April 1, 2015

Medical marijuana bill moves through Missouri House with more regulations

A bill that would legalize medical marijuana is close to being debated by one chamber of the Missouri legislature.

HB 800 is sponsored by State Representative Dave Hinson of St. Clair, who presented the bill before a House committee on Emerging Issues last month.  Hinson’s bill would legalize medical cannabis and create a system for its cultivation and distribution.  After two amendments were added to tighten regulations, that bill has now cleared two House committees.

On Tuesday, the bill unanimously passed in the General Laws committee chaired by State Representative Caleb Jones.

Representative Caleb Jones (Photo courtesy, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Caleb Jones (Photo courtesy, Missouri House Communications)

“In my opinion, I think it was a bill that the entire body of the House of Representatives should really discuss,” said Jones.  “Obviously, various states throughout the entire country are doing this and implementing this … and by passing it out of our committee, I think the entire House of Representatives will have the opportunity to discuss this bill and its merits on the floor.”

The bill has been changed to specify it won’t legalize medical use of synthetic marijuana, and patients suffering from certain illnesses such as Hepatitis C have been removed from the list of those it would make eligible.  The amount patients could possess per month was decreased from 2.5 ounces to 30 grams.  One of the amendments requires the fingerprinting of patients and monitoring by police agencies when patients receive medical marijuana.

“Obviously, this is probably a much more conservative look of a bill for this, but it’s also something we want to make sure the people of Missouri are comfortable with before we pass anything else,” said Jones. “I think that it’s our job as representatives to make sure that all avenues of treatment for anybody who’s sick are examined and determined whether or not they should be provided here in the state of Missouri.”

Before the bill can be debated on the House floor, it must be approved by the Select Committee on Rules.

Missouri legislator proposes official state limit on official state things

Twenty-eight is enough, at least according to one state legislator.

The Missouri State Seal is Missouri's first official symbol, adopted in 1822.  Since then 27 more have been adopted including the official state dinosaur, hypsibema missouriense; the official state song, the Missouri Waltz; and the official state dessert, the ice cream cone.  (Courtesy; Missouri Secretary of State's office)

The Missouri State Seal is Missouri’s first official symbol, adopted in 1822. Since then 27 more have been adopted including the official state dinosaur, hypsibema missouriense; the official state song, the Missouri Waltz; and the official state dessert, the ice cream cone. (Courtesy; Missouri Secretary of State’s office)

Missouri currently has a state animal, a state horse, a state fish and a state aquatic animal, a state bird and a state game bird, and 22 other state symbols. Each year legislation is offered that would create more.  Last year the jumping jack was added as Missouri’s official state exercise.

Representative Tom Flanigan (R-Carthage) thinks that’s enough.

“Twenty-eight ought to surely cover it by now,” Flanigan told Missourinet.

He has offered legislation that would create an official state limit on official state things. The one-line bill would simply set that limit at the current 28.

He thinks the general public sometimes gets the impression that all the legislature does is consider new state symbols.

“They forget the hard work that’s put in on say the budget or the medical malpractice legislation or other things that take up a lot of time for the legislature, because what they really hear about are things like jumping jacks or the ice cream cone or things of that nature, and that’s what they think we do all day,” said Flanigan, “which obviously is not the case and those really only took up small portions of the legislative day.”

Such proposals often originate with students whose teachers want them to learn about how the legislative process works, but many lawmakers have criticized the proposals as a waste of time and suggested there are other ways for students to learn that lesson.

Flanigan suggests the bill could be expanded to say when someone wants to propose adding a new state symbol, they must propose replacing one of those already established.

“How many more symbols would we be able to come up with? Well we could probably come up with many, many more,” said Flanigan, “However you diminish the ones you’ve already decided were state symbols.”

Another avenue, he suggests, would be to start designating symbols at a more local level.

“Let’s start with county symbols. Let’s have the counties be able to designate parks, or certain portions of a county for famous people in those counties, because when you’re setting them with the state you’re looking at a whole wide variety of terrain and people and events and items.”

This year the legislature is again being asked to consider legislation that would designate “Old Drum” as the state historic dog and “Jim the Wonder Dog” as Missouri’s Wonder Dog, as well as bills that would make the white-tailed deer the official state game animal and designate a particular book as the official state work on the 1993 flood.

Flanigan’s proposal is HB 1350.

Missouri State Senator calls for rebellion against BBQ grill study

Some Missouri lawmakers don’t like an Environmental Protection Agency-backed study of emissions from backyard cookouts, and one has launched a social media campaign against it.

Missouri State Senator Eric Schmitt doesn’t like the EPA’s study of grill technology aimed at reducing pollution.  He launched the Twitter hashtag pork steak rebellion, encouraging people to grill outdoors as a sign of protest.

Senator Eric Schmitt

Senator Eric Schmitt

“Across the country there are people using the hashtag expressing their displeasure with the idea that the EPA would find their way into that part of our lives,” said Schmitt.  “There’s a lot of people that are joining our ranks in the pork steak rebellion.”

The EPA is funding a $15,000 University of California-Riverside study to look at the particulate emissions from grilling over an open flame.  The grill uses an air filtration system and drip tray to avoid meat drippings from hitting the grill’s flames and producing pollution.  Schmitt is worried the government might look to regulate backyard grills next.

“On the face of it, it’s a waste of taxpayer money and ultimately this is the time to put a stop to it before it leads to regulations that would regulate backyard barbecues,” said Schmitt.  “The idea that the EPA would have an interest in regulating a backyard barbecue on the fourth of July is ridiculous.”

