Reid Cranmer wants Missouri residents to know their voice matters in Jefferson City.
Cranmer, who has been active with the Missouri Bike Racing Association and the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Association, is lobbying against House Bill 2047, legislation introduced by state Rep. Jay Houghton that would allow use of utility vehicles on the Katy Trail.
When I wrote about HB2047 six weeks ago, the bill language allowed people with disabilities and those age 55 and older to use all-terrain vehicles and golf carts on the Katy Trail two Wednesdays per month; since then, the bill has been amended, changing the age to 60 and replacing all-terrain vehicle with “utility vehicle.”
According to the amendment language, “the term ‘utility vehicle’ shall mean any motorized vehicle manufactured and used exclusively for off-highway use which is no more than 60 inches in width, with an unladen dry weight of 2,000 pounds or less, traveling on four or six wheels, with an engine displacement of no more than 600 cubic centimeters.”
The changes don’t make the bill any more palatable; it still would create more hazardous conditions for the trail’s bicycle riders, equestrians and pedestrians, and would degrade conditions on the trail. It also has no financial means to enforce the age and 15 mph speed limit the bill sets out, nor to pay for refurbishment that would be needed due to vehicle use.
Cranmer, of O’Fallon, identified all of these problems when the bill was introduced. As an avid cyclist and triathlete, he uses the Katy Trail a lot.
“It’s just a Missouri treasure,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s a controlled environment; I don’t have to worry about traffic.”
Those factors were motivation for him to work to protect the trail. To amplify his voice, he turned to an online petition website to bring more trail advocates on board.
“I knew change.org was out there,” Cranmer said. “I asked myself, ‘What is the greatest voice we could have?’ That’s committing to a petition and stating we are against this. I didn’t ever anticipate 6,000 people signing it and it going around the country.”
Along with the signatures, the petition has about 75 pages of comments opposing HB2047. This was the ammunition Cranmer needed for his visit to the Capital. After speaking with a collection of state lawmakers, including Speaker of the House Todd Richardson, Cranmer came away encouraged that the bill will not make it to the floor this session.
He said the only way it could come to a vote is if Houghton adds it as an amendment to a bill already passed by the Senate, then it would be addressed during review. While that possibility is remote, Cranmer met with senators to make his case, just in case. Cranmer lives in Sen. Bob Onder’s district and Onder is no fan of HB2047.
“He told me, ‘I’ll be keeping an eye on this; this would go nowhere in the Senate,’” Cranmer said.
While lawmakers are prohibited from using props during floor debates, Cranmer said those he spoke with intimated they would circumvent that rule to make the point that nearly 6,000 constituents have made clear their opposition to the bill.
“The Speaker of the House said he will do all in his power to not allow it on the floor this session,” Cranmer said. “If no amendment process happens, we can rest in victory that this bill will never see the light of day in this session.”
Since nothing is certain for the next legislative session, Cranmer is keeping the petition open.
“I am not closing the petition because our work isn’t done,” he said. “We could very well revisit this bill next session. I tell folks, keep supporting the petition, keep signing it, keep sharing it … so long as there is overwhelming support and people get the message, there is no way that legislators would go against so many of their constituents.”
While protecting the Katy Trail was Cranmer’s prime motivation, he has been pleased that the petition restored his faith that residents’ concerns do matter in Jefferson City.
“In this election cycle, with all the talk about delegates, people are concerned that their voice doesn’t matter,” he said. “Your voice matters – they are hearing our voices loud and clear with the petition and that makes me so excited to be a part of the process.”
Bob Satnan is the communications director for Sedalia School District 200.