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Area lawmakers prepare new legislation

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- With four weeks until the start of the 2002 legislative session, Southeast Missouri lawmakers have already pre-filed dozens of bills on subjects as varied as job protections for volunteer firefighters and donation limits for gubernatorial inaugurations.

The General Assembly begins work Jan. 9 and is scheduled to adjourn for the year on May 17.

As is common, many of the submissions are second -- or third or fourth -- tries at previously failed measures.

One of those, from state Rep. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, seeks compulsory disclosure of private donations to and expenditures by inauguration committees. Crowell initially pursued this following Democratic Gov. Bob Holden's lavish inauguration this year.

Holden's $1 million party set a Missouri record for inauguration spending. Private donations, some as high as $25,000, covered the bulk of that tab.

In addition to requiring full financial disclosure, which Holden eventually provided voluntarily after intense public pressure, Crowell's bill would also institute a limit on inauguration contributions equal to that for gubernatorial election campaigns -- $1,125 per donor.

Internet lawsuits

Also back for another go is measure from Crowell and state Rep. Tom Burcham, R-Farmington, to clarify legal jurisdiction in credit card and check fraud cases.

With purchases over the Internet increasingly common, the proper venue for pursuing such cases has become murky. For example, a buyer using a stolen card could be in one state, the seller in another state and the rightful owner of the card in a third. The proposed legislation specifies that if any one of those three people is based in their jurisdiction, local prosecutors can file fraud charges.

In what has become an annual pursuit since Missouri voters adopted legislative term limits in 1992, a proposed constitutional amendment seeks modifications to the service caps.

The latest effort, from state Rep. Dan Ward, D-Bonne Terre, would extend term limits from eight years in each chamber of the General Assembly, or 16 years total, to 12 years per house, or 24 years combined.

Another bill from Ward would make it illegal for employers to fire or discipline workers who are absent or late due to their duties as volunteer firefighters.

The measure would let workers sue for reinstatement at their jobs with full back pay, benefits and seniority.

To honor a state trooper murdered in the line of duty, state Rep. Pat Naeger, R-Perryville, has filed a bill seeking to have a six-mile stretch of Interstate 55 in Perry County renamed the Trooper James Froemsdorf Memorial Highway.

Froemsdorf was fatally shot during a traffic stop in 1985. The state executed his killer in July.

Extending the period police may detain a suspect without filing criminal charges is the purpose of a proposal by state Rep. Phillip Britt, D-Kennett.

Currently, police may hold a suspect without charges for up to 20 hours in most instances and 24 hours in relation to one of seven serious felonies, including murder, rape, assault, robbery and drug trafficking. Britt's bill would extend the detention period for any felony to 32 hours.

"Right now, we are the lowest hold-time state in the union," Britt said.

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, is the only area member of the upper chamber to submit a bill so far.

Under Kinder's bill, employee votes on union membership would be successful only if approved by a majority of workers eligible to join. Currently, only a majority of ballots cast is needed for union representation among a group of employees.

mpowers@semissourian.com

(573) 635-4608


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