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Crime Bills Pass Legislature

By: David Royse
State Capital Bureau

May 12, 1995

NOTE: See the sidebar CRIMEBOX.HTM

JEFFERSON CITY _ Although the failure of concealed weapons legislation and passage of the governor's juvenile crime bill dominated the headlines of the legislature's anti-crime efforts, the 1995 General Assembly passed a number of other anti-crime measures.

Secret video taping of nude tanning salon patrons, abandoning a corpse, and taking part in drive-by shootings all would be illegal under bills passed by lawmakers in this year's session.

The video taping measure stemmed from the 1994 case of a Southwest Missouri tanning salon owner who taped several women and girls disrobing in what they thought was a private tanning booth. After the tapes were discovered, officials there learned taping the women was not illegal.

The owner was charged for making some of the tapes, though, because he captured minors on the films.

Now, however, it will be a misdemeanor to view, photograph or film someone in the nude without their consent.

Lawmakers also responded to the death of a Southeast Missouri State University student, by making hazing of fraternity members a felony if it endangers the life of the victim. Currently, hazing is a misdemeanor.

The corrections system was a big winner in this year's legislative session, getting funding to build three new prisons, and expand four others.

The legislature and governor approved funding for new prisons in Bowling Green, Mo. and another undetermined site, and approved a bond issue for a prison at Vandalia, Mo. The Vandalia prison will replace the Renz Correctional facility for women that was damaged in the floods of two years ago.

Lawmakers also delivered money for adding more than 2,700 prison beds by expanding facilities in Cameron, Fulton, Tipton and Maryville, Mo.

Carnahan had called on the lawmakers to fund new prison building earlier in the year so the state would have, he said, "the padlocked cells to put these dangerous criminals in so they can't do more harm to our people."

Should those criminals somehow get out of those padlocked cells, they would still have to face a lethal electric fence under another bill awaiting Carnahan's approval.

The legislature this past week approved the measure requiring the fences be erected around the maximum security prisons at Potosi, Mo. and Jefferson City.

Carnahan spokesman Chris Sifford said the governor likely will sign the lethal fence bill, after reviewing it.

Like the video taping and hazing bills, it was a specific criminal action that provoked the lethal fence bill. An escape earlier in the year from the Potosi prison focused attention on the fences and sparked debate in the statehouse shortly thereafter.

As far as the governor is concerned, the legislative session was "quite good," said Sifford. One of the highest priorities for the governor was legislation getting tough on younger criminals, and Carnahan is pleased with the passage this past week of the juvenile crime bill.

"I am delighted that the juvenile crime bill was passed," the governor said in a prepared statement. "Juvenile offenders will be treated fairly -- but now, they will also be held accountable for their crimes," Carnahan said in the statement.

The head lobbyist for the state's police chiefs' association was also pleased with the session. "We feel like we've had a real good year, overall," Jackson said.

While Jackson also cited the juvenile crime bill, the largest victory of the year for the police chiefs' organization was the defeat of the concealed weapons bill, which Jackson spent much of the season lobbying against.

But even before the end of the 1995 session, both sides of the gun debate already were preparing for next year.

In a speech informing the Senate he would allow the bill to die, the bill's sponsor, Sen. Harold Caskey warned his colleagues and a packed gallery that the issue will be back. "This issue is not going away. It is going to be here next year _ in an election year," Caskey said.

Caskey said the National Rifle Association has not been involved with the concealed gun bill this year, but likely would be next year.

Jackson said the police chief's are ready for the NRA.

If the NRA were able to use its wealth and large membership base to get concealed weapons through the legislature next year, Jackson said his organization would consider challenging the constitutionality of the measure. The organization also might try to make the measure palatable by using initiative petitions to ensure safety measures favored by the police chiefs.

"Bring them on," Jackson said of the NRA.