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02 February 2012

Holsman: Visitors To Urban Agriculture Committee

At right: Chairman Holsman and Vice-Chair Lembke confer during the hearing on vertical farming and aquaculture.

The business of the state moves fast and it would be difficult to capture everything that has transpired.This newsletter highlights my office's work over the final two weeks of January.

I would like to draw your attention to a new feature of the newsletter titled "Rules Corner". In this section you will see links to all of the bills that have passed through Rules on their way to Majority Floor Leader Tim Jone's desk.

We had an exciting week with both the Joint Committee on Urban Agriculture and Renewable Energy holding hearings.

On Monday I plan to file the Urban Agriculture Act which is the legislative culmination of months of dedicated committee work by the Joint Committee on Urban Agriculture.

It is my honor to serve you in our state capitol. Thank you for reading.


Dr. Dickson Despommier speaks at Joint Committee on Urban Agriculture on Jan. 24th, 2012

Dr. Dickson Despommier, a professor from Columbia University, spoke at the fifth hearing held by the Joint Committee on Urban Agriculture on Jan. 24th, 2012 in Jefferson City.

Dr. Despommier has pioneered the concept of 'vertical farming', from which he has authored a novel "The Vertical Farm: Feeding Ourselves and the World in the 21st Century." His speech emphasized the growing human population, and the increased need for space to grow more food.

One answer could be cities facilitate their own food production. Facilities that grow food indoors can meticulously monitor the progress of the crop, and apply new techniques such as drip irrigation, aeroponics, and hydroponics providing the methodology for making these developments a reality.

Ideas discussed by Dr. Despommier are not merely theoretical, but are actually happening in various cities around the world. The closest example to Missouri is in Chicago at a facility that has been coined 'The Plant,' a repurposed meat packing plant that is in the process of being converted into a carbon net-zero vertical farm. 'The Plant' will take a retired industrial building and transform it into a facility that employs 125 workers, provides spaces for business incubation, and provides educational opportunities to the community all the while producing fresh food in the heart of one of the most populated cities in the world.

James Godsil and Emmanuel Pratt of Sweet Water Organics present to Urban Agriculture

At right: Emmanuel Pratt and Dr. Despommier

The Joint Committee took testimony from Sweet Water Organics Co-Founder James Godsil, and Executive Director of the Sweet Water Organics Foundation Emmanuel Pratt.

Sweet Water Organics began in an abandoned crane factory in Milwaukee's south side Bay View neighborhood in 2008.

The crane factory was repurposed with work from unemployed and underemployed tradesmen from the Milwaukee area. Godsil was able to put his 30 plus years of roofing experience as the President of the Community Roofing and Restoration Company to work constructing this urban fish and vegetable farm. Utilizing aquaponics, the synthesis of aquaculture and hydroponics, Sweet Water is able to grow lettuce, basil, watercress, tomatoes, peppers, chard, and spinach while raising tilapia and perch in a controlled indoor environment all year long.

Since 2008 Sweet Water has become a vibrant example of the potential within the urban agriculture movement. Sweet Water has forged relationships with local restaurants that gladly purchase their produce and fish. The Sweet Water facility is able to raise 35,000 perch and 20,000 tilapia in their aquaponics systems.

Godsil and Pratt hit on the points of re-engaging urban areas and the general restructuring of post-industrial cities. This vision applies not only to places like Detroit, Milwaukee, or Chicago but every urban and metropolitan area that has seen their manufacturing and industrial base relocate, leaving behind a workforce without work and assembly lines with nothing to assemble. Godsil and Pratt are working towards training the next evolution of urban farmers and entrepreneurs through the many educational outlets of their organization, with a focused mantra of 'turning waste into community resource'.

St. Louis Alliance and Developments, FarmWorks

Left to right: Francisco Gomes (Novus), David Hoffman (Gateway Greening), Travis Howser (Grand Center Inc.), and Craig Heller (LoftWorks).

