Monday, January 11, 2016

Phillips bill would separate Highway Patrol, Water Patrol

(From Rep. Don Phillips, R-Kimberling City)

The second session of the 98th General Assembly kicked off on Wednesday, Jan. 6th. The focus will be on Ethics Reform with several ethics bills already filed and ready to be sent to committees. We will also get busy on the budget bills. 

The bill filing is like a recreational event as 754 bills have already been filed on day two of session with over 600 of them pre-filed since Dec. 1st. (And, that doesn’t take into account the many HCR’s and HJR’s!) I have only one bill filed right now (HB 1599) but I plan on possibly filing a couple more. I like to work on bills that make a difference and I choose quality over quantity.

I have co-sponsored two bills; HB 1960 and HB 1971. HB 1960 would remove the merger of the Highway Patrol / Water Patrol and return them to separate agencies as they were before the merger in 2011. 

The merger was Gov. Nixon’s idea and was sold as a three million dollar a year savings to the state. However, it is costing the state nearly a million dollars a year! Lately, there’s no mention of savings; instead the Governor says that the agencies work better with one command. 

 In reality, that one command has been a problem. Since the merger, there’s been a multi-million dollar lawsuit as a result of the drowning of an intoxicated person in custody. The Trooper involved has been charged with a felony and suspended without pay! All of this is unprecedented in the history of both the Highway Patrol and the Water Patrol. 

HB 1960 may not pass but it will bring quality discussions to the table. My goal is to see a long-range fix providing a consistent state-wide operational policy.

HB 1971 increases the penalties on poaching wildlife. I’m a member of the Sportsman’s Caucus at the capitol and it seems only natural to support this bill. (Recently a mature bull elk was poached near the Current River in Shannon County. The poacher removed the antlers with a chainsaw and left the rest behind)! MDC’s Operation Game Thief, 24 hr. hotline number is 800-392-1111. Poaching reports can be made anonymously or you can ask to be considered for a reward. The rewards typically range from $50 to $1,000 however the reward for information for the poaching of the elk is now at $4,000).

Flooding Aftermath
With the Governor declaring a “State of Emergency” following the recent incredible flooding, Missouri is now set to see federal funding for flood relief. The first money is one million dollars to be followed with additional dollars likely. All the while, our own monies will be used as well to assist affected areas. Also, our area University of MO Extension Service offers assistance with flooding issues.

Sexual Harassment Training
On Monday, the General Assembly will begin to receive, long overdue sexual harassment training. All legislators are required to go through the training. This comes on the heels of two legislators resigning last session over inappropriate behavior with interns.

Real I.D. Act
In 2005 the federal government required identification such as driver’s licenses to be in compliance with the new “Real I.D. Act” and gave a compliance period of 10 yrs. to make the transition. That time has expired and since Missouri was one of the states that pushed back against the feds, we were recently notified that a MO driver’s license would no longer be acceptable for airplane travel. That requirement has now been given a two year extension and it will expire Jan. 1, 2018. (Missouri hasn’t complied because of a concern about potentially compromised personal information. There are only five states left that have not moved toward compliance. There’s no national database, therefore every state does its own thing within the guidelines of the federal regulations. It comes down to a right to privacy issue. The question becomes, even though we have that right, in this high-tech world, is there such a thing as privacy as it pertains to personal information? I guess our goal is to keep it as secure as possible.

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