Missourians would share sidewalks with robot delivery vehicles under proposed law

BY ALLISON MARIE SAWYER
Missouri News Network

Robots traveling Missouri sidewalks to make deliveries.

Foster families at risk because of medical marijuana.

Treating gyms as health care facilities for the purposes of pandemic restrictions.

All of these topics were considered by a House committee designed to look into “emerging issues” during a Tuesday meeting.

House Bill 592 allows for the use of robots as a personal delivery service on sidewalks and in crosswalks. With 15 states already utilizing this technology, bill sponsor Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, said the bill could help Missouri become more innovative.

Some lawmakers on the Emerging Issues Committee, like Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-St.Louis, were concerned about a lack of local control, saying political subdivisions should decide whether they want to welcome the new technology into their communities and that safety should be heavily taken into consideration.

“If they can go up to a max of 10 miles an hour and they weigh several hundred pounds, the impact that could cause to someone healthy is one thing, but we have folks in our community that struggle with their abilities, and we have people that are very fragile,” McCreery said.

Tom Dempsey, an Amazon lobbyist, testified in support of the bill and said he would advocate for additional language that allows for local control with the choice to opt-out of allowing the robots.

Other concerns came from Rep. Scott Cupps, R-Shell Knob, who said that with the high cost of the robots, he isn’t convinced people would know how serious the fine might be for stealing one. No legislative plans have been made yet regarding consequences for robot theft.

Adoption and medical marijuana

House Bill 485 had less pushback and more bipartisan support. The legislation is intended to prevent medical marijuana usage from interfering with adoption of a child, according to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ron Hicks, R-Dardenne Prairie.

“All I’m trying to do here is to make sure that something we have now made legal in the state of Missouri does not get in the way of one of us, or one of our constituents, trying to adopt a child if they happen to retain a medical marijuana card,” Hicks said.

Hicks also said he plans to add language in the bill to include foster care.

“I know of an 11-year-old boy that was placed in a home — foster child — loved the home, first time he’d been in a home where he had a loving family,” Hicks said.

Hicks said that the male foster parent was using marijuana in a pill form to help with PTSD and the child was removed from his care as a result.

“And it was the first time that child ever saw a home where he actually felt like, ‘Hey, this might be the one.’”

With no opposition to the bill, members of the Emerging Issues Committee agreed that the legislation was important to protect foster care and adopted children when their guardians are partaking in something that is now legalized.

Gyms as health care?

For House Bill 762, Rep. Jason Chipman, R-Steelville is hoping to classify gyms and fitness centers in the same way health care facilities, hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers are classified.

That would mean future orders and regulations regarding regulating fitness centers, such as limitations imposed during the pandemic, would treat them the same as health care facilities.

“People taking care of their own health is going to help mitigate some of the issues that we’re seeing currently with COVID and with many other what are considered pandemic-type illnesses,” Chipman said.

Rep. Betsy Fogle, D-Springfield, said she disagrees with Chipman fundamentally on the nature of public health orders and asked if he would also recommend keeping all parts of fitness centers open, including tanning beds and cafes.

Chipman said he would advocate for all parts of recreational facilities to remain open, as they allow people to maintain and improve their health. He also said people with injuries or physical disabilities like cerebral palsy need access to these facilities that provide specific training and equipment.