Perspective: Port bill among those progressing in Legislature

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Posted February 26, 2020

There is a lot of activity going on in session this year. It seems more issues are being moved forward earlier in this year's session than last year.

My land conveyance bill from the state to the Heartland Port Authority which is Cole County, Callaway County and Jefferson City, has now passed the House and is on its way to the Senate. This bill is not just establishing a port authority in Jefferson City; it is a small step toward creating a network of ports up and down the Missouri River, Mississippi River and other tributaries to New Orleans. It is an effort to develop industry, transportation and opportunities to ship to the East Coast, West Coast and internationally, through our rivers. It is a step into the future where I believe our rivers will be the part of a very large transportation system. As these vessels can hold 800 tractor-trailer loads in one trip, this will reduce traffic on the roads, reduce the need for long haul drivers, help work force development, open up our markets to international trade and be a much more efficient and economical way to transport products.

I have several other bills that are going through the process now.

House Bill 1331 has made it out of committee and is set to be on the floor next week. This bill has to do with recovering part of the costs of conducting a capital murder case upon a change of venue.

House Bill 1542 relating to Industrial Labor Commission issues is now in the Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 2223 relating to the dissolution of limited liability corporations has now referred to the Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 1332 relating to pretrial release and ankle monitors has passed the Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 2426 deals with giving the county commissioners the authority to modify the way jurors are paid; a method that will hopefully be more fair to jurors and ultimately save the counties money has been referred to the judiciary committee.

Feral hogs have been debated more in the Legislature this year than I would have ever expected. After listening to the arguments, I will agree feral hogs are a great nuisance, and they need to be eliminated. However, I also do not believe this issue should be used as a method to attack the Department of Conservation. We have to remember the Department of Conservation is a constitutional department, and therefore, it must be given a certain amount of independence from the Legislature. I believe the things the Department of Conservation is overseeing can better be managed by them than they can be micromanaged by the Legislature. Certainly, it is appropriate to have hearings so everyone can express their concerns and these concerns can be passed onto the Department of Conservation, but I do not believe we should use this as an excuse to attack the department itself. However, that does not mean we cannot criticize the department's methods of dealing with the feral hog situation. The Department of Conservation is not affecting anyone's right to kill feral hogs on their property. In fact, they encourage it. They are also taking the steps that they believe are best to eradicate the feral hogs on public land.

There are many more bills, too numerous to go through, but we have spent a significant amount of time on a prescription drug monitoring bill that is a method to more closely monitor opioid prescriptions, and while it has been heavily debated from both sides, it has been adopted in 49 states.

Another issue is the collection of sales tax on internet sales. This is important because our brick and mortar stores have to collect the taxes needed for our roads and our infrastructure, and they are at a competitive disadvantage if internet businesses selling similar items do not have to charge sales tax. The real issue being debated is how the tax is going to be collected and how the proceeds of the taxes will be divided. This is a much more complicated issue than first appears because this is not only about collecting state taxes, but it also involves local taxes. We are not creating a new tax. All we are doing is collecting tax that is already owed but is not currently being enforced against certain internet purchases. This certainly would be an advantage to our small municipalities and all small districts that have applicable sales tax. Internet sales go up every year thereby each city, and every taxing entity on normal sales will be losing revenue without this issue being addressed.

Clean Missouri is a constitutional amendment passed by voters two years ago. It is also being discussed. I want to make it clear: We are not repealing the constitutional amendment. There is debate for some recommended changes that would address certain issues in the Constitution. This will also have to go to the vote of the people, and if we pass something, it is only an issue to be addressed that was approved by a majority of the House and Senate — it is still up to the people to accept or deny it. We are not repealing the actions of the people but instead trying to build on what we have already accomplished. This is no different than what we do with statutes we pass one year and the next year realize there are some potential unintended consequences after the bill has been more thoroughly looked at.

House Committee Substitute Bill 2216 deals with foster parent adoptions and the steps necessary to reunite children with their parents. This bill is 151 pages. This bill, like many other bills, takes a lot of time to read and analyze, and I cannot begin to tell you the number of these types of bills I sought guidance from experts on regarding how to vote.

I appreciate all of the emails I have received on various topics, and they highlight to me the importance of many other issues. I constantly look for ways to help you with the things that are important to you if I can. A few of the things that have been brought to my attention are bills that affect:

What your rights are when your insurance company refuses to defend you;

What statute of limitations should be for someone to bring a cause of action against you for certain sexual offenses; and

What the appropriate length of time is before you should be prohibited from suing a manufacturer for a defective product.

I want you to know that these issues are in my thoughts, and they are not being brushed aside. Thank you for your patience and your support.

State Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Jefferson City, represents Missouri's 59th District, and shares his perspective on statehouse issues twice a month.