Most bill signings are steeped in ceremony, but two signings Thursday were notable for the personal connection the bills had with the legislators who passed them and the governor who enacted them.
In a ceremony Thursday outside the Capitol, Gov. Mike Parson signed into law two bills that will increase tax credits available to adoptive and foster families and those who donate to domestic violence centers and rape crisis centers.
Lawmakers involved in the legislation's advancement and children — who were able to add their own signatures to copies of the bills they were given — joined Parson and first lady Teresa Parson for the signing.
Parson said the bill was of personal importance to his family: His son and daughter-in-law went through the adoption process about two years ago.
"(The first lady) doesn't come to too many bill signings, but this bill signing is pretty special for me and her, too," Parson said.
He wasn't the only lawmaker present with a connection. House Speaker Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, was in the foster care system as a child, and said he hopes to make the legislation focus a continued one.
"As I thought about what I wanted to do as speaker, what I could focus on, we all look for niches and things that we can focus on where we have some expertise," Vescovo said. "Well, as an adopted child, I definitely have expertise in this area, so I've decided that I'm going to focus on this area for the next few years and try and get some of these kids that we have in the system into loving homes. What better way than working on some of these pieces of legislation?"
Both bills were sponsored by Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove.
HB 429, which takes effect at the start of 2022, allows adoptive and foster parents to claim income tax deductions intended to help with the costs of both processes.
Foster parents who file together can receive up to $5,000 or $2,500 individually, as long as they provide care for at least six months. Those numbers are prorated for shorter timeframes.
Parents who adopted a child with special needs had previously been able to claim up to $10,000, but the bill expands that option to all adoptive parents.
The bill also creates a "Birth Match Program," which will require the Department of Social Services and State Registrar to compare data when a child is born with parents who have previously lost parental rights or been convicted of abuse and offer services.
The other bill, HB430, takes effect at the start of the fiscal year July 1, 2022. It allows those who donate to domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers and maternity homes to claim tax credits worth up to 70 percent of their contribution.
Currently, contributors can claim up to 50 percent, though rape crisis centers are not in the language.
Both bills received bipartisan support and passed almost unanimously through the House and Senate.
Speaking to the assembled families and lawmakers, Kelly emphasized the legislation's intended beneficiaries.
"Today is about 13,917 children that are in the foster care system," she said. "And today is about the families and the hearts that are ready and waiting to give them love and security and permanency."