Yes! The State Legislature Has Adjourned!

Editorial written by James Baughn on Saturday, May 19, 2001

from the the-calm-after-the-storm dept.

We can all breathe a sigh of relief. The 2001 session of the Missouri General Assembly has come to a close. Any attempts by our elected representatives to infringe on individual rights, increase bureaucracy, or raise taxes must now wait until the special veto session in September or until the next regular session in 2002.

Nevertheless, the folks in Jeff City still managed to pass a few ill-conceived bills during this session. They not only decided to turn a large segment of the population into criminals, but they also decreed that stealing gas is a worse offense than driving drunk.

Some of the bills that passed this session include:

Tobacco Possession By Minors
It's already illegal for vendors to sell cigarettes to minors, but under this bill it will become illegal for minors to even step within sight of a pack of cigarettes. Since it's estimated that a third of Missouri teenagers smoke, this bill will turn a large portion of the Missouri population into criminals. Of course, such people don't have the right to vote, so obviously elected representatives don't care much about them.

[Well, okay, minors living in St. Louis could probably vote by registering under the name of a dead person, which seems to be accepted practice these days.]

Harsher Penalties For Stealing Gas
People caught stealing gas will now have their driver's license suspended for 60 days on the first offense. But if a person is caught driving drunk, they will only have their driver's license suspended for 30 days on the first offense. It's good to see that our elected representatives have their priorities straight.

0.08 BAC Limit
If the US Congress told Missouri legislators to jump off a cliff, would they do it? Probably, considering how the General Assembly rolled over and played dead for the Federal government on the issue of drunk driving. People caught with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or greater will be charged with drunk-driving, even if they can demonstrate they weren't impaired.

The sponsors of this legislation raved about how many lives it will save, but everybody knows the real reason was to prevent the Federal gravy train from leaving the station. If the state didn't lower its standard from 0.10, Missouri would start to lose Federal highway dollars.

Even with the new 0.08 standard, Missouri will still get the royal shaft from the Federal government because the state didn't ban open containers and didn't require ignition-interlock devices for drunk drivers on probation. As a result, a certain portion of Federal highway funding must go to safety programs. I suppose the US Congress doesn't consider crumbling roads and gaping potholes to be a safety problem.

Asset Forfeiture Reform
Okay, so the General Assembly didn't completey play dead for the Federal government. Indeed, Missouri has decided to raise its middle-finger right in the faces of the FBI and DEA, a gesture which has been long overdue.

Under current state law, local police are required to hand over seized property to the public education fund. However, many departments have evaded the spirit of the law by handing over the goods to the Federal government, which then returns it minus a "cut". This way, police departments could keep the seized property for themselves.

The General Assembly has put a stop to this mafia-like practice employed by the Federal government. Why should the DEA or other agencies receive a "cut" of property that was seized by people breaking state laws? And why should the Federal government be able to actively engage in the circumvention of state laws?

This is the best bill to come out of the legislature this session, and it almost makes up for all the bad bills produced in the last few years.

Missouri University Basketball Arena
The legislature gave in to arm-twisting by an anonymous donor would threatened to withdraw a $25 million contribution unless the state promised to help finance a replacement for the Hearnes Center in Columbia. Such a move will undoubtedly help boost the Mizzou Tigers, who will go from losing games in a 25 year old arena to losing games in a brand new arena.