Legislature Lowers Minimum Conceal and Carry Age to 21

Legislation dropping the minimum age to procure a conceal and carry permit is awaiting Gov. Jay Nixon’s signature.

Under current law, Missourians who are 23 and older can receive a conceal and carry permit. Rep. Jeanie Riddle’s legislation—which passed on the last day of the General Assembly’s session—would lower that minimum age to 21.

According to a summary of the bill, Riddle’s legislation would also:

–          Prohibit sales tax on any firearms or ammunition from being levied at a higher rate than sales tax or other excise tax charged on sporting goods, equipment or hunting equipment.

–          Not preclude a member of the General Assembly, a full-time or legislative employee of the General Assembly or statewide elected officials and their employees who hold a valid concealed carry permit from carrying a concealed firearm in the State Capitol Building.

–          Specify that a non-driver’s license containing a concealed carry endorsement will expire three years from the date it was issued.

The legislation got an affirmative vote from Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville. In her latest Capitol Report, Haefner wrote the legislature has “taken steps to protect and advance our 2nd Amendment rights.”

“Missouri is currently the only state that requires someone to be 23 before they are able to obtain a conceal and carry permit,” Haefner wrote. “This bill reduces that age requirement to 21 in order to be in step with states around us.”

Haefner also wrote that the bill “also restricts the ability to raise the price of ammunition through a higher sales tax in order to make the purchase of ammunition difficult and reduce sales.”

“As well, this bill reduces the red tape involved in the purchase of firearms out of state, alleviating unnecessary costs,” Haefner added.

According to a recording of House debate from MissouriNet, Riddle, R-Mokane, called the current minimum age to get a permit an “arbitrary and unnecessary high-age restriction.” She said lowering the minimum age to 21 would “recognize thousands of lawful Missouri citizens’ inherent ability to protect themselves and others with a firearm.”

In that same recording, Rep. Tishaura Jones, D-St. Louis City, said she didn’t disagree with the right to bear arms for “people who are using [firearms] for the right reasons.” But she said there are sometimes “unintended consequences” to relaxing gun laws.

“While I’m empathic with [Riddle]’s intent for this bill, again I am reminded every day when I look in the paper… that innocent lives are being lost because young people have easier access to guns,” Jones said. “And some will say to me and I know—guns don’t kill people, people kill people … But I think we have to err on the side of caution.”

“Again, I have no problem if you’re being responsible with it,” Jones added. “But the unintended consequence happens in the urban areas when young people—for lack of education, for lack of access to jobs, for lack of access of basic things to do —turn to violence.”

The bill will need to be signed by the governor to go into effect. As of press time, Nixon has taken no action on Riddle’s legislation.

‘Mehlville Fix’ Sent to Nixon

Missouri lawmakers have approved legislation that could assist the revenue collection process for the Mehlville School District.

According to a summary from Missouri legislature’s Web site, Rep. Gary Fuhr’s legislation – House Bill 506 – would “require school districts that levy different rates on subclasses of real property, due to a ballot measure approved by voters prior to January 1, 2011, to revise their tax rates if the amount of revenue derived differs from the amount that would result from using a blended rate on all real property.”

The bill passed on Thursday 137-0 in the House and 32-0 in the Missouri Senate. It now goes to Gov. Jay Nixon.

In an interview, Fuhr said St. Louis County in 2007 passed an ordinance requiring assessments for each of the four different sections of property tax. He added one unintended consequence of that was the state auditor’s office wasn’t able to issue a single rate because of the way statutory language was structured.

“So this was just to go clean up the language so the auditor’s office can include a single rate that took the four different rates for the different types of real estate property and blend it together so it would be easier for the taxpayers to [understand],” said Fuhr, R-St. Louis County.

The effect of the bill, said Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville, is that the Mehlville School District could see slightly increased revenues without having to hold an election.

“There are four different levels of tax collections based on whether it’s commercial, residential, agriculture and industrial,” Haefner said. “And what this does is it simplifies the formula for the tax collection. It will help increase some revenues is what I’m understanding for the Mehlville District without us having a bond issue or a vote.”

