2014 Legislative Roundup: Four major wins for bicycling and walking in Missouri this year

Bicycling and walking incorporated in a statewide transportation funding proposal going before voters. A bid to remove bicycling from the proposal overwhelmingly defeated.  The bicycle ban defeated for the fourth straight year.  A proposal to discourage cities, counties, and state agencies from working with nonprofits on sustainability issues defeated for the second year. 

Gathering at the Capitol for our annual Legislators Ride - it really makes a dif
Gathering at the Capitol for our annual Legislators Ride - it really makes a difference!

With your help and support, these issues have helped make 2014 one of the most successful and important for bicycling and walking in Missouri in the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation's 20 year history.

In particular, the straight up-and-down vote on the anti-bicycle amendment--designed to strip bicycling from the proposed constitutional amendment and the transportation funding it will bring--was overwhelmingly defeated after an outcry from thousands of cycling supporters from around Missouri.

We called that the victory of the decade for bicycling in Jefferson City--and it will be that and more if the proposed Missouri transportation funding plan passes at the ballot box in August.

And these victories very much validated the importance of the representation in Jefferson City that your generous membership and financial support makes possible:

  • Our lobbyist at the Capitol in Jefferson City, Jim Farrell
  • Our annual Legislative Platform
  • Our regular communication with legislators in Jefferson City about bicycle and pedestrian issues
  • Our annual Capitol Day, Legislators Ride, and other personal visits to Jefferson City each year to build relationships with legislators and state officials
  • Our advocacy alert system and communications channels with bicyclists across Missouri

Your membership and financial support make all these possible.  And they all play a vital role both in passing legislation, but an even more important role when very bad proposals like the anti-bicycle amendment arise suddenly.

Your ongoing support of our annual legislative work in Jefferson City and your personal contacts with your own legislators are the only thing that prevents these very bad bills from becoming law.

Victory #1: For the first time, bicycling, walking, and transit fully integrated into Missouri transportation funding proposal

For 100 years, the Missouri Constitution has limited the state's transportation tax funds to roads and bridges that benefit cars and trucks only.

If you want to know the number one reason Missouri is unfriendly to bicycling, walking, and transit--that is it. This is the one single thing that we must change in order for Missouri to move forward to a healthier transportation system.

If the measure passes in August, bicycling and walking will be written into the Missouri constitution
If the measure passes in August, bicycling and walking will be written into the Missouri constitution

After nearly a decade of preparatory work and two years work in the Missouri General Assembly, the proposal that will add bicycling, walking, and transit to Missouri's state transportation funding passed both chambers and is now headed for the ballot August 5th.  If approved by voters, the $6 billion, ten-year measure will add this language to the Missouri Constitution:

The term  "transportation  system  purposes and uses" shall include authority for the commission, any county or city to plan, locate, relocate, establish, acquire, construct, maintain, control, operate, develop, and fund public transportation  facilities such  as, but not limited to, aviation, mass transportation, transportation of elderly and handicapped, railroads, ports, waterborne commerce, intermodal connections, bicycle, and pedestrian improvements.

This will allow spending of all the new transportation funds--both the 90% that goes to MoDOT and the 10% that goes to cities and counties--on any of these transportation options, including bicycling, walking, and transit.

This creates a promise of major changes.  There is still much work to be done, but MoDOT has already released a major update to its transportation plan that puts bicycling, walking, and transit on a more equal footing than ever before.  And MoDOT's regional transportation planning partners across the state are working right now to create a project list for the new state funding--a list that, for the first time ever, is incorporating bicycle, pedestrian, and transit elements.

Victory #2: Anti-Bicycle Amendment soundly defeated; Amendment would have removed bicycling from proposed $6 billion Missouri transportation funding plan

It is not every day--or every year or even every decade--that you get a straight up or down vote on the floor of the Missouri House: Do Missouri representatives support bicycling, or oppose it?

And it is not every day--or every year or even every decade--when the response from Missouri House members is a resounding YES, WE DO SUPPORT BICYCLING!

The Bicycle Ban was stopped--again
The Bicycle Ban was stopped--again

But that is what happened this year when Rep. Paul Curtman and his allies launched a surprise attack on bicycle funding in the proposed $6 billion state transportation funding plan. For years--nearly a decade--we have been working with a broad coalition of transportation supporters to ensure that any new Missouri transportation funding plan fully includes bicycling and walking.

