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Critical infrastructure requires special protection

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A Missouri House committee is considering a bill that would protect Missouri’s critical infrastructure and deter harmful acts of trespassing and tampering.

House Bill 954 would create stronger penalties for willfully trespassing onto critical infrastructure facilities. The legislation would also boost penalties for willfully damaging these facilities.

The bill delineates of the types of facilities that would be included under its provisions, including many types of energy facilities, pipelines, transportation infrastructure, communications facilities and certain types of manufacturing facilities. The full list is included in the bill text.

Deterring people from entering and tampering with these facilities are a new set of stronger penalties. The bill would make willfully trespassing on those facilities a Class B misdemeanor, make trespassing with intent to damage a Class A misdemeanor and make willfully causing damage a Class C felony.

Some environmental groups have criticized the bill, claiming that it would harm their ability to protest. Bill sponsor Rep. Jeff Knight, a Republican from Lebanon, said that is not the case.

“What this bill does not do is prohibit our right to assemble,” he said, during a hearing on the legislation. “It only establishes fines and penalties for people that willfully trespass or willfully damage these critical infrastructures.”

Missouri Chamber Director of Legislative Affairs Kara Corches testified in support of the bill. She said it would help prevent some of the costly damage and interruption caused in other states in recent years.

“This proactively secures the fundamental services and systems that Missouri residents and businesses rely on daily,” said Corches. “We believe these types of facilities must be specially protected because of their importance to our national security and economic stability.”

Following the hearing on April 24, House Bill 954 now awaits a vote in the House Committee on Crime Prevention and Pubic Safety.

The Senate is also considering similar legislation. Senate Bill 293 has been passed through committee and needs further discussion on the Senate floor before it can move forward.

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