Senate sends breastfeeding measure to Governor's desk

The Missouri Senate sent a measure to let nursing mothers ask to be excused from jury duty to Gov. Jay Nixon's desk with a unanimous vote.

A bill to allow nursing mothers to be excused from jury duty is heading to Gov. Jay Nixon's desk after a unanimous vote Monday.

House and Senate leaders fast-tracked HB 1320 after sponsor Rep. Rory Ellinger, D-University City, was diagnosed with liver cancer. The House passed the bill unanimously on Thursday.

The measure states breastfeeding does not count as indecency or sexual conduct under state law and prohibits cities from passing ordinances against it. It also lets nursing mothers ask to be excused from jury duty if they produce a doctor's note. Current state law lets mothers breastfeed in public but asks women to exercise discretion and makes no mention of indecency.

During debate, senators from both parties paid tribute to the stricken lawmaker. Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, said Ellinger always put his constituents first. She said she paid him a visit a few days ago to patch over any hard feelings from the political differences they have had. St. Joseph Republican Rob Schaaf, a practicing physician, said Ellinger's bill would encourage mothers to breastfeed more often, which he said would lead to healthier babies and lower healthcare costs to the state. He called the measure a great bill.