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January 31, 2016  15th Edition
Hello everyone! Time flies when you are having fun, or just working hard.
Town Hall Meeting
Topic: Deer and Our Community
Special Guest: Erin Shank, Urban Wildlife Biologist
Missouri Department of Conservation
Date/Time: Thursday, February 11 — 7:00 p.m.
Location: Parkway School District
Instructional Services Center

12657 Fee Fee (corner of Fee Fee and Bennington)
St. Louis, MO. 63146
Town Hall meetings are a chance to learn and share. For this meeting, I have invited Erin Shank, the urban wildlife biologist responsible for our area to discuss some of the issues created when humans and wildlife begin sharing the same backyards.
The Legislature Gets to Work
  The 2016 session began January 6th. While things seemed slow on the House Floor, a lot was happening in the committees. Over 900 bills have been filed since December 1st

Rather than taking the bills in the order received and assigning them to the committees for hearings; I found out that the Speaker’s office is assigning Republican bills to committees before working with bills submitted by Democrats. If you think about 900 bills with 2/3 of the House seats held by Republicans and 1/3 by Democrats, the odds a Democrat’s bill making its way through the complicated structure of committees, floor debate and Senate actions by May 16th are not so good. I have a bill dealing with tax benefits for military personnel that was submitted December 4th. Each week I request it be assigned to a committee (the chair of that committee has already agreed to hear the bill) and yet it still sits in limbo. The same bill was heard in committee last year, but not voted out by the time that the session ended.

For a Democrat, it is often more successful to get a Republican to sponsor a bill you favor or add your idea with theirs rather than to file a bill yourself. It just depends upon whether you want to achieve something, or simply gather attention.

Here are some of the bills that have passed the House and moved on to the Senate thus far:
Ethics
  There has been a lot of talk about ethics and how we need to clean up Jefferson City. I totally agree. We hoped for bills that would bring real change, but instead very little actual change is being implemented. Nonetheless, some little steps forward are better than none. It will just take longer.

We had a legislator elected in November of 2014 take office in January 2015 and then quit mid-session to take a job lobbying the legislators. This type of revolving door is ridiculous.
  The following is a list of ethics bills that passed the House and moved on to the Senate:
  • There would be a requirement for elected officials to file a financial interest statement with the Missouri Ethics Commission two times a year, instead of once.
    — No great substance with this, just a little more paperwork.
  • Statewide officials and members of the General Assembly elected after 1/1/16 cannot solicit positions or register as lobbyists until one year after their term expires.
    — This is a small, but significant step.
  • No member of the General Assembly can be compensated as a political consultant while holding office.
    — Another small step.
  • Gifts from lobbyists would be limited to $50 or less. There is an exception for events to which all member of the General Assembly are invited.
    — I suspect there are plenty of ways around this.
  • Campaign committee funds must remain liquid and readily available. Only short term investments of six months or less would be permitted.
    — This was inspired by the actions of former House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville,
    who used $900,000 in campaign funds to buy 12,000 shares in a local bank.
Unfortunately, no effort is being made to limit the amount of money anyone can donate or spend on a campaign. Missouri is the only state in the nation without any limits on campaign contributions. We need to bring some sense of sanity to our electoral finances. When a single individual can donate $1,000,000 to a single campaign, you can bet the candidate will listen to that donor first.
Deer and Conservation
  The captive deer farms/ranches are back. We have several bills offered and none have anything to do with the deer eating our hosta and other yard plants. For example, some bills would do the following:
  • Direct the Missouri Department of Conservation to reimburse car owners up to $500 for damage to autos caused by deer or wildlife.
  • Make the Department of Conservation liable for any damage created by otter, elk or bear to crops, property or animals.
  • Move the regulation of captive deer from the Department of Conservation to the Department of Agriculture.
  • Allow commercial meat processing of captive deer for human consumption.
  • A constitutional amendment to expand the Conservation Commission from four members to eight, with defined representation for eight different regions within the state.
Voter ID
  Since 2000, there have been a total of two confirmed cases of voter fraud in Missouri. In spite of this, the House has passed a bill on to the Senate that would create stringent requirements for the type of identification needed for an individual to cast their vote. The only types of ID that would be acceptable would be:
  • a non-expired Missouri Driver’s License
  • a non-expired Missouri non-Driver ID
  • a non-expired U.S. passport
  • a document issued by the state of Missouri containing the name and photograph of the individual
  • a non-expired military service ID containing a photo
  Registered voters who do not have one of these types of ID would be allowed to cast a provisional ballot that will not be counted until the person provides an acceptable form of ID within three days of the election.

In my opinion this legislation would put an undue burden on many Missouri citizens, particularly the elderly and those with low incomes.
Payback or Gotcha Legislation
  It would be one thing if the early bills had some degree of substance, but sadly that’s not often the case. 

I’m of the belief that legislative work should benefit the people of the entire state; however in my committee on Conservation and Natural Resources we have one bill that is targeted at the acquisition of park land, as part of an environmental settlement.

The bill would force the state to auction off the newly acquired land and forbid any state department to purchase any land in Oregon County.

This is all about one legislator's beef with the Governor. Without naming the the town or county, but using very restrictive language like "a city of the fourth classification with more than eight hundred but fewer than nine hundred inhabitants as the county seat" (basically Oregon County) force the sale of any property interests purchased by the state on or before August 29, 2016. When questioned as to why the bill had a sunset date of August 2017, his response was that “by then we will have a new governor I can trust.” 

I will vote no on this bill, because legislation is not a tool for vendettas.
As always

Thank you for your support, and for giving me the opportunity to represent you in Jefferson City. Keep in touch and give me your thoughts on potential town hall topics.

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