The Committee took testimony from a collaborative group that has come together on a grand project incorporating urban agriculture in St. Louis. The project in question is termed 'FarmWorks' and is an effort drawing resources from: non-profit community gardening group Gateway Greening Inc., St. Charles based health and nutrition development institution Novus International, non-profit organization that oversees the development of St. Louis' historic arts and cultural district Grand Center Inc., and St. Louis real estate development company Loftworks.

The collaborative effort aims to put together a facility on St. Louis' riverfront just north of the downtown area. Led by urban real estate development company LoftWorks, FarmWorks is a proposal that would re-purpose the former St. Louis Stamping Company facility into an innovative urban farm, coupled with housing, business incubation, and educational components.

FarmWorks will produce food for commercial sale, provide housing and job training opportunities for organizations such as the St. Patrick Center4, as well as offer low cost warehouse space for developing 'green' businesses in the St. Louis area that encourage sustainable living practices

Myles Harston Speaks to Urban Agriculture Committee

The Joint committee on Urban Agriculture also received testimony from Myles Harston. Harston, a practitioner of aquaponics since 1992 is the founder of the AquaRanch in Flanagan, Illinois and has been referred to colloquially as one of the fathers of aquaponics. Mr. Harston gave the committee the perspective of viewing the aquaponics discipline as a means to increase our food security, as well as mitigate the negative effects of depleting current fishery stocks around the world and the amount of pollution being placed into our waterways that leads to hypoxia in the delta.

Myles indicated to the committee that roughly 80% of the fish that we consume in America comes from outside of our borders, often traveling weeks on ships then having to be transported to market by trucks. Fish are often treated with carbon dioxide as a way of preserving the exterior as to appear attractive to the consumer, when really the product may be deficient in many nutritious categories.

Myles' efforts are expanding to the St. Louis area with the installation of one of his systems into Maplewood-Richmond Heights High School (former informational hearing site 10/4/10), as well as with the construction of an aquaponics production facility in Pagedale, in conjunction with Sub-Advisory Committee member Randy Wood.

Left to right: Rusty Lee (Advisory Committee member), Emmanuel Pratt (Sweet Water Foundation Executive Director), Representative Jason Holsman, Myles Harston (AquaRanch), Dr. Dickson Despommier (Columbia University), James Godsil (Sweet Water Co-Founder), Adam Saunders (Advisory Committee Member).

Rules Corner

The following is a list of links to the bills that have passed through the House Rules Committee.

HB1036 Political Party Emblems on Ballots Reported Do Pass Consent 10-0
HB1039 Local Government Employee Retirement Reported Do Pass Consent 11-0
HB1059 Recount of Votes Reported Return to Committee of Origin 10-1
HB1099 Operation Enduring Freedom Day Reported Do Pass Consent 11-0
HB1100 Vietnam Veterans Day Reported Do Pass Consent 11-0
HB1104 Voter Identification Requirements Reported Do Pass No Time Limit 7-4
HB1105 State Militia Age Requirement Reported Do Pass Consent 11-0
HCS#2 HB1155 Commercial Driver's Licenses Reported Do Pass Consent 11-0
HB1219 Discriminatory Employment Practices Reported Do Pass No Time Limit 7-4
HCS HB1277 Highway Infrastructure Improvements Reported Do Pass Consent 8-3

Special Committee on Renewable Energy and American Water Presentation

The Special Committee on Renewable Energy met on January 25 to discuss two bills. The first, H.B.1076, sponsored by Rep. Zachary Wyatt, would establish the Renewable Energy for State Parks initiative.

The second bill was H.B. 1302, sponsored by Chairman Holsman, would establish the Capital Green Program, and hopes to utilize geothermal, wind, solar, etc. energy to power the Missouri Capitol Building and Governor's Mansion.

Testifying in favor of the bill was Representative Holsman, Steve Carroll, lobbyist for MOSEIA, and the Missouri Conservation Alliance.

Immediately following the hearing was a presentation by Steve Murray, Tim Gunz, and Bob Feurman of American Water and Greensbottom Booster Pump Station. Their presentation focused on how they were able to take advantage of sections of Proposition C and utilize a system of pumps and turbines to create a source of renewable energy.

