The Missouri House of Representatives third read and passed 19 bills Thursday morning, sending the bills to the Senate, before adjourning for Spring Break. The General Assembly will return to the state capitol on Monday, March 21, with eight weeks remaining in the 2022 regular session, and seven weeks to pass the FY2023 state budget.
This week was highlighted by more grousing and debate between Senate members of the Conservative Caucus and others. A bill expanding the rights of sexual assault survivors, sponsored by Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder (R-Sikeston), was derailed Tuesday when an amendment was offered by Sen. Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville) to charge school employees with misdemeanors who provide students with “obscene materials.” On Wednesday, led by Sen. Rehder, a group of 14 Republicans and eight Democrats, held a news conference saying they are tired of “non-controversial and necessary legislation” being stymied by “self-serving politicians.”
Ugliness continues, as the Missouri Congressional Redistricting Map continues to lie in wait for Senate action. This week a lawsuit was filed by Republican Paul Berry III, who is running in the 2nd Congressional District near St. Louis. Berry’s lawsuit seeks to block Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft from using the state’s current Congressional map in the 2022 statewide elections.
Because the General Assembly is not in session next week, Lathrop GPM Consulting’s next weekly report will be distributed on Friday, March 25. Stay safe, everyone!
OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATION COMMISSIONER RECEIVES SENATE APPROVAL
Among recent appointments by Governor Mike Parson (R), receiving unanimous Senate approval on March 10 is Kenneth Zellers, as the commissioner of the Office of Administration, effective Oct. 12, 2021. He was introduced at a March 9 Senate hearing by Sen. Andrew Koenig (R-Manchester). During brief questioning, Zellers told senators on the committee his major focus at OA has been on customer service, information technology, and teamwork. Early on, “I met with each one of our division directors and put together a list of what we are doing well and what we need to do better,” he said. Developing a plan to optimize leases of state-owned buildings and creating a robust diversity inclusion policy across the state are priorities, he said. Zellers is the former director of the Missouri Department of Revenue. He joined the DOR in September 2017 as chief operating officer. Before joining the DOR, Zellers held numerous senior roles at Anheuser-Busch InBev, including global quality director and several other positions. Zellers was born and raised in Missouri. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Missouri Baptist University in St. Louis. He was appointed as OA acting commissioner when former commissioner Sarah Steelman stepped down in October 2021.
STATE OF THE JUDICIARY SPEECH DELIVERED BY CHIEF JUSTICE PAUL WILSON
Chief Justice Paul C. Wilson of the Supreme Court of Missouri delivered his State of the Judiciary address on March 8 before a joint session of the Missouri General Assembly.
During his comments, he mentioned the 750,000 circuit court cases that were resolved last year in Missouri, the 350 trial judges, and more than 3,000 court clerks, bailiffs, court reporters, juvenile officers, juvenile detention officers, and other staff working in the court system. “They are the ones who kept the courts open through the pandemic,” he said. He thanked the General Assembly for cost-of-living increases that have been given to court employees but said more is needed to retain workers. “A market-based approach to compensation will give us a fighting chance to attract and keep expert staff in our courtrooms and courthouses.”
He said in the last four years, 40 percent of Missouri’s trial and appellate judges have been new to their positions. Some of those changes came as the result of local elections, but more than three-fourths of the new judges during the last four years – including 109 trial judges and 13 appellate judges – were appointed by the Governor either under Article IV, Section 4, or under the Missouri constitution’s nonpartisan court plan. Justice Wilson then introduced the newest member of the Supreme Court, Judge Robin Ransom, who was appointed last May by Governor Mike Parson.
Justice Wilson urged legislators to continue working on legislative protections for Missouri’s judges. Security in the 120 courthouses around the state has always been a priority, he noted. “Missouri judges have been harassed online and at home, they’ve been threatened, and they’ve had their personal information posted on the web,” he said. “Those of us in public service are increasingly vulnerable. As public servants, we know we are not – and should not be – immune from public scrutiny and criticism … it comes with the job. But none of us – or our families – should be put in harm’s way.”
As for new court technology and online court proceedings allowed during the pandemic, Justice Wilson said “we’re excited by Governor Parson’s recommendations for broadband expansion around the state. Increased bandwidth, especially for our rural courthouses and the communities they serve, will help us better utilize online services to increase efficiency and access, making your courts more user-friendly for everyone.”
He closed the address, highlighting the need for drug treatment courts and more veterans’ courts and the importance of those courts to Missourians.
