JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Dozens of new laws take effect Monday in Missouri, including banning transgender minors from gender-affirming health care.

Another big change involves your cell phone. Drivers of all ages are now prohibited from holding their phone to text, call or scroll on social media while behind the wheel. Missouri is one of the last states in the country to put a law like this into place and even the governor said Monday, this is a big step that needed to be taken.

“It is an issue, it is a problem when we are driving,” Governor Mike Parson said. “It does distract us and all of us have done it, including myself, have been guilty of texting and driving.”

Drivers will now be required to use hands-free options like Bluetooth or voice to text when driving. The Siddens Bening Hands Free Law is one of many provisions that took effect Monday. It’s named after 34-year-old Randall Siddens who was hit by a distracted driver while he was picking up cones after a triathlon race in Columbia in May 2019.

Violating the hands-free law is a secondary violation, similar to the seat belt law, meaning law enforcement can only write a citation after pulling the driver over for something else. Even though the law went into effect Monday, only warnings will be written for the first 16 months, then starting in January 2025, a first-time violation will result in a $150 fine.

Another piece of the legislation allows car buyers to pay their sales tax at a dealership, which is expected to help cut down on expired temp tags.

Another new statute the governor ceremonially signed off on Monday lifts restrictions on advanced practice registered nurses.

“There were a lot of things we realized during COVID that we waived—almost over 600 regulations over the state of Missouri, and what you really found out is that the vast majority of it shouldn’t have been there in the first place,” Parson said.

Previously, advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) were required to be in a collaborative practice agreement, which means nurse practitioners have a physician nearby to do their job. With these restrictions set to be lifted, it’s expected patients will have better access to healthcare. Before the law went into effect, nurse practitioners were not allowed to diagnose, prescribe medications, or evaluate patients without a doctor signing off and that doctor must be within 75 miles.

“Through COVID, the governor was smart to get rid of some of those guidelines when it came to our nurses and APRNs and it worked so well that we wanted to try to get rid of it all together,” Rep. Jeff Coleman, R-Grain Valley, said. “I’m a big fan of that.”

Collaborating physicians will still be required to meet with the APRN at least once every two weeks to go over chart reviews and participate in supervision.

Missouri is also now one of the latest states to exempt federal broadband grants from state income taxes.

“You’ll see some remarkable things happen in years to come with broadband at the pace we are going in the state of Missouri,” Parson said at Monday’s bill signing. “It’s just a matter of getting it in the ground, getting people hooked up and being able to provide the service. You should be able to go into your house, flip the switch on, and you should have the best service of anybody else.”

Late Friday, a judge ruled the state can move forward with banning gender-affirming care for minors. This comes after a group of families with transgender minors filed a lawsuit in hopes of pausing the new law while the court challenge played out. The new law prohibits doctors from prescribing puberty blockers and hormone treatments. There’s a provision within the law prohibiting the state from spending any money on gender-affirming care for Medicaid patients and surgery will no longer be available to inmates and prisoners.

“I have to give the judge credit, he made the decision, and it was a tough decision, but again, if you go back to the law, it was legal, it was transparent, and it was the right thing to do, not whether it’s popular or not. I think he made the right decision,” Parson said Monday.

There is a provision in the law that allows children prescribed puberty blockers or hormones before Monday to continue with treatment. Physicians who violate the law could lose their license and or face being sued by their patients. The law makes it easier for former patients to sue, giving them 15 years to go to court and could receive up to $500,000 in damages.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 22.

Other new laws that went into effect Monday include:

SB 39 – Sports and transgender athletes

This new law prohibits transgender girls and women from playing on female sports teams. It affects both college and K-12 transgender student athletes. The legislation bans both public and private schools, including colleges, from allowing students to complete in sports that don’t make the gender on their birth certificate. Part of the compromise during debate this past session is that the law is set to expire in 2027. Schools that violate the law will be stripped of all state funding. Parents can also school districts if their child is “deprived of an athletic opportunity” in violation of the law. Something to note, the Missouri State High School Athletic Association (MSHSAA) said that during last school year, there were six students that completed the MSHSAA application process for the year. Of the six, there were four trans male and two trans female. Also, there are eight students that currently have interscholastic eligibility, which includes the six approved plus two students that were previously approved. Grade breakdown of those eight students: 1-6th; 1-7th; 3-9th; 1-10th; 1-12th. MSHSAA policy previous to this law was transgender females had to fill out an application and documentation about their hormone treatments. That policy only allowed transgender females from competing on female sports teams after one year of hormone treatment.

SB 45 – Medicaid coverage expands for new mothers

New mothers will soon be eligible for a full year of Medicaid health-care coverage in Missouri, rather than the traditional 60 days offered in most US states. Health officials say this change could help thousands of women that would otherwise go uninsured two months after giving birth.

The legislation mainly intends to help low-income pregnant and postpartum women receiving benefits through MO HealthNet for Pregnant Women or Show-Me Healthy Babies. Missouri DHSS reports around 61 Missourians die each year while pregnant or within a year of giving birth, so the expanded coverage could help reduce that rate.

SB 24 – Redefining a first responder

Anyone who works as a 911 dispatcher or telecommunications worker in Missouri will soon be considered a first responder.

Previously, dispatchers were classified as administrative or clerical workers. The new distinction opens up additional resources and mental health services that were only available to more traditional first responder roles like police officers, firefighters and emergency medical services.

Also, under part of this legislation, post-traumatic stress disorder is considered an occupational disease and can be covered under workers’ compensation when diagnosed in first responders.

Other notable laws taking effect Monday include:

  • HB 115 – Health care coverage changes for therapists
  • HB 417 – Incentives available to more workers
  • SB 34 – Allows school electives on Hebrew scriptures and Bible studies
  • SB 35 – Slight changes to child custody laws
  • SB 138 – Log truck weight requirements increase
  • SB 157 – Tackles healthcare workers shortage
  • SB 186 – Increased penalties for stealing and property damage
  • SB 190 – Tax breaks for seniors