After their initial down payment, the operation is set to become profitable within three years through taking advantage of the 2 dollar solar rebate and selling their excess energy to Ameren.

Holsman to Take Tour of St. Joseph Medical Center 2/3/12

On February 3rd, Representative Holsman is scheduled to take a tour of the St. Joseph Medical Center and Carondelete Health in Kansas City, and meet with Ginger Bliss, Vice President of Strategic Planning and Business Development; Michael Sanderl, Vice President of Mission Integration; and Ms. Fleury Yelvington, President and CEO of Carondelet Health.

In January, Representative Holsman wrote a letter of support on behalf of the Kansas City Department of Public Works in their application for a grant, which would allow for the engineering of traffic improvements around the building as well as the construction of a facility that would provide services to children, at-risk youth, families, and seniors, and finally for the development of a senior housing or research park.

House Committee Advances Photo Voter ID Bill

On January 24th, The House Elections Committee voted 7-3 in favor of legislation that would require voters to show government-issued photo identification in order to cast a ballot. This legislation, H.B. 1104, had a similar incarnation last year, but was vetoed by Governor Jay Nixon.

Supporters say the photo ID requirement would prevent voter fraud. Opponents assert that it is simply an effort to disenfranchise the poor, disabled, and elderly.

The Missouri Secretary of State's Office estimates that about 250,000 registered Missouri voters do not have a government-issued photo ID. The bill passed through the House Rules Committee 7- 3, and is being debated on the House floor.

Kansas City School Accreditation - H.B. 1174, and SB706

Measures to address the loss of accreditation of the Kansas City school district are currently underway in the legislature. The existing law gives unaccredited school districts a 2 year grace period before the state can take action.

H.B. 1174 sponsored by Mike Lair would eliminate that grace period and allow the legislative body to give the state board of education the authority immediately intervene.

"The quickest path to regain student achievement is always preferable," said Holsman, D-Kansas City. "If removing this two-year requirement will spur action either legislatively or from (the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education), then someone better have a pretty darn good reason as to why we should wait." (qt. taken from Associated Press)

On Jan. 31, the Senate General Laws committee had a public hearing on SB706, sponsored by Senator Jane Cunningham, and the bills SB451, SB434, and SB581, which the committee is likely to combine into SB706. These bills address pending issues of school accreditation in the Kansas City and St. Louis area public schools, and create a multitude of changes. Some of the changes may be difficult to support thereby jeapordizing the potential passage of the underlining legislation.

Among the additional reforms is language that would allow children in unaccredited school districts to enroll in a school in the same or adjoining county as long as those schools had available seats; allow students to receive vouchers and attend private, parochial schools, virtual schools, and charter schools; and finally require the unaccredited school district to pay for the students' enrollment and transportation to their new schools. The bills have not yet passed out of committee.

Black Caucus Stands up Against Discrimination

By: Marc Powers, Policy and Communications Director of Democratic Caucus

At left: Rep. Steve Webb, Chairman of the Black Caucus, delivers remarks at a press conference

African-American members of the Senate ended a 15-hour filibuster of legislation weakening Missouri's anti-discrimination laws after the bill's Republican sponsor agreed to eliminate a provision of the bill that sought to require judges to rule in favor of employers in most workplace discrimination lawsuits. The Senate granted preliminary approval to the amended bill, SB592, on a voice vote shortly after the filibuster ended at around 1:20 a.m. on Feb. 2.

Although opponents agreed to stop blocking the bill in exchange for concessions, that doesn't translate into support of the measure. The leader of the filibuster, state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, said opponents will continue to fight efforts to undermine anti-discrimination laws. The House of Representatives debated a similar bill on Feb. 1, but Republican leaders pulled the measure, HB 1219, after about hour amid fierce opposition by the Legislative Black Caucus and other House Democrats.

Since Republicans hold overwhelming majorities in both legislative chambers, a discrimination bill is ultimately expected to be sent to Gov. Jay Nixon's desk. However, Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed similar legislation last year and has indicated he will do so again this year.

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