UPDATE on Rock Island State Park bill passage; Majorities were overwhelming in both House and Senate; Please say thanks to supporting legislators today

Friday is the last day of the 2019 Missouri legislative session--and we have a LOT to celebrate this session with the passage of SB 196, which will create the Rock Island Trail State Park Endowment Fund.

The Rock Island Trail State Park Endowment Fund was one of the top priorities at
The Rock Island Trail State Park Endowment Fund was one of the top priorities at Capitol Day 2019

SB 196, which now awaits Governor Parson's signature, gives strong legislative support to the idea of the Rock Island Trail State Park--and State Parks needed that legislative seal of approval as they move forward with negotiations to accept the corridor as a rail-trail between now and August 2019.

The 144-Mike Rock Island corridor under discussion will, if completed, become one of the longest new rail-trails in the U.S. in recent decades.

A few important updates on the bill that have come to light since it passed last Friday:

  • Overwhelming majorities of both House and Senate supported the Rock Island Trail State Park--33-1 Senate and 134-6 House. This was not a close vote.
     
  • We and other Rock Island Trail allies were worried about details of SB 196 language until the very last minute.  But thanks to on-the-ball legislators and staff, it all turned out well. Details below.
     
  • Full text of the bill as finally passed - below.
     
  • Most important! Please take a few minutes to call or email key Missouri Senators and Representatives who supported this bill and give them a hearty thank you today.

Contact Senators and Representatives to say thanks!

When we have been asking for legislators to support something--long and loud!--one of the most important things we can do once they have passed legislation supporting our work, is to say a hearty thank you.

Segment 2 is complete and open - Segment 1 is under construction -  Segment 3 is the subject of SB 196 and this article
Segment 2 is complete and open - Segment 1 is under construction - Segment is the subject of SB 196 and this article. 144 miles and shown in red on this diagram.

Here are legislators you can contact to say thank you, along with the contact info:

  • Senator Mike Bernskoetter of Jefferson City - sponsor of Senate bill, has largest piece of Rock Island Trail in his district - Mike.Bernskoetter@senate.mo.gov - (573) 751-2076
     
  • Rep. David Wood of Versailles - sponsor of House bill and has a long stretch of the Rock Island Trail in his district - David.Wood@house.mo.gov - 573-751-2077
     
  • Rep. Peggy McGaugh of Carollton - handled SB 196 in the House. This is similar to being a bill sponsor, and means she was working hard to support the bill, and move it through committees and to the floor in a timely fashion - Peggy.McGaugh@house.mo.gov - 573-751-1468
     
  • Rep. Sonya Anderson of Springfield - allowed the Rock Island Trail State Park language to be amended onto her bill, HB 1206, and then worked hard for passage of the Rock Island Trail State Park language - Sonya.Anderson@house.mo.gov - 573-751-2948
     
  • Governor Parson - SB 196 is up for the Governor's signature (or veto!) next. As far as we know, he will support it. But a quick note thanking him for supporting the Rock Island Trail and asking for his signature on SB 196 would be helpful. Contact page - (573) 751-3222
     
  • Your own Missouri Senator and Representative - nearly every Senator and Representative voted for SB 196, so this is a great chance to say thanks! Look up Missouri State Senators and Representatives by address here.

Overwhelming majorities in both chambers support Rock Island Trail State Park

In both chambers of the Missouri General Assembly, support for the Rock Island Trail State Park was overwhelming:

Representatives of MoBikeFed and MoRIT meet with Ameren in 2014 to deliver petit
Representatives of MoBikeFed and MoRIT meet with Ameren in 2014 to deliver petition signatures in support of the Rock Island Trail. Both MoRIT and the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy played a key role in promoting the trail, helping build both local community and nationwide support for the effort.

That's about a lopsided a majority as you get on any bill on any topic in Missouri.

There is some history there--because the bill to approve the Katy Trail was a nailbiter: When enabling legislation for the Katy Trail was up for a vote in the late 1980s--sponsored by young Senator Jay Nixon--the vote went down to the wire and finally passed by just one vote.

