|RELATING TO ADMINISTRATIVE RULES
The House Government Efficiency and Downsizing Committee convened Wednesday morning to discuss HB 269, sponsored by Representative Alex Riley (R-Springfield). The bill requires a department or agency to repeal two rules in the event they issue one new rule. During bill presentation, the sponsor informed committee members of the difficulty to remove or amend any rules, citing Missouri currently imposes over 113 thousand rules that Missouri imposes, not including statutes or county or city ordinances. The intent with the legislation is to encourage the review and repeal of rules, giving lawmakers another tool to hold departments accountable and to remove undue regulatory burdens on citizens and business. Committee discussions centered around current department inefficiencies, as well as the practical difficulties this statute would produce. Americans for Prosperity, and Opportunity Solutions Project supported the bill. The Sierra Club, MO Coalition for the Environment, and MO Association of Realtors testified in opposition.GRANTS TO ENHANCE CYBERSECURITY
The House Special Committee on Homeland Security convened Thursday morning to consider passage of HB 668, sponsored by Representative Dan Houx (R-Warrensburg). The bill allows the Department of Economic Development to distribute one-time grants with a 10% match to employers for the purpose of enhancing cybersecurity. The bill requires the department to create an online application and requires employers seeking a grant to outline how cybersecurity will be enhanced and how it plans to cover the 10% match. During committee discussion, language was added which states priority shall be given to any company contracting with the state for the purpose of protecting critical infrastructure. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 9-0 vote.ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY JOBS ACT
The House Economic Development Committee convened Wednesday morning to consider passage of HB 133, and HB 583 sponsored by Representatives Brad Hudson (R-Cape Fair) and Michael O’ Donnell (R-St Louis), respectively. The bills are House companions to SB 170 sponsored by Senator Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg) and establish the Entertainment Industry Jobs Act which creates a tax credit for those that provide live entertainment and can be used for rehearsal and tour expenses. During committee discussion, substitute language was adopted to combine both bills into one legislative vehicle. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 15-0 vote.
The House Local Government Committee convened Tuesday morning to consider passage of HB 587, sponsored by Representative Bill Owen (R-Springfield). The bill would allow cities who are over 1,500 inhabitants and are not already authorized to have a land bank, the ability to establish a land bank in their community. This legislation also allows for county commissions to establish land banks if they meet certain criteria. This year’s bill differs from last year’s version in that it now includes St. Louis County. During committee discussion, substitute language was adopted which removes HB 1088 from the title as it has not yet been heard in committee and modified the definition of “conflict of interest”. The substitute also added additional protections for property owners going through judicial foreclosures and clearly outlined the process for judicial foreclosures and limited the level of consanguinity to two levels. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 14-0 vote.
CHANGES 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 voted “do pass” by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee by a vote of 9-4 on Feb. 21. 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.
ANTI-SLAPP LEGISLATION HEARD BY JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
House Bill 750 (Perkins, R-Bowling Green) creates the “Uniform Public Expression Protection Act.” The bill is anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) legislation. HB 750 was heard by the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 22. The bill relates to causes of action filed against individuals who exercise certain Constitutional rights. The bill specifies that when a person, defined in the bill as “an individual, estate, trust, partnership, business or nonprofit entity, governmental unit, or other legal entity,” has a cause of action filed against him or her based upon his or her communication in a governmental proceeding or on an issue under consideration in a governmental proceeding, or when he or she exercises his or her right of freedom of speech or of the press, the right to assemble, or the right of association, that person may file a special motion to dismiss the cause of action. The bill establishes procedures for such special motions to dismiss. The bill specifies under which circumstances a court may award costs, reasonable attorneys’ fees, and reasonable litigation expenses. The provisions of the bill apply to civil actions filed on or after Aug. 28, 2023. The bill received some pushback from some committee members asking why stop such court cases when they are filed, especially cases against the news media. Rep. Perkins said the bill’s language is law in 31 states and the District of Columbia, and HB 750 would make Missouri have one of the strongest such laws in the nation. Witnesses providing testimony in support of the bill included Jay Atkison, an advisor to the American Bar Association and the Uniform Law Commission, saying anti-SLAPP laws helps stop people trying to use and to profit from the litigation system. Supporting testimony was also presented by Jean Maneke of the Missouri Press Association, Mark Gordon of the Missouri Broadcasters Association, and representatives of the Motion Picture Association, Americans For Prosperity, the ACLU of Missouri, and the Institute for Free Speech. There was no testimony in opposition. The committee took no action on the bill.
