On Monday, December 3, Representatives Holly Rehder and Tracey McCreery of Missouri pre-filed bills to modernize the state’s HIV-specific criminal laws. Representative Rehder held a press conference with a representative from Representative McCreery’s office as well as members of the Missouri HIV Justice Coalition. The news conference has been covered widely by the media in Missouri and in surrounding states, including on the front page of the Jefferson City News Tribune.
The modernization bills, HB 167 (Rep. Rehder) and HB 166 (Rep. McCreery), are similar to the bills which were filed last year, when the coalition was an integral part of their drafting. Between the 2018 session and 2019 session, stakeholders have expressed support for modernizing Missouri’s HIV criminal laws--including prosecutors. Rep. Rehder said at the press conference that prefiling these bills come on the heels of many conversations with prosecutors. And Timothy Lohmar, the president of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, has said, “The penalty provisions that were enacted back then were designed to hold somebody accountable for basically causing someone’s eventual death. I think nowadays we realize that with the advancements in science and medicine, that HIV is not necessarily a death sentence.” Lohmar also lead the prosecution of Michael Johnson.
The Missouri HIV Justice Coalition has endorsed these bills and will continue to monitor them and prepare for any potential committee hearings during the 2019 legislative session.