“It cleans up an unintended consequence of the way [the law] was written years ago,” she added.

Haefner said the bill would only impact the Mehlville School District.

“This will help them with their revenue stream to kind of be at the level of other districts,” she said. “It’s a benefit for the school district and it’s something that the superintendent had asked us to do.”

The measure – dubbed the “Mehlville fix” – was a legislative priority for several legislative sessions. It managed to pass along with a flood of other legislation in the last couple of days of the General Assembly’s session.

“And it’s not that the other representatives weren’t trying. It just never made it this far,” Haefner said. “It’s big deal that it got all the way through.”

Legislature Sends Budget to Nixon

The Missouri General Assembly passed a roughly $23 billion budget late last week, a document guiding the state’s fiscal course into 2012.

Rep. Marsha Haefner, an Oakville Republican who serves on the House Budget Committee, said in her latest Capitol Report that some notable aspects of the budget include:

–          Allocating roughly $8.4 billion for the state’s Medicaid program, which provides health care for the poor and disabled. Haefner said that money will “continue to fund access to healthcare for the neediest Missourians.”

–          Providing funding for ethanol and biodiesel incentives. Haefner said such allocations aim “to continue to move Missouri towards an economy less dependent on foreign oil.”

–          Keeping the state’s foundation formula for K-12 education effectively flat from the previous year, a development Haefner said showed that “in light of recent historical declines in state revenues, the General Assembly was able to again make education the #1 priority.”

–          Bringing about $12 million more for higher education institutions than Gov. Jay Nixon initially recommended.

The budget also includes a 14 percent reduction for the Department of Transportation, a nearly 20 percent spike for the Department of Agriculture and essentially flat funding for the Department of Corrections.

Sen. Jim Lembke – a Lemay Republican whose district encompasses Oakville – voted against nearly all of the bills that make up the state’s budget. In a speech on the Senate floor, Lembke said all members of the General Assembly’s upper chamber should have a chance to be involved in the budget-making process.

“There’s nothing more important that we do in this process of governing than to set the people’s priorities in establishing our budgets every year,” said Lembke, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee who added that more of his colleagues get a chance to serve on the budget-making entity.

Lembke said it would be “a real eye-opener” if all senators served on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“Whether it’s a dollar that’s coming from the federal government, whether it’s a dollar coming from general revenue or whether it’s a dollar that’s come through a dedicated source… those dollars belong to the people,” Lembke said. “They do not belong to government. And it’s incumbent upon us to know what we’re voting yes for.”

“This is the people’s business and I really just think we ought to just take a lot more time,” Lembke said, adding that lawmakers don’t often get a chance to examine what changes were made to the budget near the end of the process. “I know there used to be time in our history where we would do budget in one session and then come back and do legislation the next. I think that we really have to have more input from all the people’s representatives when we decide how to spend the people’s money.”

In a statement, Nixon praised lawmakers “who came together to pass the budget by their constitutional deadline.” He added that “based on the budget passed by the General Assembly and legislation already signed into law, we are projecting a budget gap of at least $30 million.”

“I will analyze this budget in its entirety and make the expenditure restrictions necessary to make it balance,” Nixon said in a statement. “As we move forward, I will continue to make the decisions necessary to keep the state’s fiscal house in order.”

House Budget Chairman Ryan Silvey, R-Clay County, told the Associated Press that he believed that the budget was balanced and that withholds were not necessary.

Redistricting Shakes Up Oakville’s Congressional Representation

Oakville may be one step closer to having Republican representation in Congress.

The Missouri General Assembly on Wednesday overrode Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of legislation reconfiguring the state’s congressional districts. Missouri is losing a congressional seat since its population did not keep up with other states.

Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville, voted for the override in the House, while Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, voted to quash the veto in the Senate. The override succeeded in the House with 109 ‘yes’ votes—the exact number need for an override—and 28 ‘yes’ votes in the Senate.

Currently, Oakville is located in U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan’s district – which encompasses south St. Louis City, parts of south St. Louis County, Jefferson County and Ste. Genevieve County. Under the configuration that became law on Wednesday, Oakville would move to a district currently represented by U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Town and Country.

