|GRANTS TO ENHANCE CYBERSECURITY
The House Special Committee on Homeland Security convened Monday afternoon to discuss HB 668, sponsored by Representative Dan Houx (R-Warrensburg). This legislation allows the Department of Economic Development to disperse a one-time grant to small businesses to enhance cybersecurity. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Missouri Bankers Association, Associated Industries of Missouri, Missouri Retailers Association, Missouri Grocers Association, Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Civic Council of Kansas City, Missouri Pharmacy Association, Missouri Dental Association, University of Central Missouri, and Fortnet provided supporting testimony and informed committee members that small businesses are the hardest hit by cybersecurity attacks, and Missouri is ranked second as having the most costly cybersecurity losses. There was no opposing testimony presented to the committee.
REGULATORY SANDBOX ACT
The House Committee on Economic Development convened Wednesday morning to consider passage of HB 268, sponsored by Representative Alex Riley (R-Springfield). This is the House companion bill to SB 3, sponsored by Senator Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg) and provides small businesses creating innovative products in all industries a way to waive or suspend certain regulations for two years by applying to the Regulatory Relief Office created within the Department of Economic Development. During committee discussion, substitute language was adopted to align the bill with the Senate language by eliminating the Small Business Fairness Board, provides clean-up language, defines terms, modifies the duties and member make-ups of the various boards, requires the Sandbox Director to notify the public on the departments website when an applicant is approved in the program and removes references of “minority owned businesses” and replacing with current statute language that states, “businesses owned by each racial minority group.” Once modified, the committee passed the bill with a 16-0 vote.
SPREADING PERSONAL INFORMATION OF JUDGES, ELECTED OFFICIALS ILLEGAL
House Bill 389 (Veit, R-Wardsville) creates the crime of tampering with a judicial officer (judge) if a person distributes the judicial officer’s personal information through any means, including posting on the Internet. Personal information is defined in the bill to include a home address, home or mobile telephone number, personal email address, Social Security number, federal tax identification number, checking or savings account number, marital status, and identity of a child under 18 years of age. HB 389 was heard by the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 6. The legislation also makes it a crime to distribute the judicial officer’s family’s personal information. The definition of judicial officer includes a commissioner of state or federal court. Also covered in the legislation is the crime of disclosing personal information of an elected official or of a member of the elected official’s family with the intent to harass, intimidate, or cause death or bodily injury. Various penalties in the bill include class A misdemeanor, class B felony, and class D felony. Some comments from committee members sought clarification and interpretation of the punishments in the bill. Testimony in support of HB 389 was offered by the Missouri Supreme Court and the Judicial Conference of Missouri; and RELX, Inc. No testimony in opposition. The committee took no action on the bill. The committee chairman said HB 389 will likely become part of an omnibus bill compiled by the committee.
STATUTORY CHANGES PROPOSED IN INITIATIVE PETITION PROCESS
House Bill 703 (Haffner, R-Pleasant Hill) makes various statutory changes to the initiative and referendum petition process. HB 703 was heard by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee on Feb. 7. The legislative changes affect the signature pages that are circulated, requirements for petition circulators to be at least 18 years old, U.S. citizens and at least 30-day residents of Missouri prior to collection of signatures, that compensation cannot be based on the number of signatures collected, signatures must be recorded using a dark ink, and other changes dealing with legal challenges and court orders prior to a statewide vote. If a court orders a change that substantially alters content of the official ballot title, signatures collected prior to the court order shall be invalidated. The bill deletes the current requirement of the Joint Committee on Legislative Research to hold a public hearing on petition summaries. Witnesses who testified in support of HB 703 included Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (R), Missouri Farm Bureau, and the Opportunity Solutions Project. The Farm Bureau supports the bill, seeking to make it more difficult for out-of-state organizations or individuals to change the Missouri Constitution. Witnesses in opposition were the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, Jobs For Justice Voter Action, League of Women Voters of Missouri, and Arnie A.C. Dienoff Witnesses in opposition to the bill said duplicative items contained in the bill create confusion and said the measure does not stand up to constitutional scrutiny, noting a January 2023 case in South Dakota that threw out that state’s 30-day residency requirement for signature gatherers, saying it limits free speech. Information only was offered by Ron Calzone. The committee took no action on the bill.
