In Jefferson City there are a number of bills on tap in the state legislature that aim to trim the Missouri Department of Conservation's budget by cutting the Conservation Tax while others pose to do everything from forcing the agency to pay $500 to every motorist hit by a state-controlled deer to mandating dead deer be tested for CWD.
In all, there are over a half dozen bills pending for the 98th General Assembly of the Show Me State.
(Image from MDC)
The breakdown is as follows:
HB 315 by Rep. Wanda Brown (R, MO-HD-116), would require the Department of Conservation to conduct testing of deceased deer found along state highways for chronic wasting disease. Besides making the MDC responsible for removing all deer found, it would mandate that they test 10 percent of these for CWD including every deer within 25 mi of a confirmed case of the disease the previous year.
HB 316 also by Brown, requires Missouri Conservation Commission members to register as lobbyists upon appointment by the Governor, and to follow all lobbyist rules and regulations set for that class, to include making their home address and phone number become public record. Another bill in the Senate would double the Commission from four to eight members.
HB 317 a third from Brown, would force MDC to reimburse automobile owners up to $500 for damages inflicted upon their vehicles by deer. However, it does not say where this money would come from in the already strapped state budget. According to the AP, the number of deer collisions dropped some 19 percent last year but no less than 3,498 deer-vehicle collisions were reported to law enforcement in that time. By that count, the state could be on the hook for about $1.8 million.
HB 318 a final one from Brown, would prohibit MDC agents from entering poultry barns without notifying the owner and requires agents entering the barns to take necessary precautions to prevent contamination.
HJR 8 by Rep. Craig Redmon (R, MO-HD-004) that would completely repeal the 1/8 of 1 percent Conservation sales and use tax, which provides for $102 million in funding to the MDC, was introduced then withdrawn on Jan. 28. Two other bills by Rep. Brian Spencer, would propose that the tax, implemented in 1976, be cut by some 50 percent (HJR 27) and be voted on every ten years (HJR 28) respectively.
Redom told the Columbia Missourian that his bill to repeal the tax altogether was to, "get Conservation's attention. It's a shot across the bow," he said. "I think Conservation does a good job in this state, it's a good department. This (tax) is just very poor policy."
MDC Department Deputy Director Tim Ripperger said that any bill affecting the Conservation Tax, which provides two-thirds of the agency's $172 million annual budget, would be, "devastating."
SB 56 by Sen. Brian Munzlinger (R) would halt MDC from charging anything for hunting, fishing or trapping permits. The only fee allowed would be a $2 maximum for agents selling the (free?) licenses.
Ripperger told the News Tribune that SB 56, if successful, could cost the MDC some $20 million in fees paid by sportsmen and another $20 million in matching Federal Pittman-Robertson Act funding paid by gun and ammo makers to the government to support conservation.
Munzlinger argues that the bulk of MDCs budget comes from Conservation Sales Tax funds, so paying more for a permit is double dipping by the state, saying, "We do pay a sales tax to conservation..., but when we want to partake in one of the outdoor sports, we have to pay again."
SB 178 also by Munzlinger would change the laws for captive deer and other cervids such as elk insomuch as it would allow the sale of meat from these animals commercially under some guidelines.
We will keep you updated on all of these, as they get closer to becoming law.
Remember, if you agree or disagree with any of the above, reach out to your local lawmaker and let them know ricky tick!