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Municipal court reform, others go into effect today

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, has three separate pieces of legislation going into effect, including SB 5, which aims to protect citizens from local municipal governments that may extort them them through speed traps and court fees, especially in St. Louis County.

SB 5 also enacts multiple municipal court reforms. No longer will there be separate charges of failure to appear nor can people be thrown in jail for minor driving offenses. It also requires St. Louis County municipalities to provide a basic level of governance, like a balanced budget and an annual audit, if they are to continue to exist. Schmitt says that those municipalities will have to change the way they conduct themselves or else they could face new consequences from the state that have “real teeth.”

Schmitt
Schmitt

“You’ve already started to see some of the municipalities that have been some of the worst abusers and view people as nothing more than ATMs, they’re going to have to change their policies,” he said. “That’ll be good for citizens, that’ll be good for taxpayers.”

Ultimately, disincorporation could be put on the ballot should these municipalities not follow those rules.

“You’re going to see some of these municipalities, they’re just not going to exist the way they have in the past, and they have to look at better ways of doing things. They’ve been able to hide because they can replace lost revenue with a speed trap,” Schmitt said.

The monumental SB 5 is the most notable of those laws, but the Senior Savings Protection Act, designed to protect senior citizens from fraud, and the Missouri ABLE Act, which gives families greater ability to plan for the futures of disabled family members.

The Senior Savings Protection Act allows investment brokers overseeing the accounts of senior citizens to put temporary freezes on accounts if they see unexplained or unreasonable withdrawals.

“We’re all familiar with some of these scams, the Nigerian lottery and some brutal stuff where seniors are getting calls that their grandchildren are getting held in South America,” Schmitt said. “Once that money’s gone, it’s gone forever. It’s a common sense piece of legislation.”

The legislation will allow brokers to call authorities or relatives if they suspect suspicious activity, a power they currently lack.

The ABLE Act also helps families determine their own financial future, specifically with members who have disabilities. The bill will allow parents to set up funds for education, housing, transportation and related expenses in a tax-free savings account that can accrue up to $325,000 without the need for lawyers or special needs trusts.

Schmitt himself has a son with autism, and he says this piece of legislation will help him and other parents of disabled children across Missouri put their minds at ease when it comes to their family’s futures.

“You sometimes wake up at night and sometimes worry about how they’re going to be taken care of,” Schmitt said. “This gives them a certain level of independence that they didn’t have before.”