Missouri Press Association Report from Jefferson City Jan. 20, 2016
It is IMPORTANT that you and representatives from your newspaper come to Jefferson City on Feb. 4, to talk with your elected officials at MPA Day at the Capitol!
If you have not registered, please do so today!
To register, please click on the following link: Day At The Capitol Form
(Have you contacted your State Representative about House Bill 2089 that would move the county financial statement in 2nd, 3rd and 4th class counties from the local newspaper to the county’s web site? Please contact your State Representative about the county financial statement bill!)
Missouri Press Association representatives testified on two bills Tuesday, Jan. 19, in the state capitol
Mark Maassen testified in the House Elections Committee in support of House Bill 1479, sponsored by Elections Committee Chair Rep. Sue Entlicher (R-Bolivar).
The bill would give local citizens an opportunity of knowing that a candidate for local office has withdrawn at the last minute before the filing deadline. The issue was brought to our attention more than a year ago by Toby Carrig, publisher of the Ste. Genevieve Herald.
HB 1479 would not require a new public notice. The bill would allow the filing period to open up a few days during the following week after the filing deadline, giving enough time for a news article to appear in the local newspaper, enough time for word to circulate in town, giving citizens who might want to file for that office an opportunity to do so.
No other supporters or opponents testified for HB 1479, and the committee took no action on the bill.
An identical elections bill by Rep. Tony Dugger (R-Hartville) was approved by the committee last session, passed overwhelmingly on the House floor, 150 to 4 on March 3 last year, but died on the Senate calendar.
Doug Crews testified in opposition to House Bill 1414, during a hearing in the House Agriculture Policy Committee on Jan. 19. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Jay Houghton (R-Martinsburg), who is chair of the committee. This is the fourth year Rep. Houghton has sponsored the bill.
HB 1414 would close premises registration data, animal identification data, environmental data and animal tracking data that farmers and ranchers submit to the state of Missouri in the federal Animal Disease Traceability Program.
Missouri Press Association worked last year with Rep. Houghton on some language he incorporated in his bill, requiring the release of information in the interest of public safety when a disease outbreak occurs, and we thank him for including that provision.
But, the current bill, in our opinion, is too far-reaching in the information it closes to the public.
The Missouri Press Association believes House Bill 1414 is too broad when it includes, on line 2 of the bill, “environmental data,” and on lines 3 and 4, “any data collected for the purpose of animal health or environmental protection.”
That stand-alone phrase on lines 3 and 4, “nor any data collected for the purpose of animal health or environmental protection,” can mean just about anything. It can mean, for instance, any data can be a closed record at the Missouri Department of Agriculture, at the state Department of Natural Resources, at the University of Missouri Vet School, and elsewhere. The language in the bill is simply too broad.
There were several other opponents of the bill, testifying at the hearing for the above reason, including animal rights groups and the Missouri Rural Crisis Center. Several agriculture-related groups spoke in favor of the bill, including the Missouri Farm Bureau.
The committee took no action on the bill.
As background, here is what the U.S. Department of Agriculture says on the need for this voluntary program: “Animal disease traceability, or knowing where diseased and at-risk animals are, where they’ve been, and when, is very important to ensure a rapid response when animal disease events take place. An efficient and accurate animal disease traceability system helps reduce the number of animals involved in an investigation, reduces the time needed to respond, and decreases the cost to producers and the government.”
Question: Is the information that the USDA holds under the animal disease traceability program confidential?
Quoting the USDA: “USDA believes that producer information gathered through animal disease traceability efforts should be treated as information maintained under existing disease program regulations and, therefore, is exempt from provisions of the federal Freedom of Information Act.”
So, the USDA treats the information it maintains as confidential through the federal FOIA.
HB 1414 seeks to exempt the information from Missouri’s Sunshine Law. But Missouri Press Association and others believe the bill’s wording, in its current state, is too broad.