Attorney General Chris Koster assembled a task force last year with a tough assignment -- to turn the tide on domestic violence in Missouri despite a dearth of money.
Koster's group, a mix of legislators, domestic violence experts, law enforcement and legal minds, focused on existing programs and language changes that could make a difference without big funding.
Koster, formerly a Cass County prosecutor, said he brought the group together after seeing firsthand the effects of domestic violence.
"Anyone who has served as a prosecuting attorney for any length of time, even a week or just a day, knows the devastating impact that domestic violence has on individuals, children, families and even communities," Koster said at a September task force meeting in St. Louis.
"Many of the cases I dealt with stay with me even now. Nearly all involved acute physical violence; several ended in homicide."
The resulting law, sponsored by Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue, compiled many of the task force's suggestions into a law local domestic violence experts hope will help victims.
"I can't applaud enough the efforts of the task force," Lamping said.
Before passage of the new measure, most of the laws on the books were 30 years old or more. Experts in domestic violence say many of the laws had become outdated, especially in light of a better understanding of the psychology of domestic violence over the past few decades.
Lamping said he got behind the effort in large part because the recommendations were easy fixes that likely should've been implemented long ago.
"The big part of that was reconciling really simple things," Lamping said.
For one, the new law creates one clear definition of domestic violence. That had been lacking in the compilation of more than 30 years of domestic violence laws on the books in the state.
The competing definitions in various laws often led to confusion among victims and authorities alike.
"It sounds like a very simple thing. I have no idea how it got left undone," Lamping said.
Other changes included giving judges more discretion in domestic violence matters and orders of protection. Many times, Lamping said, a judge would know a domestic violence victim was being coerced into denying previous allegations, but was powerless to do anything about it.
This new law gives judges a little more leeway in protecting that victim.