REGULATORY SANDBOX ACT
Senate Bill 1068 (Hoskins, R-Warrensburg) establishes the Regulatory Sandbox Act which creates a Regulatory Relief Office within the Department of Economic Development which would administer the provisions of the act for the purpose of identifying state laws or regulations that could potentially be waived or suspended for participating businesses during a two-year period in which the participating business demonstrates an innovative product offering to consumers. Hearing held March 8 in the Senate Small Business and Industry Committee. Groups including Cicero Action, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce testified in support of the bill. The Sierra Club opposed the bill stating the legislation could undermine environmental protections.
House Bill 2140 (McGaugh, R-Carrollton) changes numerous election laws. The legislation includes requiring photo identification to vote, hand-marked paper ballots, prohibits that 26 weeks before a presidential election that no state election laws can be changed, allows the Secretary of State to do necessary auditing of voter rolls, outlines there should not be connectivity of voting machines to the internet, allows registered voters to file change of address forms in person on election day, reduces the time local election authorities have to update voters’ records, and many other changes. On March 8 the House Rule-Administrative Oversight Committee voted HB 2140 do pass.
House Bill 2220 (Falkner, R-St. Joseph) changes the laws regarding the consequences to a political subdivision for failure to file an annual financial statement with the State Auditor, as required. Any political subdivision that has gross revenues of less than $5,000 or that has not levied a sales tax or use tax is not subject to the fine. In addition, the director of the Department of Revenue has the authority to make a one-time downward adjustment to any fine he or she deems uncollectible. Non-compliance could result in disincorporation of the political subdivision upon a vote of the political subdivision’s qualified voters. The Attorney General will also have authority to force the political subdivision into compliance with a court action. The bill was amended to allow Stone County to eliminate two road commissioner positions. And a committee amendment was approved to prohibit municipalities of less than 3,500 population from collecting fines exceeding 10 percent of its total sales tax that is collected. On March 9 the House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee held an executive session where HB 2220 was voted do pass.
House Bill 2359 (Basye, R-Rocheport) This bill expands the information to be made accessible on the Missouri Accountability Portal to include all forms of compensation and benefits paid to or on behalf of employees and all bonds issued by any public school district and requires public school districts to supply all such information to be made accessible on the Portal to the Office of Administration. On March 7 the House Rules-Legislative Oversight Committee voted HB 2359 do pass by a vote of 8-1.
House Bill 2502 (Houx, R-Warrensburg) modifies provisions related to gaming. The substitute ensures elementary and secondary education athletic events are prohibited from the provisions of the bill and increased the Problem Gambling Fund from $250,000 to $500,000. The substitute also includes a 5-year phase out to equal 100% of the promotional provisions that can be taken off before revenue is figured, and provided language to prohibit direct advertising as a condition of promoting. On March 8 the House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee voted HB 2502 do pass.
House Joint Resolution 123 (Kidd, R-Buckner) Currently there are only two counties in the entire State that have County Assessors appointed, St. Louis City & Jackson County as opposed to elected. This proposed constitutional amendment would require that all county assessors are elected. During an executive session of the House Financial Institutions Committee on March 9, substitute language was adopted to remove St. Louis City from the provisions of the bill. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by an 11-1 vote.
House Joint Resolution 128 (O’Donnell, R-St. Louis). Upon voter approval, this proposed Constitutional amendment would authorize the State Treasurer to invest certain funds not necessary for current expenses in obligations of the U.S. government or any agency or instrumentality thereof maturing and becoming payable not more than seven years from the date of purchase, municipal securities possessing one of the five highest long term ratings or the highest short term rating issued by a nationally recognized rating agency and maturing and becoming payable not more than five years from the date of purchase, and also invest in other reasonable and prudent financial instruments and securities as otherwise provided by law. HJR 128 was voted “do pass” by the House Emerging Issues Committee by a vote of 13-0 on March 8.
House Joint Resolution 131 (Shaul, R-Imperial). Upon voter approval, this proposed Constitutional amendment clarifies that only citizens of the United States are eligible to vote. The resolution requires that voters have a single vote for each office or issue. Additionally, it requires that the plurality winner of any political party primary election be the only candidate for that political party on the ballot at the General Election. House Committee Substitute for HJR 131 was voted “do pass” by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee by a vote of 8-4 on March 9. A committee amendment was added to HJR 131 to require paper ballots to be marked at elections, that every voting machine used for an election shall be tested and certified prior to the election, and that a permanent paper record will be available for each vote cast in an election.
House Joint Resolution 132 (Kidd, R-Buckner). Upon voter approval, this proposed constitutional amendment requires that any constitutional amendment must receive both a majority of statewide votes and a majority vote in more than one-half of the state’s House of Representative districts in order to become effective. These requirements would also apply to constitutional changes or amendments proposed during a constitutional convention held under Article XII, section 3(c) of the Constitution of Missouri. HJR 132 was voted “do pass” by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee by a vote of 8-4 on March 9.
House Joint Resolution 133 (Davidson, R-Republic). Upon voter approval, this proposed resolution requires that any initiative proposed by the people for a Constitutional amendment will require a majority vote of registered voters in the state to become effective. The registered voter total for passage is derived by defining such voters as the number of registered voters entitled to vote in the general, municipal, or primary election immediately preceding the election at which the proposed Constitutional amendment is to appear on the ballot. Constitutional amendments proposed by the General Assembly will continue to require a majority of votes cast at the requisite election. During a March 9 hearing, concern by witnesses was raised about requiring initiative petitions to pass only if a majority of registered voters approve the issue. It was noted that sometimes, not even a majority of registered voters turn out to vote in an election. HJR 133 was voted “do pass” by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee by a vote of 7-3 on March 10.
Senate Bill 812 (Eigel, R-Weldon Springs) Under this act, if the General Assembly adopts a joint resolution proposing a constitutional amendment or statutory measure to be referred to the people that includes an official summary statement, the statement shall appear on the ballot, and no court shall have the authority to rewrite or edit the summary statement or ballot language. Hearing held March 9 in the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee. No testimony in support or opposition of the bill.
Senate Bill 862 (Onder, R-Lake St. Louis) This act modifies and creates several new provisions relating to the initiative and referendum process. The act standardizes the use of signature sheets for purposes of initiative and referendum petitions by requiring the Secretary of State to prescribe forms for such sheets, made available in an electronic format and used for all initiative and referendum petitions. This act requires that on each page of a proposed measure, the text of the measure shall be in 12-point Times New Roman font with one inch margins. Furthermore, no initiative petition shall declare any federal law or court decision to be void or in violation of the United States Constitution, amend any federal law or the United States Constitution, or accomplish an act that the United States Constitution requires to be accomplished by the General Assembly. The act stipulates that sample initiative sheets shall be filed no earlier than 12 weeks following a general election.
The Secretary of State is required to collect a fee of $500 for each petition sample sheet filed with its office, with an additional $25 fee for each page that the measure exceeds ten pages. Fees shall be refunded if the measure is certified for the ballot. Current law provides that the official summary statement prepared by the Secretary of State for an initiative petition shall contain no more than 100 words and for a measure proposed by the General Assembly no more than 50 words, excluding articles. This act provides that both such statements shall contain no more than 150 words total. Furthermore, the act requires each sample ballot prepared by the Secretary of State to contain the words “Shall the measure summarized be approved?” with options to vote yes or no. Current law requires the Attorney General and the Secretary of State to each review an initiative petition only as to form and approve or reject the petition based on compliance with the procedural requirements of the law. This act specifies that both the Attorney General and the Secretary of State shall review each petition for compliance with statutes regulating initiative petitions as well as Article III, Sections 28, 49, 50, 51 and 52(a) of the Missouri Constitution. The act provides that in the event of a court-ordered change to the official ballot title, all signatures gathered prior to the change shall be invalidated. The act creates the Secretary of State’s Petition Publications Fund. The purpose of the fund is to pay any refunds to persons submitting petitions that become certified and to also pay publication expenses incurred in submitting statewide ballot measures to the voters.
Hearing held March 9 in the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee. Missouri Secretary of State Office testified in support of the bill. League of Women Voters of Missouri, Jobs with Justice Voter Action and one citizen testified in opposition.
Senate Bill 885 (Brown, R-Rolla) modifies the requirements of notice for sale by an operator of a self-service storage facility for the sale of personal property of an occupant in default. SB 885 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 Senate General Laws Committee heard testimony on SB 885 on March 8. Testimony in support of the bill was presented by the Missouri Self-Storage Association and by Storage Mart of Columbia, saying that people go to social media for such information. Testimony “for information only” was offered by Mark Maassen of the Missouri Press Association, who said he would be discussing possible compromise language with Senator Brown. Maassen said newspaper notice of storage facility auctions increases transparency, and such notice is a part of due process. He said large segments of rural Missouri are without strong internet and residents without internet still depend on their local newspapers. These notices in newspapers alert family, friends, and neighbors of the property owner, as well as potential bidders, that a sale is about to happen. The committee took no further action on the bill.
Senate Bill 919 (Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield) The bill is the Senate companion to HB 1637 (Schwadron, R-St. Charles), and establishes the offense of mail theft and creates the offense of mail theft as a class A misdemeanor for a first offense and a class E felony for a second or subsequent offense. During an executive session of the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 7, substitute language was adopted to place the offense of mail theft under the current stealing statute instead of creating a new offense. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 4-0 vote.
