Rep. Robert Cornejo (Courtesy of Tim Bommell/HOUSE COMMS)
  

Missouri’s lower chamber passes legislation on labor organizations and liquor advertising

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In an unexpected move, the Missouri House voted down a bill that would enhance the punishment for harming a police dog.

The bill sparked a lot of debate last week, where previous question was moved during perfection, and again Monday night, where both sides of the aisle raised serious questions on the legislation.

Dubbed “Champ’s Law,” the bill was advocated by Gov. Eric Greitens.

“We need to strengthen Missouri’s laws,” Greitens said. “These K-9s do incredible work on behalf of our people. They are trained, tough dogs, and they help keep Missourians safe.”

Currently, assault on a law enforcement animal is a class C misdemeanor, while assault on a law enforcement animal that results in death or prevents the animal from working is a class E felony. The bill would have upped the former to a class A misdemeanor and the latter to a class C felony.

“It is still not the same as assaulting a human being,” bill sponsor Rep. Robert Cornejo said. “It is still not the same as killing a human being.”

But Rep. Shamed Dogan pointed out that the proposed punishment is harsher than rape in the second degree, which is a class D felony, or assaulting someone who is in a nursing home, which is an E felony.

Passing the legislation would have sent “the signal that the lives of dogs matter more than the lives of African Americans,” according to Rep. Gail McCann Beatty.

“Police dogs historically, and to this day, have been used against African Americans,” Beatty said.

And the bill had no provisions for use of a police dog in an incorrect manner or in excessive force. “Stand Your Ground” also would not have applied.   

“This bill doesn’t talk about the lawful or unlawful use of the dog,” Rep. Bill White said. White ultimately voted for the bill.

The bill failed in a 73-68 vote.

The Republican-led House did, however, manage to push through legislation on labor organizations and liquor sales.

HB 1413, sponsored by Rep. Jered Taylor, requires annual consent for unions to withhold dues from paychecks and require consent for labor unions to use dues or fees to make political contributions.

“This holds union accountable to their members,” Taylor said during perfection.

Though Democrats argued that the bill is was an unnecessary regulation meant to weaken unions, calling it “another attack on workers.”

The bill was sent to the Senate in a mostly party-line vote of 91-55.

Under HB 1653, also sponsored by Cornejo, the restrictions on advertising alcohol would be loosened.

“This does nothing to deregulate alcohol,” Rep. Jack Bondon said.

According to Cornejo, the bill lessens “restrictions of free commercial speech.”

The legislation would enable liquor retailers to advertise coupons, premiums, prizes, rebates and other promotional programs to consumers, so long as they don’t advertise lower than cost.

Opponents said that the bill could hurt small businesses, favoring large, national retailers over smaller, Missouri-owned stores.

The House approved the legislation in a 103-41 vote.

Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at alisha@themissouritimes.com.