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General Assembly approves added protections for domestic, sexual violence survivors

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The General Assembly approved legislation adding protections for victims of domestic or sexual violence or stalking this week, just before the legislative session ended. 

The House truly agreed and finally passed Republican Rep. Jim Neely’s HB 243 Friday in a 141-3 vote — advancing it to the governor’s desk. The bill would make it easier for victims to move out of an abusive home. It was unanimously approved by the Senate Thursday, and the upper chamber has also given the green light to a similar Senate bill, championed by Democratic Sen. Lauren Arthur, last month. 

The legislation prohibits victims of domestic or sexual violence from being denied tenancy, evicted from a home, or found to be in violation of a lease agreement if he or she is a victim or in imminent danger. It includes protections for landlords and would require an individual produce specified documentation proving the situation.

“Victims of domestic violence who have been trapped in dangerous situations by their abuser should not also be trapped in their homes by legal red tape,” Arthur previously told The Missouri Times.

There were some questions on the Senate floor Thursday about whether someone would try to circumvent the system and produce a false letter of evidence to a landlord. This could be particularly detrimental to someone who only owns or rents a small amount of property. But Arthur pushed back, saying she has “a hard time imagining anyone would abuse this opportunity.”

There was no debate over the legislation in the lower chamber Friday.

The Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence has said the legislation is a “priority.”

“We change laws. We change lives,” the organization said in a tweet.

Earlier this month, a Senate committee gave its stamp of approval on legislation that would eliminate the one-time fee for victims of domestic abuse who want a copy of his or her birth certificate.

Senate unanimously passes domestic violence, sexual abuse protection bill