Senate Bill 923 (Brattin, R-Harrisonville) The bill establishes the Protect Young Minds Online Act, which requires internet service providers to authenticate access to obscene websites. Legislative intent is to protect minors from exploitation and keep children safe. While many agree with the spirit of the language, committee discussion centered on the definition of obscene and the role of parental responsibility. Hearing held March 9 in the Senate Commerce Committee. Concerned Women for American, MO Catholic Conference, several medical professionals, and parents provided supporting testimony. MO Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Motion Picture Association provided opposing testimony and informed committee members the bill places an undue burden on internet service providers.
Senate Bill 930 (Koenig, R-Manchester) exempts any requests that include constituent contact information, and information regarding proposed legislation or the legislative process from the Missouri Sunshine Law. Senate Committee Substitute for SB 930 was voted “do pass” by the Senate Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee by a vote of 6-0 on March 10. The Senate Committee Substitute 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 public body may close records of utility usage and bill records for residential customers of municipally owned utilities; The closure of public records is allowed that are retained by the office of a member of the General Assembly that are related to 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. In the substitute bill, the provisions of the 30-day records language shall not apply if a lawsuit has been filed against the public governmental body regarding the records that are subject of the request. Missouri Press Association continues to oppose the bill.
House Bill 1878 (Simmons, R-Washington) establishes voter photo identification requirements at the polls or when casting an absentee ballot, makes changes to absentee voting and the use of provisional ballots, and repeals notice by the secretary of state in print, television, radio and other media explaining personal identification requirements for voting. Any applicant who requests a photo ID nondriver’s license for voting shall not be required to pay a fee; the fee will be paid by the state. HB 1878 was third read and passed by the House by a vote of 96-35 on March 10. Next stop for the bill is the Senate.
House Bill 2168 (Porter, R-Montgomery City). In this bill, if an insurance policy is purchased through the internet, a mobile application, a computer, a mobile device, a tablet, or any other electronic device or platform or if an insurance policy is initially delivered by electronic means, a party shall be considered to have affirmatively consented to have all future notices and documents related to the policy or claims of such policy delivered by electronic means. However, the policy holder can later withdraw his or her consent to have documents delivered electronically. HB 2168 was third read and passed by the House by a vote of 134-0 on March 10. The bill now moves to the Senate.
House Joint Resolution 91 (J. Eggleston, R-Maysville) was third read and passed by the House by a vote of 96-34 on March 10. HJR 91 now moves to the Senate. Upon voter approval, this proposed Constitutional amendment would require the sponsor(s) of initiative petitions proposing Constitutional amendments or laws to collect signatures in each of Missouri’s eight Congressional districts. After collecting signatures, hearings in the General Assembly would be held on the initiative petition proposal. Then, when placed on the statewide ballot, a two-thirds majority vote of the people is required for approval of a new amendment, or a majority vote is required to amend or to repeal Constitutional provisions enacted before Dec. 10, 2022. The bill specifies that the Constitutional phrase “legal voter” is defined as a person who is a U.S. citizen, a resident of Missouri, and who is properly registered to vote. The resolution has a delayed effective date of Jan. 1, 2023.
House Joint Resolution 94 (Simmons, R-Washington). Upon voter approval, this proposed Constitutional amendment requires voters to provide valid government-issued photo identification to vote. An exception may be provided to allow a person to vote by provisional ballot. HJR 94 was third read and passed by the House by a vote of 97-36 on March 10. HJR 94 now moves to the Senate.
Senate Bill 745 (Cierpiot, R-Lee’s Summit) is legislation affecting utilities. On March 9, a Sunshine Law exemption was added to the bill as an amendment on the Senate floor. The amendment adds individually identifiable customer usage and billing records for residential customers of a municipally owned utility, unless the records are requested by the customer or authorized for release by the customer, to the list of records that may be closed under the Sunshine Law. A municipally owned utility shall make available to the public the customer’s name, billing address, location of service, and dates of service provided for any commercial service account. SB 745, as amended, was perfected by a voice vote. The bill needs another Senate vote before moving to the House.
Senate Bill 845 (Eslinger, R-Wasola) was added as an amendment to SB 724 (Hegeman, R-Cosby) on the Senate floor on March 9. SB 845 requires a condensed county financial statement to be published in local newspapers in all counties of the first, second, third, or fourth classification. The bill language includes publication of the name and current gross annual salary of each elected or appointed county official. The county clerk or other county officer preparing the financial statement shall provide an electronic copy of the data used to create the financial statement without charge to the newspaper requesting the data. A floor amendment was added by Sen. Sandy Crawford (R-Buffalo) moving the annual county financial statement’s publication date from March 31 to July 1. SB 724, as amended, was perfected by voice vote March 9. Another Senate vote is needed to send the bill to the House.
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