Carnahan now resides in the same legislative district as U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis City. If he ran in the district where he resides, he would have to face Clay in a Democratic primary. He could hypothetically run in Akin’s district, as candidates for Congress to do not have to reside in the district where they run.

While Akin’s new district includes some swing areas in south St. Louis County and Jefferson County, it also features some decidedly GOP-leaning areas in west St. Louis County and St. Charles County. And although Clay’s reconfigured area is heavily Democratic, it is also 49.5 percent African-American. That may make it challenging for Carnahan, who is white, to defeat Clay, who is black, in a hypothetical Democratic primary.

Carnahan told Politico that he is not ready to announce his 2012 plans.

Reaction to the veto override effectively fell on party lines. For example, Missouri Democratic Party Executive Director Matt Teter said the “partisan map drawn by the Republican Party is not acceptable to the citizens of Missouri nor to our Governor.”

“We believe Missourians would be better served if the non-partisan courts, who are motivated by fairness, not partisanship, determined the new Congressional lines,” Teter said in a statement.

The state’s Republican Party took a different tack, stating in a news release that the process “resulted in a fair map that meets all legal requirements and adequately represents the people of Missouri.”

The statement said the vote was “bipartisan,” an allusion to the fact that four Democrats in the House and three Democrats in the Senate voted for the override.

“Republicans and Democrats in the Missouri General Assembly dealt a stinging rebuke to Governor Nixon for his political veto of the bipartisan reapportionment solution,” said Lloyd Smith, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, in a statement.  “Unlike Jay Nixon, our elected representatives understood that redistricting is too important a topic to leave to the whims of unelected judges.”


While it’s possible Carnahan could be the Democratic nominee in 2nd Congressional District, Akin may have other electoral plans.

Akin is considering a run against U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., in next year’s election. That would leave his congressional seat open.

Former Missouri Republican Party Chairwoman Ann Wagner has set up an exploratory committee to scope out a potential congressional run. And Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, told the St. Louis Beacon that she may run for Congress if Akin vacates his seat.

Several Democrats also broached the possibility that the map could be challenged in court. Sen. Robin Wright-Jones, D-St. Louis City, said such a move would amount to a last-ditch effort to make significant changes to the proposal.

“That would be the last gasp, absolutely,” Wright-Jones said in an interview, adding that she was disappointed that most of the decisions were made behind closed doors with the majority. “The minority had no input not knowing what’s coming out, having to pretty much digest it right on the spot. I think there’s a real lack of voice in that process like that.”

House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, told Missouri News Horizon that the map was the “best one that we could get the votes to pass.”

“I would say there were probably maps out there that would probably have done better as far as distribution,” Tilley said to the online news service. “But if you can’t get the votes to pass it, it’s not reality. We worked with both parties in the redistricting process to try and come up with a fair map. I think that’s what we’ve done.”

Lembke Involved in Stimulus Filibuster

A South St. Louis County senator was part of a four-man filibuster last week over legislation reauthorizing the spending of federal stimulus dollars.

Sen. Jim Lembke—a Lemay Republican whose legislative district includes Oakville – joined three other lawmakers this week in holding up House Bill 18. The legislation reauthorizes a number of projects that were paid for with federal stimulus dollars, including money for weatherization and energy efficiency, health care information technology, broadband infrastructure and highway and bridge infrastructure investment projects.

Lembke and the three other lawmakers—Sens. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, and Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit—temporarily blocked legislation earlier this session to extend federal unemployment benefits. They agreed to end their filibuster in exchange partly for taking $250 million out of House Bill 18.

But that ran into a stumbling block when key lawmakers in the budget process – such as Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia— said they were not part of the aforementioned deal. By the time the bill got to the floor, Lembke and other lawmakers were targeting about $41 million worth of projects that had not been committed or weren’t under contract.

When that effort failed, Lembke and the three lawmakers held up the bill for 14 hours. They agreed to stand down after roughly $14 million was taken out of the bill – mostly from the weatherization and energy efficiency program.