Schmitt has also filed a resolution meant to discourage the EPA from regulating the use of individual propane gas barbecue grills.  Such resolutions carry no power but are often offered by the state legislature to send a message about its wishes to other government entities.

Missouri House party leaders assess the session so far (VIDEOS)

House Democrats and Republicans disagree about how much has been accomplished in the first half of the legislative session, and what direction the second half must take.

House Republicans lead by Speaker John Diehl, Junior, assess the first half of the 2015 legislative session.  (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

House Republicans lead by Speaker John Diehl, Junior, assess the first half of the 2015 legislative session. (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

In January, House Democrats said eliminating institutionalized racial injustice in all levels of government in Missouri must be a top priority of the 2015 session. Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel (D-St. Louis) said the Republican House majority has not debated or passed a single bill that advances that goal.

“It appears that House Speaker Diehl, who on opening day said we’re not going to have a Ferguson agenda in the House, is being true to his word,” said Hummel. “Over the final seven weeks of session, the House must dedicate to transforming the promise of equal justice for all into a reality.”

Republican House Speaker John Diehl said the House has been, and will be, working on bills that address the real issues.

“I don’t think any of this is Ferguson related, I think it’s a mistake to try to address something to, or fashion legislation to address a specific situation. I think we have to look at the culture and we have to look at the overall issue of what’s happening,” said Diehl. “I referred SB 5, which is the Macks Creek law provisions to committee earlier this week to Representative Cornejo, we’re going to be working on dealing with the municipal court situation across the state.”

At the start of business day, protesters paraded the halls of the Capitol disrupting the Senate by calling for expansion of Medicaid eligibility. Hummel said Republicans are refusing to expand Medicaid in Missouri for the third straight year.

“By not expanding Medicaid, Missouri will continue to let rural hospitals in Missouri close. Two have shut down already, the Osage Hospital in Osceola and Missouri Rehabilitation Center in Mount Vernon, and many others are on the brink of closing right now,” said Hummel. “300-thousand Missourians will continue to needlessly go without health care access.”

“They have the right to come to the Capitol and speak their peace,” said Diehl of the protesters. “We’re going to take a look at some reform, that’s part of what we’re working on is part of the second half agenda.”

Diehl told Missourinet he is very satisfied with the pace of work and it has been a very productive first half.

“We have a very good working relationship with the Senate. I appreciate the efforts of my Pro Tem Denny Hoskins, the Floor Leader Todd Richardson, the entire leadership team, we meet very regularly, we discuss issues, we vet out how we are going to move them forward, and we communicate with the Senate,” said Diehl. “I think you’re going to find a very productive second half with a lot of good policy.”

Diehl highlighted legislation the House has passed, including bills dealing with agriculture, unemployment reform, a bill to shorten the amount of time a family can spend on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, changes to non-economic damage liability in medical malpractice cases, “right-to-work,” a rejection of pay increases for elected officials, and getting the state budget to the Senate ahead of schedule.

The session resumes March 30.

Videos: 

House Speaker Diehl assesses the 2015 legislative session so far:

House Minority Leader Jake Hummel assesses the session to date:

Missouri legislature moves agriculture bills before break

The state legislature sent one agriculture bill to the governor and advanced another on its final day before spring break.

Corn is loaded onto a truck,  (courtesy; Missouri Department of Agriculture, Corinne Mallinckrodt)

Legislation approved by the Missouri House would allow trucks to carry up to 10 percent more weight in grains and grain co-products on Missouri roads during harvest.  (courtesy; Missouri Department of Agriculture, Corinne Mallinckrodt)

The legislature advanced the provisions found in an agriculture omnibus bill that fell to a governor’s veto last year, except for language that would have defined captive deer as livestock.

Senator Brian Munzlinger’s (R-Williamstown) omnibus this year adds a permanent weight restriction adjustment for hauling grain to market during harvest. Republican Margo McNeil (D-Florissant) said that’s a bad idea when the Transportation Department says by 2017 it will lack funding to maintain all the state’s roads.

“We’re going to be lucky in 2017, if we don’t do something in this body to get our potholes repaired, and yet we’re passing legislation that allows the roads to be torn up,” said McNeil.

Munzlinger told Missourinet no one is more concerned about roads in rural areas than he is. He said in his district, two bridges are closed and about nine more have severe weight restrictions.

“Even though we raised the limits on these trucks for harvest, if you’re over limit you still have to abide by the laws on those bridges,” said Munzlinger.

His bill with seven provisions goes back to the Senate because the House removed from it a number of provisions meant to help the state’s dairy producers. The Senate, meanwhile, passed those provisions in a separate bill that now goes to the governor.

That bill would, among other things, create a subsidy of 70-percent of the cost of federal margin insurance for dairy producers.

Representative Bill Reiboldt (R-Neosho) said if the governor signs the bill into law, it would be up to the legislature whether to provide money for that subsidy each year.

“It is subject to appropriations, and I think people need to understand that it has to go through the appropriation process,” said Reiboldt.

Supporters of Medicaid expansion pointed to majority Republican support of that bill as being hypocritical, saying the party is supportive of using tax dollars to subsidize an Obama administration program that helps dairy farmers but not one that would provide medical coverage to more Missourians.

Senator Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City), who is supportive of Medicaid expansion and reform, said on Twitter, “Today, the Senate again showed support for ObamaCows by approving a 70% state premium assistance for federal insurance … on cows.”

Representative Jeremy LaFaver (D-Kansas City) said on Twitter, “The MO Senate is now debating the Affordable Cow Act. Insurance subsidies for dairy cows is okay. Not for people though.”

The bill also creates a scholarship program for students who will work in Missouri’s dairy industry and would require an annual study of the state’s dairy industry by the University of Missouri’s commercial ag program.