EXPLAINER: What to watch for in Missouri's new laws

SUMMER BALLENTINE
Associated Press
FILE - In this May 14, 2021 file photo, the Missouri House of Representatives finishes the final hours of the current legislative session at the Capitol building in Jefferson City, Mo. New Missouri laws including to-go cocktails, coronavirus liability protections for businesses, and penalties for cities that cut police funding are set to take effect. The laws are among several that kick in Saturday, Aug. 28.  (Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP).

COLUMBIA — New Missouri laws including to-go cocktails, coronavirus liability protections for businesses, and penalties for cities that cut police funding go into effect Saturday. 

Here's an overview of some of the new state laws:

CRIME

Vandalizing "any public monument or structure on public property" will be a felony. Previously, the crime was considered a misdemeanor. The upgraded charge could mean more jail time and a higher fine. Another provision in the new criminal law creates a new class D misdemeanor for anyone who "willfully or recklessly" interferes with an ambulance. Racial injustice protesters often march or gather on streets, roads and highways, which authorities say risks blocking access for ambulances and other first responders.

Another new law makes it a misdemeanor crime to point a laser pointer at police or other first responders. 

POLICE

New laws ban police from using chokeholds or neck restraints  like former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin used in the death of George Floyd.  They would also make it a crime for police or prison guards to have sex with detainees, or to have sex with anyone else while they're on duty if they use coercion. 

Police will get new legal protections under another law. Cities and other local governments will be banned from decreasing the budget for a policing agency by more than 12% compared with the jurisdiction's other departments over a five-year period. The new law also requires records of any administrative investigation of a police officer to be kept secret unless there's a subpoena or court order requiring the records to be released. It outlines other rules for investigations of officers and provides protection against civil claims unless the officer is criminally convicted.

ALCOHOL

Missouri restaurants will be allowed to sell to-go cocktails, which the state had temporarily allowed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The change is now permanent. Mixed drinks must be sold along with food and in tamper-proof, sealed containers intended to discourage drinking while driving. The new liquor law also allows alcohol to be sold from 6 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Sunday, the same hours as the rest of the week. Previously, Sunday alcohol sales were limited to 9 a.m. to midnight. 

COVID-19 LAWSUITS

Missouri lawmakers, pushed by business groups and Republican Gov. Mike Parson, this year banned many COVID-19 liability lawsuits  against businesses and health care providers in an attempt to shield good actors that tried to help during the crisis. Coronavirus-related lawsuits will be allowed only if plaintiffs can prove they were exposed and sickened by the coronavirus and that the entity engaged in "reckless or willful misconduct."

COLLEGES

Missouri's public colleges and universities no longer will be limited in how much they can raise tuition rates. A former state law restricted tuition rate hikes to only as much as was needed to keep up with inflation, compensate for cuts in state aid or keep up with the average tuition rates across the state. The new law also allows college athletes to make money off their fame and celebrity, although the change likely won't have much effect because the NCAA already lifted its ban on athletes earning money. 

FARMS

Beginning Saturday, Missouri farms can be inspected only by the state Agriculture Department, Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the county sheriff or another state or federal entity with regulatory authority. That means local police no longer are allowed on Missouri farms without permission. 

RESTRAINING ORDERS

Judges will be allowed to issue lifelong restraining orders and orders of protection for pets. Currently, orders of protection are limited to one year at most. After that, victims must seek an extension. The new law gives judges the option to grant restraining orders for longer lengths of time, and orders could be programmed to be automatically renewed. 

OTHER NEW LAWS

In October, the state's first gas tax increase in decades takes effect. Gas will cost an extra 2.5 cents a gallon then. The hike is part of a 17-cent-a-gallon tax increase that's getting phased in to raise money for the state's roads and bridges. 

A number of other new laws, including a ban on state and local law enforcement officers from enforcing federal gun rules and an effort to limit local public COVID-19 health orders, have already taken effect.