Statutory language on Rock Island Trail State Park Endowment Fund improved thanks to sponsors and staff

One of the small behind-the-scenes issue Rock Island Trail advocates had been working on all session, was to get the statutory language in the bill exactly right.

The first versions of the bill said funds in the Rock Island Trail State Park Endownment Fund could be used "for the purpose of operating, maintaining, and securing any portion of the former Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad corridor".

We wanted to be sure--and perfectly clear that--the funds could also be collected and used for building and developing the trail.

Because from our perspective, that is the most important thing that needs to be done!

All the legislative sponsors, staff, and State Parks staff agreed with this. But once a bill has started to make its way through hearings and votes, it can be hard to make those little language tweaks.

After the first hearing, an amendment introduced the key word "development".

But reading the bill carefully after another hearing, we realized there are actually two places in the bill where the change needs to be made--and only one had been changed.

Greg Harris of the Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc. talked to House and Senate staff, reminded legislators about the issues in hearings, and did all the other needed follow up.

And finally on May 6th, Rep. Wood introduced a House Floor Amendment to add the missing word.  The amendment passed and when the Senate passed the bill May 9th, all the details were fixed.

Thanks to all involved for a job well done!

Full text of SB 196, creating the Rock Island Trail State Park Endownment Fund

253.177. 1. There is hereby created in the state treasury the "Rock Island Trail State Park Endowment Fund". The fund shall be administered by the department of natural resources. Any grant, gift, donation, devise, or bequest of moneys, funds, real or personal property, or other assets to the department of natural resources for the operation, maintenance, development, or security of any portion of the former Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad corridor located east of milepost 215.325 shall be deposited with the state treasurer to the credit of the fund. All income, interest, rights, or rent earned through the operation of the fund shall also be credited to the fund.

2. The Rock Island Trail State Park endowment fund shall be used by the department of natural resources for the purpose of operating, maintaining, developing, and securing any portion of the former Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad corridor located east of milepost 215.325 that is owned, leased, or operated by the department of natural resources and for no other purpose. Any funds previously deposited into the state park earnings fund created in section 253.090 for such purpose are hereby transferred into the Rock Island Trail State Park endowment fund.

3. The state treasurer shall be the custodian of all moneys, bonds, securities, interests, and rights therein deposited in the state treasury to the credit of the Rock Island Trail State Park endowment fund and shall invest the moneys in the fund in a manner as provided by law.

4. Funds from the Rock Island Trail State Park endowment fund shall be expended, refunded, or transferred only upon appropriation by the general assembly. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 33.080 to the contrary, any moneys remaining in the fund at the end of the biennium shall not revert to the credit of the general revenue fund.

5. If the United States Surface Transportation Board vacates the Notice of Interim Trail Use (NITU) issued in a decision served on February 26, 2015, in docket number AB-1068 (Sub-No. 3X), any moneys in the fund may be refunded to the individuals or entities that have made contributions to the fund or may be transferred to a new trail sponsor or other entity that has accepted responsibility for management of any portion of the former Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad corridor located east of milepost 215.325 as a public recreational trail under a new NITU subject to the National Trails System Act, 16 U.S.C. Section 1241, et seq.

Thank you

Special thanks in all of this must go to:

  • The Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc.--a group created to specifically focus on developing the Rock Island corridor as a trail, and which has been dedicated and dogged every step fo the way so far
     
  • The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the national group dedicated to creating and developing rail-trail corridors
     
  • Dozens of Missouri groups and thousands of individuals and groups across the state and the U.S. who have worked to support the idea of the Rock Island Trail over the past decades

 More Rock Island info:

 

Creating a world-class bicycle, pedestrian, and trails transportation network across Missouri is one of the four major goals of MoBikeFed's Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri. Creating, promoting, and encouraging the implementation of the statewide trails vision along with major trails and trail connections like the Katy and Rock Island are a vitally important parts of that plan.

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