laws that take effect with the new year.

As of Saturday, all felons must provide DNA samples before they are released from prison or while on probation or parole. Previously, only those convicted of violent felonies or sex offenses had to provide DNA.

"It tends to be the same percentage of people in our population that commit most of the crimes," said sponsoring Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee's Summit. "With this, the first time they commit a felony, we have their DNA in the database for good."

To fund the additional DNA testing, the state in August started imposing a $30 fee on anyone convicted of or pleading guilty to a felony and a $15 fee on anyone convicted of or pleading guilty to a misdemeanor.

Most new laws passed during the 2004 Legislative session took effect Aug. 28, but the actual collection of DNA samples from felons was among a handful of provisions that kick in Jan. 1.

Among other laws effective Saturday, Missouri will join several states in barring lawsuits against food companies for weight gain or related health problems. The bill, dubbed the "Commonsense Consumption Act," bars lawsuits for damages against restaurants, food manufacturers, distributors, sellers or advertisers.

Also, newly hired school employees who have contact with children must undergo criminal background checks. That could include everyone from teachers to cooks and janitors. Some school districts also are choosing to check existing employees.

Another new law also may be more noticeable once the weather warms up.

The legislation makes tall climbing walls, dry slides and bungee cord attractions subject to state amusement ride regulations. Such rides must be inspected annually, and the attractions' owners must provide proof of that inspection and obtain a $15 state permit.

Under another new law, many insurance providers must start treating mental health coverage the same as physical ailments, and companies have until January to get policies into compliance.

--- Three teen girls accused in grandmother's slaying

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Three teenage girls have been accused in the robbery bludgeoning of a 62-year-old grandmother, a retired biology teacher known by neighbors to befriend youngsters.

The suspects -- two age 14, the other 13 -- were arrested Monday and Tuesday, with hearings in family court eventually to determine if any of them should be charged as adults in Joann Foster's death.

Under Missouri law, children of any age may be certified to be tried as adults in a murder case, with hearings on those matters mandatory in cases involving charges of first- or second-degree murder.

The teens -- each charged under Missouri's juvenile code with second-degree murder and second-degree robbery -- remained in juvenile custody Wednesday without bond.

Authorities said Foster, who lived alone, lived near the suspects.

"We have reason to believe she knew at least one of the girls and probably felt comfortable around her," police Capt. James Gieseke said Wednesday.

While declining to discuss many specifics about the investigation or evidence, Gieseke said "we believe that the three girls believed she had money or other things of value, and that appears to be the motive."

Foster's body was found Dec. 19 -- two days after she was last seen -- when her ex-husband went to her home and found the door unlocked after being unable to reach her by telephone.

Gieseke said Foster appeared to have been fatally beaten on the head with a household item he declined to identify.

--- Department of Natural Resources director leaving this week

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The director of the state Department of Natural Resources is resigning, making him the latest state department head to leave office in advance of Gov.-elect Matt Blunt's inauguration.

Steve Mahfood's last day is today. Mahfood has been at the department for 20 years and has been director for seven.

Mahfood said limiting the agency's authority, as some legislators have proposed, would not be wise. He said if the state does not oversee environmental quality issues, the federal government would step in.

"I'm very proud of the work our department has accomplished," Mahfood said.

--- Time Warner and Sprint discussing wireless service deal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Sprint Corp. and Time Warner Cable are discussing a deal that would allow the cable provider to offer cell phone service, the companies said Wednesday.

Such a deal would make the unit of Time Warner Inc. the only major cable company to offer the so-called "quadruple play" -- television, high-speed Internet access and both wired and wireless phone service.

It would also be the latest in a series of partnerships for Sprint in which other companies introduce their own brand of cell service using Sprint's network. These include deals with AT&T Corp., the ESPN unit of Walt Disney Co., Virgin Mobile USA LLC, and Qwest Communications International Inc.

While representatives of both companies confirmed that talks are under way, they wouldn't say if a deal was imminent, as was reported Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal. The paper said the new service would be limited to Kansas City market and become available in the first quarter of 2005.

Sprint spokesman Jeff Shafer said the Overland Park, Kan.-based company is in talks with all of its cable partners to eventually resell Sprint wireless service as part of a package deals to subscribers.

Cable companies are in a bitter fight with traditional phone carriers, such as SBC Communications Inc., BellSouth Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc., as both are trying to offer the full range of television programming, high-speed Internet, standard voice services and wireless.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: