Legislative Column for the Week of Feb. 9, 2015

Sixth Week Brings Significant Movement on Legislation

Legislative News

During the sixth week of session, we saw significant movement on a number of important pieces of legislation. On Wednesday (2-11), legislation designed to attract technology businesses and data storage center facilities to Missouri was perfected by the Senate. Senate Bill 149 creates state and local sales and use tax exemptions for data storage centers, and allows municipalities to enter into loan agreements, or sell, lease or mortgage municipal property for a technology business facility project.

Many do not realize that Missouri, especially Southwest Missouri, possesses several qualities that make it ideal for housing data storage facilities, which essentially provide the infrastructure for data processing. Our state boasts of more than 15 million square feet of underground space. Carved out of former limestone mines, these sites are perfect for warehousing large computer systems that must be kept in a consistent, temperature-controlled environment.

As technology’s reach continues to develop and expand, data centers are quickly becoming one of the fastest growing industries. Senate Bill 149 will better position Missouri to attract data center businesses and their jobs to the Show-Me State, as opposed to continuing to lose them to neighboring states such as Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. The measure now goes on the calendar for third reading and final passage.

Also perfected this week, Senate Bill 24 aims to reform certain aspects of how TANF and SNAP benefits are regulated and distributed in Missouri. Of all the individuals receiving TANF benefits in Missouri, it’s estimated that only 15 percent are actually participating in a work activity. This percentage should be much higher. Senate Bill 24 seeks to get more Missourians working by encouraging personal responsibility and providing greater motivation to transition from receiving benefits to being financially self-sufficient.

The legislation creates the Missouri Working for Welfare Act of 2015, which will require eligible recipients to prove they are participating in a work activity for a minimum average of 30 hours per week before receiving TANF benefits; and reduces the lifetime limit for TANF benefits from 60 months to 24 months, among other provisions. Additionally, any savings resulting from changes to the TANF and SNAP benefits will be used to provide child care assistance for single parents, education assistance and job training for individuals receiving benefits under the programs.

On Thursday, Senate Bill 5 was third read and passed. The legislation modifies what’s commonly known as the Mack’s Creek Law, which states that any city, town or village must send revenues from traffic violations in excess of 30 percent to the Missouri Department of Revenue to then be distributed annually to the schools of the county in which the revenue was generated.

Effective Jan. 1, 2016, the 30 percent threshold would be reduced to 20 percent; another reduction would occur beginning Jan. 1, 2017, when the percentage would further be reduced to 10 percent—fourth class cities and villages stay at 20 percent. The legislation is a response to a number of municipalities in Missouri that have been using over-zealous traffic enforcement practices to generate revenue and pad their budgets.

Shown above, Ashley Roman and Natasha “Sage” Rowe with Sen. Ron Richard in the Senate Chamber on Feb. 11.

Also, I’m pleased to say that after several days of discussion, my ethics reform bill, Senate Bill 11, was given final passage by the Senate with a vote of 32-2. Both SB 11 and SB 5 now move to the House for further consideration.

Finally, I was very happy to have Ashley Roman, from Lockwood High School, and Natasha “Sage” Rowe, from Seneca High School, who visited the State Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 11, with Missouri Family, Career and Community Leaders of America for the Legislative Shadowing Project.

MDC Seeks Public Input on Proposed Deer Hunting Regulation Changes
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is seeking public input on proposed changes to the state's deer hunting regulations for the 2016-2017 hunting season. For the fall firearms deer season, MDC proposes:

  • Maintaining the current timing of the November portion but reducing the length from 11 days to nine days;
  • Expanding the late youth firearms weekend from two days to three days and having it begin the Friday after Thanksgiving instead of early January;
  • Reducing the length of the antlerless firearms portion from 12 days to three days and beginning it on the first Friday in December; and
  • Eliminating the urban zones portion.

For the fall archery deer and turkey season, MDC proposes:

  • Allowing crossbows as a legal method; and
  • Reducing the limit of antlered deer during the archery season from two to one.

