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Most New Laws Take Effect

Today is the day that most new laws in Missouri take effect. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.

From the reducing the time it takes to get a marriage license to the implementation of a new healthcare system for the poor, new laws dealing with a variety of issues take effect today.

The new Missouri Healthnet replaces the old Medicaid program. Supporters say it places more emphasis on wellness and preventative care. But opponents say it falls far short of providing coverage to the most needy. A group called Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition will hold a press conference this morning at the Southwest Center for Independent Living to highlight what the group calls the shortcomings of Missouri Healthnet. Kay Mills is a regional organizer for Missouri Pro-Vote. She says Missouri Healthnet doesn't go far enough.

In addition to Missouri Healthnet taking effect today, a law also takes effect that eliminates the three day wait between applying for a marriage license and picking it up.

Also beginning today, property owners will have the right to self-defense under what's called the "Castle Doctrine."

Kerry Messer, a lobbyist with the Missouri Family Network, explains how the new law will work.

"If you're inside your home and someone breaks in, you would not be required by the law to retreat or to escape from your own home before you defend yourself. The fact that you're in your own home, you are by law assumed to be in self-defense if you have to use deadly force against someone."

Messer says the new law is a common sense way to ensure property owners can defend themselves against intruders. But opponents say the law could lead to unintentional deaths since homeowners will have the right to shoot someone they think is an intruder.

For those involved in carrying out the death penalty in Missouri, a law taking effect today gives them anonymity. It's now illegal for anyone, including the news media to identify those involved in carrying out an execution. The law stems from a newspaper article identifying the physician overseeing executions and the fact that he had been reprimanded by state regulators and denied privileges at two state hospitals. Following that report, the physician stopped overseeing executions and the state is seeking a replacement. Supporters of the bill say it will make qualified physicians more comfortable participating in the process if they know they won't be identified publicly. Critics say it eliminates a vital tool for public oversight of the process.

Also among the laws taking effect today, a tax break for social security recipients. Supporters say the relief will help seniors but some lawmakers say the bill should have been more targeted to help lower income seniors.