By Scott Faughn
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Sen. Brian Nieves, R-26, has reintroduced his bill from last session that would convert parking spaces provided to members of the media into spaces handicapped accessible places.
“These are for profit entities who are being afforded public resources at no cost when the most vulnerable in our veterans and handicapped citizens who need and deserve access to their capitol have to park blocks away,” Nieves said.
Nieves’ bill was inspired by one of his constituents, veteran Mike Page, who was awarded six medals of honor.
However, some argue that the spaces are provided because of the important role the press has in the legislative process. Doug Crews, executive director of the Missouri Press Association, said, “Just as legislators and their staff members put in many hours working inside the capitol building during the annual session in Jefferson City, news reporters who keep watch on legislative activity put in many hours, also.
“The state of Missouri has provided parking space for members of the working press, those who are covering happenings in the capitol building, for many decades. I think this is in recognition of the role the press plays, reporting on the day-to-day issues affecting the taxpayers and citizens of our state,” he said.
Crews concluded, “While Missouri Press Association is monitoring this bill, individual news organizations may be contacting state legislators on this issue.”
The bill was introduced last week in the General Laws committee that Nieves chairs and was the topic of a lengthy discussion. Sen. Ryan Silvey offered the idea that the press should be billed for the costs of parking and the office space the state provides them. Sen. Holsman offered thoughts on trading some of the spaces to make the handicapped or veterans spaces more easily accessible. Sen. Jamilah Nasheed concluded the debate by offering her support: “I will do whatever I can do to help you with this.”
Veteran Michael Page, a constituent of Nieves who has worked with senator on pieces of veteran legislation during the past, said he believes it is a matter of equitability.
“You could look outside of [Nieves’] office window and the two handicapped parking places [in the lot] were at the upper-end of the lot,” he said. “Then all of the press parking after that were closer to the building than the handicapped parking.”
Page said he thinks the press deserves space to park, but the priority should be veterans and the disabled.
“Society is judged by the way it treats the least among them,” he added.