Senate Bill 624 deals with preventing identity theft. In 2015, 13 million Americans were victimized by identify theft, and this crime continues to be a prevalent and persistent problem all across our nation. Identity thieves tend to target credit cards and bank cards, and approximately 86% of the victims see their existing bank accounts compromised in some way.
In efforts to better protect consumers, the General Assembly approved legislation that will make it a crime to knowingly possess fraudulently obtained credit or debit devices or materials. Under previous Missouri law it was not illegal to possess another person’s credit or debit card, and law enforcement officials had to wait for the person possessing the card to show intent to use the card or the information on the card before they could investigate. As a result of the change in law, authorities will now be allowed to investigate as soon as they are aware someone has fraudulently obtained a card or another individual’s personal information.
This week Governor Nixon also signed SB 838, a bill designed to help victims of domestic violence, and one that received support from both sides of the aisle. The new law will allow victims of domestic violence who have obtained a full order of protection to have their cell phone numbers and services (such as in family plans) separated from the account of their abusers. Phone companies were required to have legal authority before modifying contracts. Under the new law, victims will be allowed to transfer their cell phone service to a new account, one separate from that of their abuser.
House Bill 1565 is designed to help Missouri’s elderly and those with disabilities to qualify for Medicaid and keep more money in a savings account. Currently, those individuals are only allowed $1,000 (or $2,000 for a married couple) in order to receive Medicaid benefits. Under the new law that takes effect July 2017, individuals who receive state or federal assistance will be allowed to keep up to $2,000, and married couples will be allowed to keep up to $4,000 in an account. These limits will increase yearly until they reach $5,000 per individual or $10,000 for married couples by July 2020. After that year, increases will follow cost-of-living adjustments.
Another bill recently signed into law by the Governor is HB 1583. This bill will take multiple steps to better protect Missouri’s students. Portions of the bill will strengthen the requirements for anti-bullying policies put in place by Missouri school districts. The legislation will require schools to investigate any reports of bullying within two school days, and conclude the entire investigation within ten school days. The bill also requires school districts to adopt procedures to report acts of bullying and a process for discussing their anti-bullying policy with children and trained school employees. Additionally, the bill defines cyberbullying and specifies that any school district can subject a student to discipline for cyberbullying. Another portion of this bill will allow licensed educators to annually complete up to two hours of training in youth suicide awareness and prevention as part of the professional development hours required for certification. The bill requires the state education department to develop guidelines for this training and also requires that each school district adopt a policy to address strategies that can help identify students who are at possible risk of suicide.
Though Governor Nixon has recently acted on these pieces of legislation, we will continue to watch to see how and when he takes up other important pieces that have been passed on to him for his consideration, and we will keep you updated.