In an interview, Lembke said  the filibuster yielded some successes—such as getting to speak on the Missouri Senate floor at length about “government out of control” and a “government that is broke.”

“One thing you figure out through this process is that many of our colleagues in the Senate and on the other side of the building have found out that with any of these monies that come to the states, you’re going to be able to find somebody who can use it back in your district,” Lembke said. “If it creates one job, if it keeps one municipality or political subdivision in the black, then we can’t sent it back or we have to take it.”

“I think we’ve come to a point where we’re just addicted to the money,” Lembke added.

Indeed, not everybody agreed with the four senators’ course of action. For instance, Schaefer said on the Senate floor that he didn’t feel the filibuster would prompt significant changes in federal government spending.

“I think that we’re trying to solve problems as [state senators] that we cannot control that are coming out of Washington, D.C.,” Schaefer said. “Sending this money back or taking away the appropriation authority is going to do zero to what your children, your grandchildren, my children, my grandchildren pick up.”

Asked about whether the filibuster would actually bring about changes to federal spending policies, Lembke said “it’s not really my responsibility as far as what the federal government would do with money the state of Missouri would send back to it.”

“I can’t control that,” Lembke said. “But I can stand… on behalf of taxpayers in Missouri and behalf of the next generation who we’re putting further and further into debt,” Lembke said. “So I think that our goal all along was to make a point… to shame the federal government into doing the right thing, living within its means.”

He added the lawmakers want to get the message out to Missourians and Americans “to wake up and say ‘we do have a serious, a real problem here.’”

“If we can continue to ring that bell, I think it will wake people up,” he said.

Lembke said as the process evolved, the four lawmakers found out more about projects that were not committed. He said he would have been “happier” if the lawmakers were able to take out all of the money not under contract.

But he did say that while it’s difficult to predict the future, the senators involved in holding up the bill could stand up again.

“If we think there needs to be a compromise to the conservative position on the bill, then I can envision us working together again,” Lembke said. “The interesting thing about the Senate is because of the different issues that come before us, there are different dynamics that brings different members together.”

“I am a huge fan of the filibuster,” Lembke added. “I think it was a tool that was given to the Senate by very wise founders… to slow government from doing very bad things to the people.”

Dog Breeding Regulation Changes Signed Into Law

Rep. Marsha Haefner voted in favor of a “compromise” last week to alter the state’s dog breeding regulations.

For months, lawmakers in the Missouri General Assembly have been debating whether to substantially change or completely repeal a voter-approved measure placing stiffer restrictions on dog breeding facilities. The ballot item–known as Proposition Bnarrowly passed in last November’s election.

The legislature sent to Gov. Jay Nixon a bill–Senate Bill 113–in April that, among other things, would have stripped away the proposition’s 50 breeding dog limit and the breeding restrictions. It also would have changed standards for veterinarian care, exercise and living space, and increased the maximum amount of money that the state’s Department of Agriculture could change to pay for bolstered enforcement.

Soon after that bill came to his desk, Nixon announced a deal of sorts with agriculture groups, some animal welfare organizations and state lawmakers to make revisions to Senate Bill 113. Those revisions included increases to the amount of daily food and making sure water is “generally free” of debris, feces, algae, and other contaminants. The compromise would also phase in requirements increasing space for dogs and require an examination at least once yearly by a licensed veterinarian.

After a furious combination of executive and legislative action, the compromise was ultimately signed into law by Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday. Haefner, R-Oakville, ended up voting for the measure when it passed through the House by a 108-42 margin.

“[The compromise] is good for dogs, good for agriculture and good for the future of our state,” Nixon said at a signing ceremony for the compromise bill.

Haefner joined numerous state lawmakers from St. Louis County in voting against Senate Bill 113. Proposition B passed with 69.8 percent of the vote in St. Louis County, prompting many lawmakers from both parties to oppose any alterations.

But Haefner said in her latest Capitol Report that the compromise brings back “many of the regulations outlined in Prop B and will be a much better alternative than SB 113.” Nixon signed Senate Bill 113 into law on Wednesday as part of a deal to get the compromise through the legislature.