EFFORTS MADE TO REMOVE SS NUMBERS, BIRTHDATES FROM CASENET
House Bill 984 (Hicks, R-Lake St. Louis) prohibits the public disclosure of confidential information authorized to be closed under Chapter 610, RSMo, or any personal information, including a person’s Social Security number, bank account number, or date of birth, by a state court or an employee or agent of a state court. HB 984 was heard by the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 6. Rep. Hicks said the bill’s intent is to close such personal information from being posted on CaseNet. The bill does allow financial institutions, insurers, or consumer reporting agencies that are permitted by law to access state court records to use a person’s unique identifying information to match information contained in court records to validate the person’s record. A question was asked about the bill’s reference to closing information “authorized to be closed by chapter 610,” and it was noted that such a law could require court clerks to become experts on the Sunshine Law. The bill does not include any penalties for enforcement, but Rep. Hicks said penalties may be added to the bill. The Missouri Supreme Court would promulgate rules to set the legislation in motion, if it becomes law. Testimony in support of HB 984 was offered by Jorgen Schlemeier on behalf of David Humphrey of TAMKO. Testimony in opposition was presented by RELX, Inc. Testifying for information only was the Missouri Insurance Coalition. The committee took no action on the bill.
CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES WOULD NEED OK IN MAJORITY OF SENATE DISTRICTS
House Joint Resolution 19 (Black, R-Marshfield) would require amendments to the state’s Constitution to need approval from a simple majority of the votes cast, as well as a majority of votes cast in a majority of State Senate districts, in order to pass the amendment. Currently, amendments to the Constitution that have been placed on the ballot require approval from a simple majority of statewide votes cast to pass. HJR 19 was heard by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee on Feb. 7. Witnesses who testified in support of HJR 19 included a Cape Girardeau County resident, Missouri Farm Bureau, Ron Calzone, and the Warren County Republican Committee. Witnesses in opposition were the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, Jobs For Justice Voter Action, League of Women Voters of Missouri, Arnie A.C. Dienoff, and Action St. Louis Power Project. The committee took no action on the bill.
HIGHWAY PATROL PUBLIC RECORDS
The Senate Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety convened Wednesday morning to consider passage of SB 28, sponsored by Senator Justin Brown (R-Rolla). The bill provides that a minimum fee of $6 may be charged by the Missouri State Highway Patrol for a copy of patrol investigated traffic or boating accident. The Superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol may increase the minimum fee by no more than $1 every other year following August 28, 2024, and the minimum fee shall not exceed $10. After no discussion, the committee passed the bill by a 6-0 vote.
The Senate Committee on Local Government and Elections convened Monday afternoon to consider passage of SB 44, sponsored by Senator Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville). Currently, election authorities are required by the National Voter Rights Act of 1993 to go through voter rolls and check for accuracy. The bill provides an active process to ensure county clerks are abiding and reviewing voter rolls. After no discussion, the committee passed the bill by a 5-1 vote.
JUDICIAL PRIVACY ACT
The Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee convened Monday to consider passage of SB 72, sponsored by Senator Curtis Trent (R – Springfield). The proposed legislation establishes the “Judicial Privacy Act”, which provides restrictions on the use of a judicial officer’s personal information. During committee discussion, a committee substitute was adopted to modify the definition of immediate family to include adoptive, foster and unmarried family members. Additionally, the substitute adds prosecuting circuit attorneys and the word “enhancements” to streamline doxing statutes. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 6-0 vote.
