Tough Year for Environmental Values – Debrief of 2018 Legislative Session
Thank you to everyone who signed a petition, made a phone call, attended one of our legislative spring break stops in Kansas City, Columbia or St. Louis, and to those of you who joined us in Jefferson City to testified at a committee hearing or participate in a lobby day! It was a tough year in the state legislature for people who value traditional family farmers, clean water, healthy air, and public land. But with your help, we stopped legislation aimed at depriving more than 40,000 Missourians access to food nutrition assistance programs while increasing access to healthy food options for low-income senior citizens! The full list of truly agreed to and finally passed bills can be found here followed by a debrief on what happened this legislative session.
Engaging lawmakers on food access and equity was our most successful area of influence this year. With your help, MCE and a wide range of allies throughout the state supported House Bill 1625’s passage, which establishes the Missouri Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program to provide low-income seniors with fresh, Missouri grown produce. We also stopped legislation (House Bill 1443, House Bill 1486, Senate Bill 561) that would have removed an estimated 40,000+ people from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program resulting in the loss of $5 million in federal assistance for low-income Missourians.
2018 will likely go down as one of the most consequential sessions on environmental issues in a long time. The following bills were passed or actions were taken that will negatively impact our shared environment for years to come.
- Confirmation of pro-corporate agriculture Clean Water Commissioners (CWC).After their recess appointment the newly configured CWC immediately approved a controversial hog factory farm in northern Missouri and a chicken factory farm in southwest Missouri, both of which had been rejected by the previous commissioners. The Joplin Globe details the developments here.
- Nearly $575,000 intended for the restoration of newly acquired state parks was diverted into Historic Preservation Funding during budget negotiations between the House and Senate.
- Senate Bill 627 makes several changes to agricultural laws that will not serve the best interest of Missourians or our environment, including:
- Restricts local governments or health departments from enacting ordinances related to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). The bill allows the more than two dozen local ordinances applied to CAFOs to be grandfathered while taking away this authority from local government and health departments.
- Allows deer and elk to be raised and slaughtered like chickens, pigs, and cows. Our opposition centers on how quickly Chronic Wasting Disease can be spread in deer or elk in captive herds and its transmission to wild populations.
- Senate Bill 917 allows the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to establish “risk based” standards for the closure and post-closure monitoring of toxic coal ash landfills, most of which are located in or near river floodplains. The law will apply minimal oversight and enforcement of toxic landfills in vulnerable environments.
- Senate Bill 782 also contains several provisions, including:
- Weakening of Missouri’s Clean Water Law by limiting DNR’s ability to stop agricultural runoff pollution before it is proven to “render such waters harmful, detrimental, or injurious to public health, safety, or welfare…”
- Senate Bill 564 erodes Missouri’s consumer protection laws, passed by Missouri voters via Proposition 1 in 1976, by allowing monopoly electric utilities to get preapproval from the Public Service Commission to increase rates before a project is proven to be beneficial for utility customers. While MCE opposed the bill, it does include some benefits for the solar industry by reintroducing solar rebates to monopoly utility customers, which will eventually be phased out by 2023.
While MCE opposed the following bills because they contain provisions that compromise our values, they were passed with amendments that we like. These include SB 659 & SB 782, both of which were amended to reestablish a radioactive waste investigation fund administered by the DNR. The investigation fund will allow local governments to apply to DNR for it to investigate potential radioactive contamination in specified areas within the jurisdiction of the local government. Also, SB 627 includes an amendment that allows urban and community gardens to be taxed as agricultural land with the goal of making urban land more affordable for growing food.
Legislation MCE supported but didn’t pass would have established the first statewide standards for floodplain development, provided financial support for families who qualify for the Women, Children, and Infant (WIC) food assistance programs to increase their purchasing power at farmers’ markets, and the creation of tax credits to support grocery stores built in food deserts.
Every single member of the Missouri House of Representatives and half of the Missouri Senate will be chosen by voters at the ballot box this fall. Engage people running for office, whether they are an incumbent, challenger, or running or an open seat, and make sure they support your values. People support our issues and values on both sides of the aisle. Make sure you know who you are voting for this fall, so we can get more environmental champions in the state legislature!
Register to vote here or make sure your voter registration is accurate.