I want to personally welcome back our state legislators to the 2016 session. And though the session opened Wednesday, I do not expect a whole lot will be done in the first week — or, actually, 2 1/2 days.
Well over 300 bills have been pre-filed by those under the Gray Dome, bills from the sublime to the ridiculous. Most notable are the six bills concerning firearms that are currently sitting in the wings.
HB 1397, filed by Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Clayton, would impose the same restrictions on gun purchases that one must follow to have an abortion, including a 72-hour waiting period and a visit to a physician.
Two bills would give a sales tax holiday for the purchase of a firearm. Two others would permit conceal and carry on college campuses, while a third would allow colleges to opt out.
It is interesting that many of the people I speak to about the firearms purchasing and possession laws in Missouri sit on extreme opposite sides of the discussion. Some tell me that Missouri's firearms laws are just too restrictive, while others tell me they are too open. In fact, Missouri's laws concerning firearm purchases are some of the most lenient in the country.
Our state legislators will address another major problem that Missourians face: You may not be able to visit grandma without alternative identification if the Transportation Security Administration does not allow Missourians to use their driver's licenses to board airplanes.
In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, requiring all states to meet specific standards for personal identification, which Missouri rejected, becoming one of about one dozen states that took a "nothing of Obama's" position on the law.
Kansas City Democratic Rep. J.J. Rizzo told the Kansas City Star that this issue must be addressed. As of Sunday, there is no proposed legislation concerning this dilemma. I am starting to wonder whether I will need to renew my passport to fly to New York or Colorado for a vacation this year. Will my federally issued pilot's license be acceptable to the TSA?
A number of "pre-emptive" laws are being proposed this year. One that caught my eye falls in the "nothing of Obama's" category. Rep. Keith Frederick, R-Rolla, has pre-filled HB 1682, the "Medical Practices Freedom Act," which would make "demonstrated skill and academic competence" the only criteria to license a physician, chiropractor or other medical professional. This is just in case the Obama administration makes as a condition of licensure "participation in a health insurance plan, public health care system, public service initiative or emergency room coverage."
Does Mr. Frederick know something the rest of us do not? Does he possess a crystal ball or a Magic 8-Ball that tells the future?
Finally, I am wondering how many of the proposed laws are inspired (and how much money will funnel through state lobbyists) by the American Legislative Exchange Council and Missouri super-conservative and multimillionaire Rex Sinquefield. To state it bluntly, how much money will pour into our legislators' pockets through these two entities and the lobbyists?
This is not to say that lobbying is wrong and unnecessary. With the number of bills proposed each year, you cannot expect a legislator to be an expert on all things. Lobbyists educate and attempt to persuade legislators to their side of the discussion. We should, however, question the unlimited money available or the promise of a lucrative position immediately after serving.
As of Sunday, there are seven bills about ethics concerning legislators and elections. The question remains: Will there be a significant change in the Missouri ethics laws covering unlimited lobbyist expenditures and campaign contributions?
All-in-all, 2016 will be an interesting legislative session. At the very least, political commentators will have a lot to write about for the next five months.