Legislative session ends today: Progress on funding, penalties for dangerous drivers, bike/ped issues, stopped by Senate shutdown

Today is the last day of the 2015 Missouri legislative session. What's going on in the General Assembly and with our legislative priorities?

Your visits with legislators in Jefferson City make a huge difference!

The major news: A filibuster in the Senate is halting all legislative action there--and the Senators have vowed to continue the slowdown until the end of the legislative session at 6pm today.

Unless the filibuster is broken--which appears to be unlikely at this time--there is 0% chance of passing the MoDOT fuel tax increase or any of the bills we have been supporting before session ends at 6pm today.   So we'll be back to work on these issues and more next year!  The progress we made this year puts us in good stead for future years.

What bills have we been working on this year and where do we stand on each issue?

  • Requiring bicyclists to hold liability insurance.  We strongly opposed this bill; it was defeated and withdrawn early in session.
     
  • Supporting biking & walking in statewide transportation funding.  Though MoDOT, Missouri cities, and Missouri counties need this new funding badly, bicycle and pedestrian groups across Missouri have agreed that we cannot support the funding proposals introduced in the House and Senate this year, because MoDOT has indicated this new funding cannot be used for needed bicycle and pedestrian accommodations on the roads and bridges that will be funded.  Our position is that any new funding must provide some way of funding associated bicycle and pedestrian needs.  Our position on the proposed gas tax increase proposals was neutral, because it the proposal did not meet this criterion.
     
  • Increasing penalties for drivers who fail to yield, resulting in injury or death. We very strongly support this proposal.  This proposal is still in play, having passed out of committee in both House and Senate.  Except for the Senate filibuster/shut-down this week, it would have stood a very good chance of passing during this final week of session.  We will again support this measure in 2016, when it will have a good chance of passing.
     
  • Banning texting while driving for drivers of all ages. This common sense safety measure is opposed by several key Senators and Representatives and has failed to pass out of committee in either the House or Senate this year.  After several years of work on this, it is clear that passing this measure will require either waiting until several key opponents leave the General Assembly, or a new approach to this issue that will be acceptable to the opponents.
     
  • Comprehensive update to bicycle and pedestrian laws. For several years, we have been working with our allies statewide to draft legislative language on a number measures that have the strongest support among our allied organizations statewide and among our members.  This is the first year that bills have been introduced, in both the House and the Senate, on these topics.  Like the anti-texting measure, several of these proposals are strongly opposed by small-government, anti-regulation figures in the House and Senate who hold key positions. So passing these measures will require some years and a good deal of work to find compromise language and approaches that are acceptable both to use and our allies and to legislators.  But drafting and introducing bills is the first step--and a very important one.  The language introduced by Rep. Walker in the House and Senator Pearce in the Senate included these topics:
    • Ban harassment, intimidation, and throwing things at pedestrians and bicyclists
       
    • Update Definitions for "Pedestrian" and "Bicyclist"
       
    • Update/modernize bicycle equipment regulations
       
    • Require Safe Passing of Bicyclists and Pedestrians
       
  • Oppose "right turn on red with no stop" bill. Our objective was to stop this bad bill; this effort was successful as HB 534 made no progress this year.
     
  • Bike/ped funding line item in the state budget. Missouri has hundreds of millions of dollars in unmet needs for safe bicycle and pedestrian connections in our communities and along and across our state roads and highways. But the state has never dedicated any state revenue towards the needs of people who bicycle and walk in Missouri.

    This year, Senator Jill Schupp of Croeve Cour worked with her colleagues on the Senate Transportation Committee to, for the first time in Missouri history, introduce a small line item dedicated to bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements.

    Unfortunately, the line item was caught in crossfire over other legislative issues this year and did not survive in the final budget.  But we have set a precedent now and will be back in 2016 to try again.

Read much more about our work during the 2015 Missouri Legislative Session here.

See our 2015 Legislative Platform here.

List of Legislative Platform items accomplished from 1995 to the present is here.

 

Huge thanks goes to everyone who called, emailed, or met with your legislators this year.  Special thanks goes to those who participated in or volunteered for Capitol Day and our annual Ride with Legislators.  When you speak up in support of bicycling and walking, it really does make a difference!

 

Working to improve safety, created a world-class bicycle and pedestrian system, increase the amount of bicycling and walking, and build a strong statewide movement in support of bicycling and walking through our work at the Capitol in Jefferson City are among the top goals in MoBikeFed's Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri.

Your ongoing membership and generous financial support help fund our legislative work and help make our Vision into reality!

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