House sends governor terrorism bill

Friday, May 17, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- State lawmakers have passed an anti-terrorism bill without proposed penalties for businesses that hike prices during emergencies -- a provision that had been backed by Gov. Bob Holden.

The House gave final approval to the bill Thursday by an announced vote of 82-44 -- the minimum needed to pass a bill. The legislation, which had passed the Senate earlier, now goes to Holden.

The legislation was intended as a response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Immediately after the attacks, at least 48 Missouri service stations raised motor fuel prices above $2.49 a gallon, according to an investigation by Attorney General Jay Nixon.

The gas stations were required to pay fines of $750 or three times their profits for Sept. 11 -- whichever was larger -- plus $250 in investigative costs. The state collected more than $49,700 in fines and another $10,250 in legal fees.

Under an earlier version of the bill, a person found guilty of price gouging could have faced a fine up to $3,000 or twice the amount of money made illegally.

But House and Senate negotiators removed that provision during a meeting Wednesday. The Senate approved the revised bill later Wednesday.

The Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association had lobbied against the price-gouging language, saying it could have allowed businesses to be fined anytime, not just during disasters.

Left behind

Left in the legislation approved Thursday were provisions creating the felonies of terroristic threats and agroterrorism, such as spreading contagious diseases among livestock.

Other provisions of the bill prohibit hazardous waste from being transported through tunnels, allow the State Water Patrol to close waterways during disasters and create the crime of water contamination.

The bill also closes government computer system records, credit card numbers and the structural and security records of public buildings. Access also would be restricted to similar records for public utilities. A provision creating a legislative committee to study terrorism and make recommendations about changing laws drew some opposition.

Rep. Glenda Kelly, D-St. Joseph, questioned why the state needed another committee, especially when it's trying to save money during tight budget times.

The bill's handler Rep. James O'Toole, D-St. Louis, said the provision was to intended to calm nerves. "I just want to make sure that in the state of Missouri ... that if anything else happens we can respond to it," O'Toole said.

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Anti-terrorism bill is SB712 (Singleton).

On the Net:

Missouri Legislature: http://www.moga.state.mo.us

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