Gov. Mike Parson gave his seal of approval to several new laws this week, including removing provisions for motorcycle helmets, limiting some medical marijuana sales and streamlining testing of sexual assault kits.

This year’s hectic and shortened legislative session caused many lawmakers to curtail or forgo several pieces of legislation. In several cases, lawmakers relied on creating massive omnibus bills tacked with amendments, many of which Parson signed. At the same time, he vetoed House Bill 1854 and said several of the bill’s provisions did not relate to its original purpose.

“This year’s legislative session was very challenging for obvious reasons,” Parson said in a statement about the bills he signed. “However, the General Assembly pushed through these challenges and continued to work for the people of Missouri. We appreciate their efforts to get several important pieces of legislation across the finish line despite the unprecedented circumstances of COVID-19.”

The complete list of legislation signed by Parson can be found on the governor’s website.

Motorcycle helmets no longer required

Under House Bill 1963, motorcyclists over the age of 26 will no longer be required to wear a helmet, so long as they can provide proof of health insurance.

Parson vetoed a similar bill in 2019, which would have allowed motorcyclists over 18 to ride without helmets.

Motorcyclists are required to have a health insurance policy that covers the medical costs of injuries from motorcycle accidents. While police will be able to ask to see insurance, they cannot stop drivers just to see if they are following the law.

In addition, local governments will not be able to enforce their own laws that require helmets.

Maureen Cunningham, executive director of the Brain Injury Association of Missouri, said in a statement that the repealed law will cost the state in lives lost and additional health care costs.

“It is unfortunate that Gov. Parson chose to ignore calls, emails and letters from organizations and individuals,” Cunningham said. “Instead, he decided to add to the Missouri Budget shortfall, allow higher costs to Missouri taxpayers and increase waiting lists for services for individuals with brain injury.”

The original legislation with the helmet change was related to identifying funding for a testing facility for the hyperloop transportation system. HB 1963 also creates new restrictions for flying drones over prisons, mental health facilities and sports stadiums.

The bill will go into effect August 28.

Reining in medical marijuana

While several pieces of legislation regarding Missouri’s controversial medical marijuana licensing process came to a stop during the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers were able to pass House Bill 1896. The law has new rules about how marijuana can be marketed and sold.

Marijuana edibles cannot be sold in the shape of humans, animals or fruits. The packaging and logos fall under the same provisions. Future rules will also be created so medical marijuana edibles do not appeal to minors.

HB 1682 also requires employees and owners of medical marijuana facilities to submit fingerprints to the Missouri State Highway Patrol for Department of Health & Senior Services background checks.

Testing sexual assault kits

Last year, the attorney general’s office began making its way through over 6,000 untested rape kits. Now, Senate Bill 569 provides a process to streamline the process that tests these kits in the future.

The legislation creates the “Justice for Survivors Act,” the “Sexual Assaults Survivors’ Bill of Rights,” the “Missouri Rights of Victims of Sexual Assault Task Force” and evidential collection kits.

In what became another omnibus bill, the original legislation established a process to test sexual assault kits easier while allowing victims to track its status.

In addition, the bill now protects victims’ rights by providing mental health resources while the assault is being investigated by police and creates a telehealth network for medical professionals conducting examinations.

The legislation was one of the most bipartisan-supported bills during the 2020 session.

Parson says no to special taxing districts

HB 1854, another massive omnibus bill, was vetoed by the governor because of its many amendments. The legislation would have altered how local governments create taxing districts but included provisions Parson felt were unrelated.

“It is my judgement that the intent of these constitutional requirements was not fulfilled in this instance due to the constraints imposed upon the General Assembly by the recent outbreak of COVID-19,” Parson wrote in the veto letter.

Taxing districts are often created in Missouri to fund special projects. Current law states they must be approved by voters within the borders of the proposed district, but HB 1854 would have changed that to voters of an entire municipality.

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