Lobbying, a German Heritage Corridor and voter photo ID are among the topics in bills proposed by area legislators for the upcoming session.
In addition, State Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, said he is once again looking at filing a bill to legalize medical marijuana.
He filed a bill last year that would have legalized the use of the drug to treat people with serious medical issues, such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease. It would have placed many restrictions on medical marijuana.
If the Legislature does not address the issue, Missourians may vote on another marijuana amendment that might not be as good, he said.
The Legislature could craft tight regulatory language on medical marijuana, he noted.
Below is a list of some of other bills proposed for the legislative session, which starts Jan. 6.
German Heritage Corridor
This bill would designate counties along the Missouri River as part of a German Heritage Corridor.
It would pertain to counties that were “greatly influenced by the early German settlers.” The bill was filed by State Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, and State Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan.
This would be good for tourism in the region, say Alferman and Schatz.
Alferman said it could particularly help Washington and Hermann. In Washington, it would primarily be along Highway 100. Schatz agreed that it could bring people to Franklin County to spend money.
The costs of the designation would be paid by private donations, the bill adds.
State Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Union, has prefiled a bill dealing with paper ballots. The goal is to create a paper trail to make sure all votes are counted, he said.
“The only thing that we can do to ensure the integrity of our electoral process and the ballot box is to make sure that somehow there is an actual paper trail,” Curtman said.
The idea is to move away from electronic touchscreen voting machines and more toward paper ballots, Curtman said.
He said he does not trust that touchscreen voting machines always give an accurate count of results, saying issues such as glitches and power outages can occur.
“I just don’t believe that the touchscreen machines are as trustworthy as we need them to be for our election system,” Curtman said.
However, he said he understands that handicapped voters will need special arrangements because those votes are just as important.
Lobbyists could not give gifts, such as meals and sporting events tickets, to legislators under a bill filed by Alferman, he said.
Receiving such gifts could give an appearance of impropriety, Alferman said.
“I’ve made a pledge, and I’m sticking by that pledge to not take any lobbyists’ gifts, and hopefully this will be the law of the land come 2017,” Alferman said.
However, there would be certain exemptions, such as flowers and plaques. For instance, Alferman said a lobbyist should not be penalized for sending flowers to a legislator who has lost a family member.
Voters may have to present a photo identification at the election polls if a bill sponsored by Alferman passes.
His bill would not automatically implement photo ID at the polls. Whether photo ID would be required would ultimately be left up to a vote of the people.
His bill just sets forth the photo ID regulations that would take effect if the voters approved the measure.
All photo ID costs incurred by local election authorities would be reimbursed by the state.
Voters who showed up at the polls without the proper ID could submit a provisional ballot, which would be counted as long as the voter’s identity could be verified. Qualified voters without a photo ID could get one at no cost.
Property Tax Adjustments
A bill dealing with tax rates set by government entities, such as school districts, has been filed by Hinson and Schatz.
The bill addresses the possibility of a taxing entity raising its tax rate when there is a drop in assessed value.
If an entity wants to raise its tax rate it should have to send the question to a vote of the people, Hinson said.
“So this (bill) basically says it can’t go up over the voter-approved rate,” Hinson said.
Schatz agreed that taxpayers have questions when the tax rate goes higher than the amount they approved.
At the very least, voters should be informed when they vote on a tax rate that it could go up if there is a drop in assessed value, Schatz said.
County Commission Vacancies
Vacancies on county commissions would be appointed in a different manner if a bill filed by Alferman is approved.
Currently, the governor appoints someone to fill a vacancy on the county commission.
Alferman’s bill would require the governor to make the appointment within 60 days, and the governor’s appointment would have to go through the advice and consent of the Senate.
This will create a check and balance on those appointments and ensure that it does not take too long to fill a vacancy, Alferman said.
County commission seats should not sit open too long because the people should not be without representation for an extended period, Alferman added.
Schatz has filed a similar bill.