Local legislators have introduced bills to extend the expiration contained in the state's museum and cultural district law. The move is sought by Joplin officials in response to a request by a local arts organization, Connect2Culture.

Sen. Bill White, R-Joplin, has introduced Senate Bill 397 that would repeal a section of the law and replace it with one that extends the authority to establish a museum and cultural arts district from five to 15 years after a presidentially declared disaster such as Joplin's 2011 tornado.

White's chief of staff, Mike Kelley, said the senator filed the bill as standalone legislation but also will offer it as an attachment to other bills.

Rep. Lane Roberts, R-Joplin, has filed House Bill 940, which also would modify the law.

Clifford Wert, president of Connect2Culture, asked the Joplin City Council on Feb. 4 to contact the city's lobbyist to see if lawmakers would extend the deadline in the law.

City Manager Sam Anselm said at that meeting that the law was originally passed in 1998 but was amended in 2013 at the request of Joplin to allow the formation of a district within five years. Wert asked that the reference to five years be extended to 15 years.

"We are extremely pleased and grateful to Sen. White and Rep. Lane for their support," Wert said Friday. "We are hoping for that to occur this session. By just changing that one word it at least gives us an opportunity to have the prospect of using that for the museum and cultural community."

Asked if Connect2Culture would use the law for its project to build and operate the Harry M. Cornell Arts and Entertainment Complex downtown, Wert said that any party that fits the law's definition could implement the law. The law provides revenue tools that include a tax and a ticket surcharge to support an arts or museum venue.

"It is hard to decide what you are going to do in five years, but by going to 15 it gives time to make some decisions," Wert said.

A local gallery owner, Linda Teeter, also had asked the council for a resolution that would establish the Joplin Arts District to encompass downtown from B Street to 12th Street and Wall Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue. She said she did not want to propose any funding measures, just establish a name and the boundaries of an arts district.

Wert, asked if the arts district law could be used in conjunction with Teeter's proposed district or if the two were in conflict, said, "I think there is no conflict because of the provision that it does not have to be contiguous properties. I think it can be potentially incorporated or could be an enhancement to whatever is devised going forward.

"We are in the position of continuing to grow and develop our city and especially from the date of the tornado the added years gives much more flexibility and more time to put together a proper plan that is truly beneficial for the long-term aspect of our cultural community," Wert said.

Mayor Gary Shaw said city officials do not know when or if someone may want to use the law to establish a taxing district for the arts.

"I think we supported them making a change, and it seemed like a practical thing to do," he said.

Wert said the extension of the law could also benefit other communities that suffer a disaster and need arts and economic development tools for long-term recovery.