MPA Capitol Report 3/22/2024

In Legislative News, Legislative Reports, Legislative Resources On
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MPANewsBook: Statehouse News for MPA Members
This report is written by Missouri School of Journalism students for publication by MPA member newspapers in print and online.


The legislature is on break so our offerings are slim but important this week: a decision by Senate Pro Tem Caleb Rowden not to run for Secretary of State and an update on legislation that could impact how the state regulates water pollution.

If you have thoughts or questions, contact Mark Horvit at or Fred Anklam at





Changes being proposed to definition of state waters


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JEFFERSON CITY – A member of the Missouri Legislature said he is reworking his bill that seeks to change the definition of waters of the state following a hearing earlier this month.

Sen. Rusty Black, R-Chillicothe, sponsored Senate Bill 981 to redefine which water bodies are protected by state law.

Members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources heard Black’s bill on March 5. Opponents of the legislation raised concerns about confusion stemming from the language of the bill that might remove current protections.

Executive Director of the Missouri Stream Team Watershed Coalition, Mary Culler, testified against the change in definition: “The current definitions of waters of the state is straightforward.”

“The current definition basically says that if a water extends onto the neighboring property, it’s a waters of the state. That was developed to protect downstream landowners from pollution,” she said.

According to Culler, the current law protects the downstream landowner should an upstream neighbor pollute their water source.

Culler said she felt the language proposed in SB 981 would cause uncertainty in deciding if a body of water fell under the jurisdiction of the state. She predicted a significant increase in state resources to perform hydrologic studies to determine the status of the body of water.

The Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources estimates each assessment will cost approximately $2,388, based on analysis of historical data.

In an interview after the hearing, Black said, “I don’t want to pollute your well water at your farm but sometimes we can overregulate (landowners) trying to keep those waters safe.”

After the hearing, Black decided to revisit the language of the proposed legislation to address some of those concerns that were highlighted in testimony. He also mentioned the impact of environmental groups that have been meeting with him to address protecting these water sources from pollutants.

“The water that I drink comes from an aquifer,” Black said, “so making sure that those waters are protected properly without too much government intervention, if we can accomplish then that would be helpful.”

In addition to adding clarifications for aquifers, Black said he is considering changing language for water percolating through soil or rocks and for perched water sources that exist underground but above an aquifer. Black is currently working with various groups to decide a final course of action for language addressing perched and percolated water.

Black’s bill comes on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Sackett v. EPA, which effectively reduced the scope of the Clean Water Act by limiting the definition of sources of water.

Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972 to regulate the quality of water and prevent the discharge of pollutants into water sources. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees the enforcement and regulation of the law.

The Sackett decision ruled that wetlands not continuously connected on the surface to a body of water would not be protected under federal law.

Representatives from Missouri agriculture interest groups, including the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, the Missouri Pork Association, the Missouri Soybean Association and the Missouri Farm Bureau spoke in support of Black’s bill during the hearing, citing a need for regulatory certainty in water regulation.

Black served as an agriculture educator and Future Farmers of America advisor for 33 years and is a cattle farmer. He said that he believes his background teaching students about waters of the United States and his personal experience as a farmer are the reasons why agricultural groups approached him about sponsoring this bill.

One of the groups testifying in support of SB 981, the Missouri Farm Bureau State PAC, endorsed Black in 2022 for the Senate seat he holds. Black has also received the organization’s Friend of Agriculture award multiple times during his time in the legislature.

Moving forward, Black said he hopes to publicly revisit the bill after legislators return from their break this week to gather more feedback on the new changes and refine the language.



Caleb Rowden no longer running for secretary of state


missouri news network

Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, made a surprise announcement Monday that he is dropping his bid for secretary of state.

“When I announced my intention to run for Secretary of State last November, I truly believed it was the best decision for my family and I,” Rowden said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Through a number of additional conversations with my wife and those close to our family, I no longer believe that to be true.”

Rowden, a 12-year veteran of the Missouri General Assembly, is the President Pro Tem of the Senate, the top leadership position. His Senate term ends this year.

Rowden was slated to run against fellow GOP members of the legislature, including Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, who is term-limited, and Rep. Adam Schwadron, R-St. Charles.

Political in-fighting among Senate Republicans has plagued the chamber for years, something Rowden pointed out in his statement.

“While there have always been deep political and philosophical disagreements about how to get to a desired outcome, the desired outcome and the facts used to make decisions used to be shared values,” he said. “More and more, the latter no longer seems to be the case.”

Rowden was first elected to the legislature in 2012 and represented District 44 in the House for two terms. In 2016, he was elected to represent District 19 in the Senate, beating former Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, by less than 2% of the vote, and has been in his position ever since. Webber is running again to take over Rowden’s soon-to-be vacant seat.

Hoskins said he was surprised at first when he saw Rowden’s announcement, but added that while campaigning, he witnessed a very clear message from voters.

“Missourians, they’re looking for more of a conservative fighter like Josh Hawley than a Liz Cheney Republican,” he said.

A member of the Freedom Caucus, Hoskins said he believes people are tired of what he called “campaign conservatives.”

“Those people that campaign one way on the campaign trail and say that they’re very conservative but then get to Jefferson City and vote like Democrats,” Hoskins explained.

Asked if he feels Rowden’s announcement in any way affects his chances of securing the secretary of state position, Hoskins said his focus remains on his campaign.

“I can’t control what anybody else does, just myself,” he said. “So we’re really just going to focus on our campaign and our conservative message that seems to be resonating throughout all of Missouri.”

There are six candidates for Missouri’s secretary of state office, four Republicans and two Democrats. In addition to Hoskins and Schwadron, Republican candidates include Valentina Gomez, a real estate investor, and Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller. Democrats include Monique Williams and Rep. Barbara Phifer, D-St. Louis.

While Rowden is withdrawing from the race, he never officially filed to run.

Coming to the final stretch of a long lawmaking career, Rowden said he feels his legacy in politics is secure and that his time in the legislature has been “life-changing.”

“These years will be ones I will look back on with deep gratitude and humility for the chance the people of mid-Missouri gave me to serve them in this way,” Rowden said.

He added, “I am as certain as I have ever been that this is the right decision for me and my family in this season of our lives.”

The filing period for the August primary ends 5 p.m. on March 26. The elections will be on Aug. 6.


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