Capitol Report
Senator Delbert Scott

For Immediate Release

For Immediate Release

April 29, 2004

A Conservation Message


            Through the course of a Legislative Session many different types of proposals and bills are placed before the Senate and House Chambers. Some are meant to change state statutes, some are meant to change the state’s constitution, and yet others are meant to send a message. The focus of today’s column will outline why Senate Joint Resolution 47 (SJR 47) is meant to send a message.

            In 1976 a dedicated sales tax was approved by voters to fund the Department of Conservation. The sales tax of one-eighth of one percent began in 1977 and continues to this day. This dedicated fund flows directly to the department which has oversight by an appointed four member commission. The director of the department reports to the governor of the state as well as to the commission. Unlike other state departments, no general revenue funds are appropriated by the Legislature for the purposes of funding the operations of the Department of Conservation. Annually, the department comes and testifies before the House and Senate appropriations committees, mostly as a courtesy to explain how the department has used their dedicated sales tax receipts. As the years have progressed, a growing frustration has developed primarily between rural legislators and the department over its policies.

            The positive aspects of the department include: help in development of a three billion dollar forest industry, development of abundant wildlife, a two billion dollar hunting, fishing and wildlife watching industry, and an estimated 90 thousand jobs across Missouri through many segments of our economy. In addition, many have been encouraged to enjoy Missouri’s great outdoors by the policies of the department.

            However, with this said, a growing list of negatives accompany the discussion. Most of these problems are primarily in rural districts, and seem to be compounding with little corrective action by the department. This list would include: a seemingly uncontrolled deer population which eats and damages millions of dollars of farm crops each year, an increase of rural highway traffic accidents associated with car/deer collisions, the development of large tracts of conservation lands which greatly diminish the local tax base of local schools and a continual frustration of local rural landowners having to constantly deal with unauthorized hunting.

            Both lists of positives and negative could be expanded but will be sufficient to make the needed point. Rural Legislators feel powerless and ignored when answering their constituent concerns. Why, because ultimate accountability comes from the funding source and since the department has a dedicated fund, Legislative oversight is minimal at best.

            SJR 47 is a message, sent by rural Legislators to the department to ask for more accountability to rural problems. SJR 47 would place before the voters every 10 years the dedicated sales tax proposal for the department. This would ad a level of accountability that presently does not exist with the department and the people.

            The benefits of the department would be missed if the ballot proposal failed to pass one of its elections. However, this message of accountability needs to be sent to the Department of Conservation Commission. Maybe then they will take seriously the very different issues facing rural areas of Missouri and the challenges that need to be addressed.

            We have perhaps the leading conservation department in America. The message of SJR 47 will help make it one of the most responsible departments in the country.

            Please feel free to contact me about this issue or any other issue at 573-751-8793 or email at