But when Rep. Curtman's anti-bicycle amendment was introduced on the floor of the House, all that came down to just a few key bicycle supporters--such as Rep. Jeremy LaFaver and Rep. Chris Kelly--who had the courage to stand up on the floor, ask questions about the proposal (which was deliberately drafted so as to obfuscate its purpose), and bring floor debate on the multi-billion measure to halt.

That delay gave us the time to spread the word, encourage thousands of bicycle supporters to call or email their legislators, completely re-draft and re-design our Capitol Day materials and message, hold our annual Capitol Day and Legislators Ride around a powerful pro-bicycle message, and then see the anti-bicycle amendment soundly defeated on the floor of the House the very next day.

The Victory of the Decade we called it--and it was, thanks to thousands of supporters like you from across Missouri.

Victory #3: We stopped the proposed Bicycle Ban in its tracks--again

For the past four years we have battled proposed bicycle bans on Missouri roads--first in St Charles County, and now for three years running in the Missouri General Assembly.

These bicycle bans are just a bad idea.  Bicyclists have had the right to use public roads in the state since the bicycle was invented.  More importantly, people in Missouri have had the right to travel where they please, under their own human power, using the public right-of-way and road system, since the dawn of time.  The right to travel and move about under our own power is one of the most essential of human rights.

Though the issue keeps coming back year after year, your ongoing support of our legislative outreach in Jefferson City along with those important calls and messages to your legislators have stopped the proposed Missouri Bicycle Ban in its tracks again.

This year the proposal didn't even receive a committee hearing.

Victory #4: We helped stop a poorly drafted proposal to discourage cities, counties, and state agencies from working with Missouri nonprofit organizations on sustainability issues--including bicycling, walking, and trails

For the second year in a row, Missouri representatives opposed to sustainability and "green" initiatives introduced a poorly drafted law that prohibits Missouri cities, counties, and state agencies from working with nonprofit organizations working to implement the so called "Agenda 21".  No Missouri nonprofit (that we know of!) is specifically working to implement Agenda 21, which is nothing more than a very broad, very general template for creating sustainability plans.

Bike Trails are among the sustainability measures opposed by some in the Missouri General Assembly
Bike Trails are among the sustainability measures opposed by some in the Missouri General Assembly

However, many cities, counties, and agencies across the state are working on sustainability-related projects from recycling to trails to bike share plans.  Bill proponents made it clear in hearings and online posts about the proposed anti-sustainability bill that these types of programs were in their crosshairs and they wouldn't be shy about using the proposed new law to squelch work by municipalities, state agencies, and nonprofit organizations on these sustainability issues.

Last year this bill passed both House and Senate with a veto-proof majority.  After Governor Nixon vetoed the bill, the veto override attempt succeeded in the Senate and failed in the House by a mere two votes.  Read more about the failure of the veto override and why this issue is important to Missouri bicycle and pedestrian groups here.

This year, as more cities and potentially affected nonprofit agencies learned of the intent of the bill, there was far more resistance.  The bill passed the House again, though with far too few votes for a veto override.  That effectively killed the measure for 2014. It never received a hearing in the Senate, and now it is dead--until 2015!

Why your continued support and our continued vigilance is important

As we continued to urge our members and supporters to contact their elected representatives about issues like the proposed Bicycle Ban and the anti-sustainability bill this year, we heard a lot of questions.

"Is this really necessary? Isn't it just scare mongering?  Do these bills really have a chance?"

Here is the thing:

These bills DON'T have a chance. IF we keep our guard up!

As long as we keep letting our elected leaders know about our support for bicycling and walking, keep building those relationships, keep holding our annual Capitol Day, keep our lobbyist in Jefferson City monitoring these issues full time, keep the full glare of the public spotlight on our issues--then yes, the chance of them moving forward is quite small.

Politicians in Jefferson City respect power and are always probing for weakness.

Keep up your guard carefully at all times and it looks easy--most often you never even get in a fight at all.

But just go ahead and let your guard down and see what happens.  What happens is: Your opponents sense weakenss and you get steamrollered.

We overwhelmingly defeated the anti-bicycle amendment on the floor of the House this year.  But if our lobbyist hadn't been there--if our allies on the floor of the House hadn't been there--if we hadn't made those calls and sent those messages and made those personal visits to Jefferson City--well, I GUARANTEE you the outcome would have been different.

We are working together to stand up for our rights as citizens of Missouri who walk and bicycle.  When we do that--when we stick together and stand up for ourselves--we are strong.  We are powerful.

Your voice, your support, your membership--they are powerful statements.  Politicians do listen.

Together we are making a HUGE difference in support of bicycling and walking in Missouri.

Your membership and generous financial support help make our Legislative Platform and Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri a reality!

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