State legislative wrap up: urban agriculture and funds for city courts

Among city victories in state legislation this year:  the ability to create urban agriculture zones and authorization for a fee to fund some critical city courts.

On the losing side, it did not get angel investment and data center incentives and there will be no statewide 1-cent sales tax for transportation.

Bill Gamble, city lobbyist, reported the outcome to the city council on Thursday.

The urban agriculture zones can be created in blighted areas that are used for agricultural products like produce and livestock.

If one is created, any state sales tax generated there will go into a special fund that school districts can seek to tap to provide curriculum on urban farming.

Also, growers within the zone would be allowed to pay for water at wholesale prices.

The municipal court bill, among the last to pass in the session, allows a court fee of up to $7. It would raise up to $490,000 a year to fund mental health, drug and veterans’ courts.

In another city win, the state passed a tougher scrap metal law. Kansas City has toughened its law but its effectiveness was limited because thieves of catalytic converters, copper and other metals could just drive east and sell in other cities.

Under the new state law, any payments by a scrap dealer of more than $500 must be by check or electronic payment. And any cash transactions must have a record of the seller’s driver’s license if the metal is copper or a converter.

In what could be considered another loss, the legislature passed a law that limits a city’s ability to sponsor a firearms buyback program. The city could not destroy the guns until it first offered them for sale to two gun dealers and the dealers did not buy them.

Federal officials and legislatures in some other states have considered ways to tighten gun regulations in the wake of tragedies like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, but Missouri legislators passed legislation to protect and expand gun rights.

They passed a law intended to nullify federal gun laws and one that allows Missouri school districts to teach gun safety programs to first graders. They also transferred the handling of concealed gun permits from the state Department of Revenue to local sheriffs.

About the only pro-gun law that failed, Gamble said, was one that would have required everyone in the state to own a gun.

Councilman Scott Taylor said his biggest disappointment is that the legislature did not pass Medicaid expansion that would have used federal money to expand coverage to 260,000 more people while creating 24,000 new jobs.

“I’m very frustrated our legislature can’t get past their political philosophy and focus on job creation and everyday people,” he said, and get away from “paranoia and black helicopter legislation.”

As for the overall outcome, said councilwoman Jan Marcason, “It could have been much worse.”

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