MERCHANDISING PRACTICES – AUTOMATICALLY RENEWED TRANSACTIONS
The House General Laws Committee convened Tuesday evening to discuss HB 1029, sponsored by Representative Philip Oehlerking (R-Ballwin). The bill requires clear information and any costs to consumers be made in writing by businesses that make automatic renewals before any payments for good or services may be collected. This will include any price changes after initial free trials or gifts. The bill also requires businesses to provide consumers with a concise easy-to-use way to cancel services or automatically renew services. Finally, the Attorney General will have all the powers, rights and duties relating to any businesses which violate these provisions. A private citizen provided supporting testimony. Microsoft Corporation provided informational testimony stating this is an effective bill which has language which was negotiated several years ago and provides numerous consumer protections. No opposing testimony was provided to the committee.
The House Special Committee on Homeland Security convened Monday at noon to consider HB 1081, sponsored by Representative Adam Schnelting (R- St. Charles). The bill seeks to modify and establish provisions related to recording conversations and protecting a person’s privacy. During bill presentation, the sponsor stated that he is currently working on changes to ensure people’s ability to continue to use their right to record in situations such as harassment and police, but the intent of his bill was to protect people from situations such as people recording conversations and editing to post it on social media platforms. No supporting testimony was presented. The Missouri Prosecuting Association opposed the bill due to making it a class E felony if any person records a conversation without consent. The Missouri Office of Prosecution Services provided informational testimony regarding states that now use two-party consent and what constitutes an offense.
EXPANDING GAMING IN MISSOURI
The Senate Appropriations Committee convened Wednesday morning to discuss SB 30, sponsored by Senator Tony Luetkemeyer (R-Parkville). The bill seeks to legalize sports betting. City of St. Louis, City of Kansas City, MO Gaming Association, Kansas City Current, Kansas City Chiefs Football Club, Real Time Fantasy Sports, Kansas City Royals, Home Dock Cities Association, MO Chamber of Commerce, and Sports Betting Alliance supported the bill. The Players Association of NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, and NHL opposed the bill and stated they continue to work to include player’s protection within the sports wagering provisions. MO Baptist Convention, and the National Steamboat Museum also opposed the bill. The committee reconvened Thursday morning to consider passage of SB 30. After no discussion, the committee passed the bill by an 11-1 vote.
The committee then turned its attention toward SB 1, sponsored by Senator Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg). The bill includes four primary issues including creating the Compulsive Gambling Program, the legalization of sports betting, elimination of illegal machines by requiring all machines to connected to a centralized system and establishes fines for any operator that knowingly commits a violation of provisions governing the conduct of video lottery games, and creation of video lottery terminal (VLT) laws. Accel Entertainment, City of Warrensburg, Show Me State Gaming, Kansas City Royals, Kansas City Current, Kansas City Chiefs Football Club, Alderman Dardenne Prairie, City of Florissant, St. Louis City, J&J Ventures Gaming, Real Time Fantasy Sports, MO coalition for Video Lottery, Boozers Bar and Grill, EKG Oil, MO Petroleum and Convenience Association, and Casey’s General Stores supported the bill. The Players Association of NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, and NHL opposed the bill along with the MO Baptist Convention, Penn Entertainment, MO Gaming Association, Home Dock Cities, National Steamboat Museum, and Ellinger Bell opposed the bill. Opponents stated the provisions on VLTs’ and revenue distributions to the VLT industry and veterans are unconstitutional because the MO Constitution requires all lottery proceeds to be allocated exclusively to education and that cannot be altered by statute. The committee reconvened Thursday morning to consider passage of SB 1. After brief discussion, the committee failed to pass the bill by a 2-10 vote.
Finally, the committee discussed SB 192, sponsored by Senator Karla May (D-St. Louis). The bill establishes the Missouri Video Lottery Control Act to establish a regulatory framework in order legalize VLT machines in Missouri. Illinois Cafe and Service Company, EKG Oil, MO Coalition for Video Lottery, Show Me State Gaming, Boozers Bar and Grill, and Accel Entertainment supported the bill. MO Gaming Association, MO Baptist Convention, and Casey’s General Stores opposed the bill.
