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cooksonHouse Approves Unwarranted Surveillance Act (HB 46)

My colleagues and I gave approval this week to a bill that would prohibit the use of drones or other aerial surveillance craft to spy on Missouri farmers and property owners. You may remember a story that came out of Iowa and Nebraska last year when it was discovered that the Environmental Protection Agency had violated the privacy rights of cattle farmers by conducting surveillance with manned aircraft. The story drew the ire of every American who believes our Fourth Amendment rights should be protected.

The bill we passed this week simply says that the use of manned or unmanned aircraft to gather evidence or other information related to criminal conduct or rules violations will be prohibited in Missouri unless it is authorized by a warrant or the property owner has given his or her consent. The bottom line is that we will not allow a government agency, members of the press, or any citizen to violate our rights to privacy through the use of aerial surveillance technology. In the cases where such surveillance is necessary to prevent imminent danger, law enforcement would have the authority to use aerial surveillance. However, in all other cases, the use of this technology would require the same sort of warrant that authorities need to search private property. It’s a move we believe is necessary for Missouri considering other states are already dealing with this issue.

House Approves Legislation to Stop Bullying in School (HB 134)

Another bill that was approved on the House floor this week has the goal of making it clear to students, parents and school staff what is considered bullying and how it should be handled by schools. We know that bullying goes on our schools, and that it can have an extremely negative impact on the young people being bullied. The bill does not tell districts what the policies must say, but that they must have policies in place. This leaves the bullying policies up to schools.

The goal is to empower schools to create their own procedures and policies and give them the authority to do that with the backing of state law behind them. It also makes it a priority that everyone – from bus drivers to janitors to teachers to students – is aware of the policy and how instances of bullying will be handled.

The way the bill is written right now, it would require that all schools: post the district’s bullying policy in a public space; provide teacher, student and parental education on bullying; have reporting procedures in place for instances of bullying; and have a procedure in place to investigate reports of bullying. The bill also addresses cyber bullying – something we know has become a more prevalent problem in today’s age of Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging.

We think when taken in its entirety the bill can do positive things to make the school environment more peaceful and more conducive for learning. We also hope it will give teachers and administrators peace of mind that the policies they put in place have the backing of state law. Together we can stop the bullies and give students the opportunity to learn in peace.

As always, it is an honor to serve the good folks of the 153rd District. If you would like to discuss any issue, please call 573-751-1066 or you can e-mail me at steve.cookson@house.mo.gov .

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