STATEWIDE COURT AUTOMATION FUND
The Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee convened Monday to consider passage of SB 103, sponsored by Senator Sandy Crawford (R-Buffalo). The bill provides that any unexpended balance remaining in the Statewide Court Automation Fund shall be transferred to general revenue on September 1, 2029, rather than September 1, 2023, as provided in current law. Additionally, the court fee collected for the Statewide Court Automation Fund shall expire on September 1, 2029, rather than September 1, 2023. Finally, this act repeals the provision requiring the Court Automation Committee to complete its duties by September 1, 2025, and repeals the expiration date for the provision establishing the Statewide Court Automation Fund and the Court Automation Committee. During committee discussion, a committee substitute was adopted to include two members from two municipal courts to the Court Automation Committee. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 6-0 vote.
SUNSHINE LAW WOULD DIM WITH PROPOSED CHANGES TO CHAPTER 610
Senate Bill 174 (Koenig, R-Manchester) modifies public records and governmental meetings in various ways that weakens the initial law that’s been in Missouri statutes since 1973. The bill was heard Feb. 9 by the Senate Governmental Accountability Committee. The original SB 174 would have established “transitory records,” closing them to the public, and would have authorized closure of certain inter-agency or intra-agency memos or letters. Sen. Koenig, however, submitted a substitute bill to the committee that deleted those portions of the bill that related to “transitory records” and inter- or intra-agency records.
Those two issues are high on the list of concerns. While Missouri Press Association continues to oppose the original SB 174, representatives of MPA met with Sen. Koenig after the hearing and more changes to the bill are expected. Testifying during the hearing in favor of the bill were the Municipal League of Metropolitan St. Louis, the Missouri Municipal League, Missouri State Highway Patrol, and Missouri School Boards Association. Opposition to the bill was offered by Echo Menges, Gary Figgins, Chad Mahoney, Tom Sullivan, Elad Gross, and Jean Maneke. The witnesses in opposition represented the Missouri Sunshine Coalition, The Edina Sentinel, Missouri Broadcasters Association, and Missouri Press Association, and individuals who brought information to the committee of concerns they have faced with local government and local Sunshine issues.
SB 174 exempts any requests that include constituent contact information, and information regarding proposed legislation or the legislative process from the Missouri Sunshine Law. The bill adds GPS data of law enforcement as closed records, and health and mental health records of a constituent as closed records. Among the bill’s new exemptions to the Sunshine Law are: A public governmental body is authorized to close email addresses and telephone numbers submitted to a public governmental body; The closure of a portion of public records is allowed that are retained by the office of a member of the General Assembly that would identify a constituent of the member; Any record may be closed that is retained in the office of a member of the General Assembly that contains information regarding proposed legislation or the legislative process, unless the information is offered in a public meeting. Finally, a request for public records to a public governmental body shall be considered withdrawn if the requester fails to remit all fees within 30 days of a request for payment of the fees by the public governmental body. If the same or a substantially similar request for records is made within six months of the expiration of the 30-day period, then the public body can request payment of fees made for the original request. The committee took no action on the substitute bill.
COMMERCIAL FINANCING DISCLOSURE ACT
The Senate Committee on Insurance and Banking convened Tuesday afternoon to discuss SB 187, sponsored by Senator Justin Brown (R-Rolla). The bill creates the “Commercial Financing Disclosure Act” and requires any person who consummates more than five commercial financing products to a business located in Missouri is required to make certain disclosure to the business with regard to the product. The Revenue Based Finance Coalition presented supporting testimony. There was no opposing testimony presented to the committee.
IMPOSING A SALES TAX ON PROPERTY
The Senate General Laws Committee convened Wednesday morning to discuss SJR 18, sponsored by Senator Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville). Upon voter approval, the resolution prohibits counties and political subdivisions from levying or collecting a tax on real property. In lieu of levying a tax on real property tax, the resolution imposes a 10% sales tax on the sale of real property. Additionally, the resolution imposes a 10% tax on any property purchased or currently owned. The sponsors intent with the legislation is to allow people to own their property without being taxed for the duration of ownership and to alleviate tax burdens. No supporting testimony was presented. A private citizen opposed the bill.