The House Special Committee on Homeland Security convened on Monday afternoon to consider passage of HB 178 sponsored by Representative Dean Van Schoiack (R- Savannah). The bill establishes the offense of unlawful use of an unmanned aircraft. Specifically, a person commits the offense of unlawful use of an unmanned aircraft if they launch, land, or operate an unmanned aircraft on private property, or within a vertical distance of 400 feet from the ground within a private property line, without permission from the property owner. During the discussion, substitute language was adopted which added HB 178, HB 179, and HB 401 which also attempt to regulate the unlawful use of unmanned aircraft. The bill was further amended to require the landlord’s permission to place a game camera facing their property. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by an 8-0 vote.OMNIBUS PUBLIC SAFETY
The Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee convened Monday afternoon to discuss HB 301, sponsored by Representative Lane Roberts (R-Joplin). The bill modifies and establishes provisions relating to public safety. Specifically, the language allows the Governor to appoint a special prosecutor in the City of St. Louis for a period of five years if the Governor determines that a threat to public safety and health exists in the City of St. Louis. The legislation as written applies to the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office and the sponsor’s intent with the legislation is to address crime by allowing a special prosecutor to be appointed by the governor for every 35 homicides per 100,000. During the bill’s progression through the House process, the bill was amended to include several new provisions. Specifically:
- Creates the MO Special Prosecutor Appointment Committee, whose members will be elected by a secret ballot vote of the prosecuting and circuit attorneys of the state.
- Clarifies the ratio of homicide cases in jurisdictions and outlines the process and authority the Governor has to take in order to request a special prosecutor through the MO Special Prosecutor Appointment Committee.
- Requires the department of corrections to adopt a procedure to assist offenders in obtaining a birth certificate, social security card, or state identification before the offender is released.
- Currently, if a person is removed from their personal property, the department has some responsibility when a vehicle is left on the side of the road. The substitute extends the timeframe to 48 hours before a vehicle is impounded.
- Requires each circuit court and associate court to offer and utilize a treatment court program to address substance abuse disorders.
- Specifies upon completion of the drug court program, any pending charges the defendant may have must be dismissed.
- Requires that any person that is arrested and is held in custody without a warrant, for a criminal offense involving a deadly weapon or dangerous felony must be released within 48 hours instead of 24 hours, unless they are formally charged with a creditable offense.
- Modifies the Truth in Sentencing provision to add enhanced “success metrics” such as increased job training and substance abuse treatment options for offenders scheduled to be released.
- If someone is charged with a non-violent crime and meets certain criteria a judge may consider alternative or lesser sentencing for the offender instead of mandatory minimums.
- Establishes the offense of an individual under a certain age cannot have a handgun in their possession that is readily capable of being discharged.
- Allows a school district to hire security guards.
- Includes back the blue license plates provisions.
- Includes provisions that require the Department of Corrections to help qualified recently released offenders apply for Medicaid benefits, and outlines the circumstances clarifying when judges may defer imposing mandatory minimums.
- Includes HB 389, which creates the offense of tampering with a judicial officer or their family members, and creates the offense of unlawful disclosure of personally identifiable information.
- Amended to remove the federal definitions of firearms and allow Missouri to create their own definitions.
- Includes Blair’s Law.
During committee discussion, Senator Tony Luetkemeyer (R-Parkville) expressed concern with the provision of the bill that would limit the authority of the Governor to appoint the MO Attorney General. Additionally, it was stated that the bills trigger provisions that requires a certain per capita homicide rate in order for the Governor to have authority to appoint a special prosecutor currently only applies to St. Louis, however Jackson County is getting close to the trigger provision as well. St. Louis Police Officers Association, Fraternal Order of Police, St. Louis Veterans Police Association, Blair’s Mom, St. Louis Police Association, MO Fraternal Order of Police, and St. Louis County Police Association supported the bill. The MO Association of Prosecuting Attorneys opposed the bill, stating the bill is not limited just to St. Louis and it could potentially affect all counties and MO Law already provides a statutory mechanism to remove a prosecutor that neglects their duties. Additional opposing testimony was provided by the Office of St. Louis Circuit Attorney, and NAACP opposed the bill. Due to time constraints, committee chairman Senator Tony Luetkemeyer cutoff testimony and requested any additional testimony or comments to be submitted to the committee. Committee members expressed concern and advocated for additional time to consider testimony and allow witnesses to speak.
NEWSPAPERS’ LEGAL PUBLICATION REQUIREMENTS
House Bill 782 (McGaugh, R-Carrollton) changes the length of time for successor newspapers and newly-established newspapers to be considered legal newspapers to publish public notices in their communities. HB 782 was heard by the House Government Efficiency and Downsizing Committee on March 1. Currently, to qualify as a newspaper to publish public notices, a newspaper must have been published regularly for a period of three years; or must be the successor newspaper to a non-active newspaper that restarts publication no later than 30 days after the termination of the prior newspaper. HB 782 reduces the time period of regular publication from three years to one year and increases the time period from 30 days to 90 days within which a successor newspaper must begin publication. The bill also allows a newspaper that has been purchased or newly established by another newspaper that already satisfies these conditions to qualify. Testimony in support of HB 782 was presented by Mark Maassen of the Missouri Press Association; the Municipal League of Metropolitan St. Louis, and the Missouri County Collectors Association. There was no testimony in opposition. The committee took no action on the bill.
SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS LISTED ON SOS WEBSITE
HCS for House Bill 800 (Christofanelli, R-St. Peters) was voted “do pass” by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee by a vote of 9-7 on Feb. 28. HCS HB 800 would require the Secretary of State to compile and post on the state website an annual report on July 1 listing the name, school district, election date, and expiration of term for each school board member in Missouri, both public schools and charter schools. A Special School District in St. Louis County was deleted from the bill’s requirements by amendment. Another amendment to the bill requires any vacancy on an urban school district board in Kansas City or St. Louis City be filled by appointment of the remaining members of the board. Currently, such vacancies must be filled by special election.
AMENDING PRIVACY PROTECTION ACT
House Bill 1064 (Baker, R-Neosho) and House Bill 667 (Pouche, R-Kansas City) are similar bills that were heard by the House Special Committee on Governmental Accountability on Feb. 27. The legislation would amend “The Personal Privacy Protection Act” that was passed in 2022 in House Bill 2400. HB 667 would exempt from the Act: (1) Personal information submitted by a nonprofit for the purpose of seeking a contract, grant, permit, license, benefit, tax credit, incentive, or status, or the renewal of the same; (2) Disclosure of personal information among law enforcement pursuant to an investigation; (3) Disclosure of personal information made as part of public comment or in a public meeting by a nonprofit or a representative of a nonprofit; (4) Disclosure of personal information to a labor union or employee association regarding employees in a bargaining unit represented by such union or association; and (5) Disclosure of personal information provided for the purpose of public outreach, marketing, or education intended to inform, educate, or to show appreciation. Rep. Baker said the Office of Administration has misinterpreted the Act, suspending the state’s transparency portal with information about vendors and others who are awarded state contracts. The bills also address issues raised by the State Highway Patrol and the Department of Labor. Testifying in support of HB 1064 were People United For Privacy, Americans For Prosperity; the City of Kansas City and the Friends of the Kansas City Zoo (supporting both bills); and the Office of Administration, supporting HB 667, saying HB 1064’s language does not allow OA to provide personal information of those individuals seeking state contracts. No testimony in opposition to the bills was presented. The Missouri Century Foundation offered information only testimony. The committee took no action on the bill.
DELETING NEWSPAPER NOTICES FROM SELF STORAGE SALES
House Bill 1120 (Hardwick, R-Waynesville) modifies requirements of the public notice for sale by an operator of a self-service storage facility for the sale of personal property of an occupant in default. HB 1120 allows the storage facility operator to advertise in the classified section of a newspaper prior to sale, OR the operator may instead advertise in any other commercially reasonable manner such as online. The advertisement is “commercially reasonable” if at least three independent bidders attend the sale. The House Emerging Issues Committee heard testimony on HB 1689 on March 1. Testimony in support of the bill was presented by representatives of Storage Mart and the American Self-Storage Association, saying it is very difficult to find newspapers in which to advertise. The Storage Mart representative said last year at 132 property auctions, no one attended the auctions and they lost an average of $600 per auction.
Testimony in opposition to the bill was offered by Mark Millsap, general manager of newspapers in Jefferson City, Fulton and California, who said such newspaper notice of storage facility auctions increases transparency. He said large segments of rural Missouri are without strong internet and residents without internet still depend on their local newspapers. This bill means such notices would be switched to the web, he said. The newspaper notices alert family, friends, and neighbors of the property owner, he said, as well as potential bidders that a sale is about to happen. Other testimony in opposition was presented by Mark Maassen of the Missouri Press Association, who corrected a self-storage representative who said not every county in Missouri has a newspaper. Maassen said the association has 200 member newspapers and every county in the state is home to a newspaper. The committee took no further action on the bill.
CREATING STATE’S CHIEF DATA OFFICER
Senate Bill 7 (Rowden, R-Columbia) creates the position of chief data officer within the Office of Administration who is authorized to oversee each state agency’s management of electronic data for purposes of evaluating appropriate management and security of the data. SB 7 was heard by the Senate Emerging Issues Committee on Feb. 28. A committee substitute for SB 7 now includes a prohibition of state employees from using TikTok or similar apps on any state-owned cell phones. Also in the bill the chief data officer may require each state agency to classify its electronic data into levels of sensitivity; develop and update written policies for responding to data breaches; develop, adopt, and update written policies for the proper disposal of electronic data; and other management and security provisions of agencies’ electronic data. Testimony in support of the bill was presented by Velatura and by University of Missouri Healthcare. Testimony opposing the bill was offered by Arnie AC Dienoff. The committee took no action on the bill.
PUBLICATION OF COST ESTIMATES
The Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee convened Wednesday morning to discuss SB 191, sponsored by Senator Tony Luetkemeyer (R-Parkville). The bill requires the Highways and Transportation Commission to publish cost and project completion estimates for construction or repair work on the state highway system. Legislative intent is to hold MODOT’s engineering teams accountable for incorrect estimates, while reducing bidding costs and encouraging more bidders. MO Asphalt Association, and Associated General Contractors of MO, supported the bill. No opposing testimony was presented. MoDOT provided informational testimony and informed committee members that the current process maximizes MO taxpayer’s dollars by providing a competitive and open process.
SALES TAX REFUNDS
The Senate Economic Development and Tax Policy Committee convened Monday afternoon to consider passage of SB 203, sponsored by Senator Mike Moon (R-Ash Grove). The bill requires the Department of Revenue to authorize a sales tax refund to taxpayers in the event a judgement is ordered against the Department by the Administrative Hearing Commission for over-assessment or negligence in confirming the accuracy of information on the part of the Department, as revealed by an audit. After no discussion, the committee passed the bill by a 4-0 vote.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE DISCLOSURE DEADLINES
The Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions, and Ethics Committee convened Tuesday afternoon to discuss SB 378, sponsored by Senator Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia). The bill allows the Executive Director of the Missouri Ethics Commission to extend certain campaign finance disclosure deadlines by up to 48 hours if, in the discretion of the Director, there are extraordinary circumstances that would make compliance with the statutory deadline impossible. No supporting or opposing testimony was presented.
The Senate Local Government and Elections Committee convened Monday afternoon to consider passage of HJR 43, sponsored by Representative Mike Henderson (R-Bonne Terre). Upon voter approval, the Resolution modifies the initiative petition process by requiring the Secretary of State to provide voters in each congressional district with a period in which to review and comment upon all initiative petitions proposing amendments to the Constitution. The Resolution also requires initiative petitions to receive approval from 60% of the votes to pass. After no discussion, the committee passed the resolution by a partisan 4-2 vote.
The committee then turned its attention towards SJR 28, sponsored by Senator Jill Carter (R-Granby). Upon voter approval, the resolution requires both a statewide simple majority of the of the votes for constitutional amendments and a simple majority of the state representative districts. The resolution also bars anyone from voting on constitutional amendments unless they are a resident of Missouri and a citizen of the United States. After no discussion, the committee passed the resolution by a partisan vote of 4-2.