MDC also proposes simplifying conservation area regulations and also wants public comment on permit fees for nonresidents regarding a possible increase, decrease, or no change in price.

The proposed regulation changes are a result of public input and MDC deer management research and practices. During the summer of 2014, MDC gathered more than 4,000 public comments on deer management and possible regulation changes through open houses, online comments, letters and emails. MDC also surveyed many deer hunters regarding potential regulation changes. MDC staff will present final regulations recommendations to the Conservation Commission in late 2015.

To explain the proposed changes and gather public feedback, MDC will hold the following public meetings around the state from 5 to 8 p.m.:

  • Feb. 24 – MDC Burr Oak Woods Nature Center, 1401 N.W. Park Road in Blue Springs;
  • Feb. 26 – MDC Powder Valley Nature Center, 11715 Cragwold Road in Kirkwood;
  • March 3 – MDC Springfield Nature Center, 4601 S. Nature Center Way in Springfield;
  • March 5 – West Plains Civic Center, 110 St. Louis St. in West Plains;
  • March 10 – MDC Cape Girardeau Nature Center, 2289 County Park Drive in Cape Girardeau;
  • March 12 – MDC Northeast Regional Office, 3500 S. Baltimore in Kirksville;
  • March 16 – MDC Central Regional Office, 3500 E. Gans Road in Columbia; and
  • March 31 – MDC Northwest Regional Office, 701 James McCarthy Drive in St. Joseph.

MDC also welcomes public comments online. To learn more about the proposed regulations, MDC's deer management plan, past public comments, and to provide comment, visit the Department's website at www.mdc.mo.gov. Mail comments to: Missouri Department of Conservation, Attn: Policy Coordination, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, Mo 65102.

MDC expanded the November portion of firearms deer season to 11 days in 1995 in response to a rapidly growing deer population in many parts of the state. Deer numbers in most parts of Missouri are now at or below desired levels. According to MDC biologists, reducing the length of the November portion by two days will help increase those numbers.

The department's reasoning for changing the timing of the late youth portion from early January to the weekend after Thanksgiving is that it should increase youth-hunter participation and success as a result of better deer activity and weather conditions. Adding the Friday after Thanksgiving will provide an additional hunting day when schools are closed.

MDC anticipates that reducing the length of the antlerless season from 12 days to three days will help increase deer numbers to more desirable levels. The antlerless portion of the firearms deer season was implemented in 1996 to increase the harvest of female deer, or does, in response to a rapidly growing deer population in many parts of the state. The deer population in most of Missouri is currently at or below desired levels.

According to MDC, eliminating the urban zones portion of the firearms season is being considered because firearms hunting in urban zones is significantly limited by city ordinances and safety concerns. As a result, this portion does not significantly lower deer numbers in areas where urban deer conflicts occur. However, the department has made incredible steps with numerous municipalities to allow archery hunting or managed deer hunts in city limits.

The department anticipates that allowing crossbows as a legal method during the archery deer and turkey season will help younger hunters enter the sport and also prolong participation for older hunters. MDC research shows that most deer hunters are in favor of allowing crossbows during the archery season and bow hunters are about equally divided on the topic.

Reducing the buck harvest during archery season from two to one per hunter will make hunters more selective and help more bucks reach older age-classes. Regulations allowing bow hunters to harvest two bucks were implemented in 1988 when there were fewer than 100,000 individuals with a permit to hunt deer during the archery season compared to more than 180,000 in 2013. Also, the harvest of bucks by bow hunters has nearly doubled from 11 percent of the total harvest in 2000 to 19 percent in 2013.

The department anticipates that simplifying deer hunting regulations on conservation areas to archery only, archery and muzzleloader only, or archery and firearms will both increase hunter satisfaction and allow area managers to adjust regulations based on current deer numbers.

MDC permit fees for nonresident hunters are competitive with those of surrounding states and have remained the same since 2009.