“I realize I have said I will not support changes to Prop B. I still think Prop B is best,” Haefner said in her report. “However, now that SB 113 has been signed into law by the Governor I believe we need to preserve as much of Prop B as we can. I love my puppy, Oscar who was a rescue dog, and would never support anything that would hurt any puppy anywhere.”

While the compromise was backed by some animal welfare groups – such as the Humane Society of Missouri and the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation – national organizations were not as enthused.

A blog post from the ASPCA said the group is “poring over new language to determine our next steps.” That could include anything from legal challenges to a new ballot initiative to alter the state’s dog breeding laws.

“The ASPCA was not part of the negotiations and does not support the agreement,” says Cori Menkin, ASPCA Senior Director of Legislative Initiatives, in a statement. “The language crafted by the participating groups is far from an actual compromise—instead, it guts many of the core provisions to protect dogs in commercial breeding facilities passed by voters last November.”

Vision Exam Program Requirement Moves Through Missouri General Legislation

Legislation is moving through the Missouri General Assembly that would remove an expiration date for a program prompting children in elementary and middle school to receive a vision exam.

Under Missouri law, every child enrolling in kindergarten or first grade in a public elementary school in this state must receive “a comprehensive vision examination performed by a state licensed optometrist or physician.” As it stands now, the requirement is set to expire on June 30, 2012.

Legislation sponsored by Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, in the Senate and Rep. Don Wells, R-Cabool, in the House would approve that expiration date, effectively making the program permanent.

In an interview, Pearce said he believes the program has been successful. “And I think it’s proven itself,” he said. “And that’s why we can take the sunset off and just have a permanent program.”

The law, however, stipulates children can opt out if a parent or guardian submits to a school administrator a written request that the child be excused from taking a vision examination. Kristi Lanham, a nurse at Oakville Elementary School, said that many parents decide to go that route.

“I have to tell you honestly, myself, I don’t have an opinion one way or the other. It’s just something I have to deal with, so I deal with it,” Lanham said. “But I know a lot of parents think it’s kind of crazy and they choose to opt out of it. The parents that do send me the exams, over half of those kids are children who are already identified with a vision problem, so they already have a doctor that they see on a regular basis for their eyes. And most of those kids are already wearing glasses.”

The vision exam law, Lanham said, is different from immunizations requirement. In that provision, children could be excused from school if the procedures aren’t followed. With this situation, she said, parents could take no action whatsoever and face no consequences.

“Immunizations are required, but you can go to the county health department and them at a reduced price,” Lantham said. “The way it was explained was because there’s not really any state funding supplied for the vision exams … they can’t make it mandatory and the parents have to have the choice to opt out of it.”

“For the parents who choose not to do the exam and not to bother filling in the opt out form, there’s nothing that happens, there’s no consequence,” Lantham added. “It’s just ‘oh well, they didn’t return anything.’”

Pearce said the opt-out was put in place to prevent the program from becoming an unfunded mandate. He added there are a number of ways to pay for the exam.

“We do have the Blindness Trust Fund for when people renew their driver’s license—there’s money in there, and there’s [probably] about $100,000 in there,” Pearce said. “We’ve never even come close to spending all that money. So there’s plenty of money in there. Plus, a lot of the kids are covered with their private insurance or through Medicaid. Many, many eye doctors back home, they do these services for free. So really financing’s never been a problem for it.”

Wells’ version of the measure passed the House earlier this year 146-2, with Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville, voting affirmatively. She said in an interview that she is supportive of the legislation, calling it “another safety net for children.”

Pearce—who handled legislation creating the program when he was in the Missouri House—said the measure is one of the best bills he’s carried in his legislative career.

“About three months ago, a woman came up to me and said ‘are you responsible for that eye exam bill that passed a few years ago?’” Pearce said, adding that the tone of her voice seemed ‘fairly negative.’ “I said ‘yeah, I passed it in the House.’”

“And she said ‘I want to thank you, because my son can see. If it wasn’t for an eye exam that he had, he would be blind today,’” Pearce added. “And so, you hear stories like that and you think it’s worthwhile.”


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