Missouri state lawmakers made a number of changes to state laws limiting the powers to control and zone cell-phone towers and issue traffic tickets within city limits.
City Attorney Nate Dally outlined the changes in his report from the Missouri Municipal Attorney's conference last month to the Carthage City Council at the council's regular meeting Tuesday.
He said lawmakers passed an “AT&T-written bill,” that “really removes any control we have at all on cell phone towers.”
“We can't zone them anymore, their applications remain open forever, there's no timetable on when they have to reapply if they submit,” Dally said. “We can't require them to take a tower down if they stop using it for 20 years. We can't make them landscape, we can't even suggest that they put up a different type of tower that would be less intrusive. They don't have to do environmental studies.”
Dally said the Missouri Municipal League is looking at a possible legal challenge to the bill.
Dally also reported on changes made to the so-called “Mack's Creek bill,” passed more than 15 years ago to prevent municipalities from using state highways as speed traps to collect additional city revenue.
Dally said the law originally said cities that collect more than 30 percent of their revenue through traffic tickets on a state highway had to return the money over 30 percent to the state.
“They have now lowered that to 20 percent and it now includes all streets, including city streets, not just highways,” Dally told the council. “The state auditor is supposed to be coming up with a form that we now have to report all our traffic revenue and traffic tickets to the state auditor. If we don't do it correctly, or we don't do it all, municipalities will lose jurisdiction to handle traffic violations, which means we wouldn't be able to enforce any traffic laws.”
Dally also described new laws that make cities hold public hearings and requires a two-thirds vote of a city council to remove a police chief, changed the state's Open Meetings Law to allow governments to keep secret emergency plans and security plans for important facilities, and the state's fix for a Supreme Court decision that the state could not collect sales tax on sales of vehicles outside the state.
“It did seem like this session that cities were under assault,” said Carthage City Administrator Tom Short. “There were a number of bills that negatively impacted the cities.”
Short reported that the council's Budget Ways and Means Committee will discuss a proposed use tax at its next meeting at 6 p.m., Monday Aug. 12, at the City Council Chambers on the east side of the Square.
Page 2 of 2 - He said the new state law, passed this year and signed by the governor, allows the state to collect taxes on vehicles purchased out of state for two years, but requires cities and counties to put a use tax equal to the local sales tax up before voters in that two years or face losing that revenue once again.
Short has said in the past that the city was losing $60,000 annually, according to state numbers, because the tax was not being collected.
He said the Budget Committee would likely decide at its August meeting whether to put a use tax before voters on the November ballot.