Senate considering child pornography bill
By Allen Palmeri
April 27, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – A bill that would increase the penalty for possession of child pornography from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class D felony has passed the state House of Representatives and cleared a Senate committee.
House Bill 1055 was approved April 14 by the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. Sen. Carl Vogel, R-Jefferson City, will be handling the bill for the House sponsor, Rep. Mark Bruns, R-Jefferson City, who remains optimistic that the measure will retain its popular appeal.
Bruns would have preferred that the bill remain plain, with the class D felony provision taking priority. That allows judges to impose a prison sentence of up to five years; current state law allows for a maximum sentence of one year.
Instead, representatives passed amendments that swelled the bill to 12 separate points—changes that were “wonderful,” according to Bruns, but potentially damaging in the Senate. Bruns is working with Vogel to make sure that senators will buy into all of the added language.
“I didn’t have any objection really to any of the amendments,” Bruns said. “I think they were all made with good intentions. They all definitely accomplish some good things. I do worry somewhat, though, that we’ve gone from a simple, one-paragraph bill to a bill that does numerous things.”
Bruns focused on stiffening the penalty for possession after talking to numerous officials who identified that as their main concern.
“There’s a lot of frustration out there with investigators from Social Services, from different police agencies and prosecutors that right now it’s only a misdemeanor,” he said. “I just felt we needed to get that change made. It makes it much more likely that a prosecutor will go after a person like that, because it’s hard to legitimize court time, with everything else going on in the court system these days, for a misdemeanor.”
As the Senate considers the full bill, which toughens sex offender laws as well as expanding the crime of sexual misconduct, Bruns hopes that his colleagues in the House have not loved the bill to death.
“Some of the Senate members that I talked to, the way the bill was originally, they were fine with it,” Bruns said. “Hopefully, they’ll still be OK with it.”