Disturbing worship services will be a criminal offense, Missourians no longer will be able to sue co-workers for many on-the-job injuries and child care providers involved in cases of abuse, neglect or the death of children could temporarily be forced to refrain from providing paid child care services under legislation signed into law by Gov. Jay Nixon.
Nixon's office announced on Tuesday the Democratic governor signed more than two dozen different measures covering a range of topics. The flurry of bill signings comes as Nixon faces a Saturday deadline to sign or veto legislation approved by lawmakers.
Among the bills that Nixon signed Tuesday was a measure creating a new crime for those who intentionally disturb or interrupt a "house of worship" with profane language, rude or indecent behavior or noise that breaks the solemnity of the service. Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and face a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $500 fine. Repeat offenders would face escalating penalties, culminating in up to five years in prison.
The legislation was sponsored by Republican Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, of Dexter, who said there have been some isolated incidents across the country of people disturbing worship services. He said the possibility of criminal penalties could help ensure it does not become a problem in Missouri.
Nixon also signed a bill focused on workers' compensation. The legislation would bar workers from suing each other for accidental on-the-job injuries. Lawsuits could continue going forward in cases in which one worker "purposefully and dangerously" injures another.
Republican lawmakers and business groups have pushed for changes to the workers' compensation system in recent years. This spring, Nixon vetoed a broader workers' compensation legislation that also would have required claims for diseases caused by exposure to toxic chemicals to be handled through the workers' compensation system. After the earlier veto, Nixon said he agreed most lawsuits between co-workers should not be permitted.
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry praised the legislation and said people should not fear the consequences of losing a lawsuit because of a work accident.
"Our workers' compensation system was established decades ago, as a compromise between employees and employers. The system was intended to provide quick and fair compensation for employees injured through work and keep these issues from becoming embroiled in court," said Dan Mehan, the president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber. "These changes uphold the intent of the law, by providing clarity of the law and certainty for employers, and most important, provides protection for employees as the law was intended."
The child care legislation allows judges to prohibit people from providing child care services for pay until cases of abuse, neglect or death of children have been resolved. The courts will be responsible for notifying state health and social services agencies in such cases. That legislation is named after Sam Pratt, a young boy who died at a day care center in Pilot Knob in 2009. The owner continued operating the business after being charged in the case.
Nixon also signed a bill that seeks to comply with federal requirements for interstate truckers to provide proof from a medical professional they are healthy enough to drive. States that fail to comply could begin losing highway funds. Another transportation-related measure would make it cheaper to move radioactive shipments through Missouri. Officials have charged $1,800 per cask of radioactive material, and now will charge $1,800 for each truck - regardless of how many containers it hauls.
The governor also signed legislation that would allow travelers passing through Lambert-St. Louis International Airport to buy alcoholic drinks two hours earlier, starting as early as 4 a.m. Plus, another bill will allow St. Louis area voters to decide whether to raise a local sales tax to help fund improvements at the Gateway Arch, and people in the Kansas City area could decide on a sales tax for parks, trails and greenways in Jackson County.