The House Emerging Issues Committee convened Wednesday evening to discuss HB 556 and HB 581, sponsored by Representatives Dan Houx (R-Warrensburg) and Phil Christofanelli (R-St. Peters). The bills are identical and seek to legalize sports betting in Missouri. During committee discussion, substitute language was adopted to combine both bills into one legislative vehicle. Additionally, the committee substitute aligned the bill with SB 30 by including some compromised players protections and updated references to the players to make references uniform throughout the bill. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 12-1 vote.
SUNSHINE LAW BILL EMERGES FROM SENATE COMMITTEE
Senate Committee Substitute (SCS) for 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 voted “do pass” by the Senate Governmental Accountability Committee by a vote of 4-2 on Feb. 23. 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. However, the SCS deletes portions of the bill that related to “transitory records” and inter- or intra-agency records.
Concerns remain in the bill about “information-gathering” meetings that would be closed to the public; closing of “retained” records that are not presented in a public meeting; charging for redaction of portions of public records; and double billing of copied records if the first request for the records was not paid for by the initial requester.
Among some of the changes in the substitute bill: A public governmental body must react to a public records request within four days (currently three days). A request for public records to a public governmental body shall be considered withdrawn if the requester fails to remit all fees within 60 days (currently 30 days) of a request for payment of the fees by the public governmental body. If the requested fees are greater than $1,000, then the request shall be considered withdrawn if the requester fails to remit all fees within 120 days. If the same or a substantially similar request for records is made within six months of the expiration of the 60-day period, then the public body can request payment of fees made for the original request.
SB 174 exempts any requests that include constituent contact information, and information regarding proposed legislation or the legislative process from the Missouri Sunshine Law. Among the bill’s new exemptions to the Sunshine Law are: A public governmental body is authorized to close individuals’ 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.
OMNIBUS CRIME BILL
The Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee convened Monday to consider passage of SB 189, sponsored by Senator Tony Luetkemeyer (R-Parkville). The bill establishes Max’s Law, which would increase the penalty for assaulting a law enforcement animal by making it a class a misdemeanor if the animal is injured, a class e felony if the animal is severely injured, and a class d felony if the assault results in the animal’s death. Additionally, this act adds that any dog that is owned by or in the service of a law enforcement agency and bites or injures another animal or human is exempt from the penalties of the offense of animal abuse. During committee discussion, substitute language was adopted to include SB 36, which seeks to modify provisions related to expungements to provide a path for a second chance for individuals who have paid their debts to society. Additionally, the substitute included SB 37, which allows the Missouri Office of Prosecution Services may establish a conviction review unit to investigate claims of actual innocence of any defendant, including those who plead guilty. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 5-1 vote.
CONTESTED ELECTION DISCUSSED
Chrissy Peters, the director of elections in the Secretary of State’s, addressed the House Special Committee on Election Contests on Feb. 22. The committee is investigating the possibility of a recount of votes in the House of Representatives’ District 105 election held in November 2022.
In that race, Rep. Adam Schwadron received 5,404 votes to Cindy Berne’s 5,305 votes, representing a margin of 99 votes or 0.9 percent. All candidates who are defeated by less than one percent of the votes cast shall have a right to a recount of votes, according to state law. Berne filed for a recount on Jan. 5, 2023 with the House of Representatives and the committee was appointed by Speaker of the House Dean Plocher (R-St. Louis).
The elections director explained to the committee the process that occurs between the Secretary of State and local election officials when certifying general election results. She told the committee that since the year 2000 there have been 24 election recounts on the state level and none of those recounts changed the outcomes. All instructions and procedures after the November 2022 election that were communicated to the local election authorities were carried out properly for the St. Charles County election, she said. And there have been no reports of anything unusual or irregular in the District 105 race.
Just before adjournment, Rep. Dan Stacy (R-Blue Springs), chairman of the committee, said Matt Vianello, the attorney representing Cindy Berne, will be invited to testify before the committee next week. St. Charles County Board of Elections director Kurt Bahr will be invited to the committee meeting also, along with the attorney for Rep. Schwadron.