Legislature considers child custody, service dog bills as deadline arrives for Greitens committee | St. Louis Public Radio

Legislature considers child custody, service dog bills as deadline arrives for Greitens committee

Apr 6, 2018

Missouri lawmakers worked through dozens of bills this week as the end of the 2018 session starts coming into view.

They include a proposal designed to evenly split most child custody arrangements. The so-called “equal parenting bill” became law in 2016, but supporters of this year’s bill say it’s not being properly enforced in some courts.

The new bill, passed by the House on Thursday, would add language that equal or near equal time spent with each parent is in a child’s best interest unless proven otherwise case-by-case. Democratic Rep. Sue Meredith from unincorporated St. Louis County opposed the bill.

“The bad parents know the system, they abuse the system, and they will get the 50-50 time under this bill, even though they shouldn’t,” she said.

But the bill easily passed with overwhelming support from lawmakers in both parties, including two male representatives who said they’ve been through custody battles.

“Unfortunately this bill wasn’t in place, or passed, or in [state] law back when I had to go through this particular situation,” said Rep. Bruce Franks, Jr., D-St. Louis. “I would urge the [House] to support the fathers, because that is who this bill helps.”

Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville said: “It should start with the objective view that both parents are good parents, [and] want their children for an equal, shared amount of time. More often than not, the dads have to literally fight tooth and nail to have that equal, shared parenting.”

Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia.
Credit Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

  The bill now goes to the Senate.

The House also passed two bills related to service dogs. House Bill 1369 expands the definition of service dogs to include those trained to assist those with psychiatric and mental health needs. House Bill 2031 would make it a crime to falsely claim that a dog is a service dog in order to receive housing benefits.

The upper chamber, meanwhile, passed a bill this week that would create a pilot program designed to reduce the number of people sent to prison for substance abuse. It’s sponsored by Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia.

“The hope is that we can prove the value of this, and then expand that over the course of time, and hopefully figure out a way not to have to build two new prisons [in Missouri],” he said. “[That would] not be a good way to go from a policy perspective, and certainly I don’t believe we can afford it.”

Next week, the Senate Appropriations Committee will begin working on the 13 bills that make up the state budget, which has to be sent to Gov. Eric Greitens by May 11.

The House committee investigating the invasion of privacy indictment against the governor is scheduled to release its report next week, which could recommend impeachment.

Follow Marshall on Twitter:@MarshallGReport