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The Missouri Senate gave first round approval today to legislation that would increase the penalties and reporting requirements for sex crimes. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.
Debate got heated at times as in this exchange between Democratic Senator Joan Bray and the bill's sponsor Republican Senator Matt Bartle.
Bray told Bartle she was upset that his bill only required abortion providers to report to the authorities any patient who appears to be the victim of statutory rape...Bray said crisis pregnancy centers and doctors who care for pregnant teens should have the same requirement.
Lawmakers settled on a compromise that would require doctors who perform either an abortion or give pre-natal care to report any patient who they believe is the victim of statutory rape.
The main focus of the bill deals with increasing the minimum penalty for sex crimes...It also cracks down on sex offenses involving minors.
The sponsor of the bill is Republican Senator Matt Bartle of Jackson County...He says he wants those who prey on children to face serious consequences.
The bill requires anyone convicted of forcible rape or sodomy with a child under the age of 12 to serve at least 25 years in prison...The bill also assumes that any sexual relations with a child under the age of 12 is done by force.
During debate, some lawmakers raised concerns that in raising the minimum sentences for certain sex offenses, the bill would limit the ability of prosecutors to strike deals with suspects in exchange for information.
Democratic Senator Tim Green of St Louis County says it's not a good idea to take away prosecutors' bargaining chips.
But the bill sponsor, Senator Matt Bartle says he wants to craft legislation that addresses the concerns of his constituents.
He says prosecutors need to understand that lawmakers likely will pass a bill that increases penalties for sex crimes because that's what the public wants.
One senator who is a former prosecutor expressed support for the bill but cautioned that it could quote--push prosecutors into more extreme positions.
Another issue that came up during debate was the cost of the bill.
Democratic Senator Tim Green pointed out that increased penalties will mean increased cost to the state.
Green says he supports the bill, regardless of the cost but he criticized Republicans who talk about shrinking the size of government while passing measures like this one that will ultimately cost the state money.
The bill sponsor, Republican Matt Bartle says taxpayers are willing to pay for protecting children.
The bill faces a final vote in the Senate before it can move on to the House.