The Missouri General Assembly returned on Monday to Jefferson City after a week of Spring Break. The House of Representatives conducted a normal week of committee hearings, floor debates, and on Thursday morning passing House bills, sending 10 of them to the Senate. Included in those bills passed by the House is the legalization of betting in Missouri on certain sporting events … sports wagering.
Bets were on the Senate to return from break, refreshed and ready to get down to business. But a lengthy filibuster Wednesday, Wednesday night, Thursday morning by various Senators over a proposed amendment that would not allow businesses to require employees to receive COVID vaccinations AND continuing debate on the state’s U.S. Congressional redistricting map, bogged down the chamber.
Finally, shortly after 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, after Senators had been awake and working all night, the Senate third read and passed a redistricting map by a vote of 22-10. The redistricting map now returns to the House, which can accept changes made by the Senate or seek a conference with the Senate. The Senate adopted the emergency clause on the map by a vote of 30-2. At 12:50 p.m. the Senate adjourned until 4:00 p.m. Monday.
Six weeks remain until the Fiscal Year 2023 state budget must be passed by the General Assembly and presented to the Governor. Seven weeks remain until adjournment of the 2022 regular session.
There was no movement on either the FY2022 second supplemental bill or the FY2023 budget from the House Budget Committee this week. The Senate Appropriations Committee did convene Wednesday morning to review the numerous tax credit programs administered within the various departments. The tax credit program review moved fairly quickly, although members asked to see listings of those receiving agricultural tax credits for the last two years. The House will continue to work on the second supplemental bill, the FY 23 budget and HB 20 (American Recovery Plan money).
This week, the Department of Natural Resources Missouri State Energy Plan (MoSEP) announced the initiatives which will be in Cycle 1 of the MoSEP process. Stakeholder meetings have taken place over the last six months and out of those meetings, two types of initiative workgroups have been identified to create Summary and Action Reports and further develop other initiatives for consideration during Cycle 2. The workgroups will focus on streamlining solar permitting, electric vehicles, residential energy efficiency for real estate valuation, energy training and installation at schools, Missouri metals and battery storage, biofuels, renewable natural gas and hydrogen hub, commercial energy efficiency education, and knowledge exchanges. The full report and announcement may be found here.
NEW HEALTH DIRECTOR PAULA NICKELSON IN HOUSE COMMITTEE
On Tuesday, Missouri’s new acting health director Paula Nickelson spoke with lawmakers in front of the House Health and Mental Health Policy Committee for the first time since her appointment. Director Nickelson provided her insights into her evaluation of COVID-19 and key programs and initiatives in the state. Director Nickelson outlined a Department of Health and Senior Services that under her leadership would focus on rebuilding the public health sector, update key infrastructure and technology, and continue monitoring the pandemic while addressing other lagging health metrics. She noted the department had joined an “inter-agency planning group” in late 2021 with other state departments in order to set goals and publish a report in July 2022 on rebuilding the health care workforce.
COVID-19 VACCINE MANDATE HAS SENATE HEARING
House Bill 2358 (Evans, R-West Plains) requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for COVID-19 vaccine mandates for those employees who hold sincerely held beliefs. If a COVID-19 vaccine is required, any resulting injuries would be considered an occupational disease. Refusal to take a COVID-19 vaccine for religious/conscientious reasons does not disqualify an individual from unemployment compensation. During the bill’s House progression, the bill was amended to include language from HB 1861, regarding organ donations being allowed regardless of vaccine status. Hearing was held March 23 in the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment. No supporting testimony was provided. Associated Industries of Missouri, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, and Missouri State Medical Association voiced opposition to the bill.
House Bill 2052 (Riggs, R-Hannibal) establishes the “21st Century Missouri Broadband Deployment Task Force.” HB 2052 was voted “do pass” by the House Utilities Committee on March 23. Membership of the Task Force includes three members of the House of Representatives, three members of the Senate, and 18 representing various interested parties. Duties of the Task Force are to evaluate the status of broadband deployment in the state, evaluate the deployment process, and make recommendations about how to best increase broadband internet deployment to certain residents. The Task Force will make recommendations for legislation and submit a report outlining its activities to the General Assembly before Sept. 30, 2023, when it suspends its operations. The Task Force will resume its operations on Sept. 30, 2024, with a new set of members to be selected.
House Bill 2609 (Riggs, R-Hannibal) This bill requires the Office of Broadband to develop a grant program to deploy high speed broadband to underserved areas. Additionally, the bill also requires a service map be developed to determine these areas while also protecting the private information of those needing services. Hearing held March 23 in the House Special Committee on Broadband and Infrastructure. Lumen and the Missouri Municipal League supported the bill. There was no opposition testimony presented to the committee.
House Bill 2633 (Boggs, R-LaRussell) prohibits the use of both electronic voting machines and automatic tabulating equipment, requiring that the official ballot will be a paper ballot that is counted by hand. HB 2633 was heard by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee on March 23. Ballots would not be counted until the ballot boxes are returned from all polling places to the election authority and absentee ballots would not be counted until after votes cast on election day are counted. Marking devices would be provided for the use of disabled voters. According to the bill, the vote-counting process for every election in the state shall be livestreamed and recorded. Recordings made under this bill shall be public records and available to the public under chapter 610. Changes proposed in the bill would be effective Jan. 1, 2023, and electronic voting machines would be phased out regarding disabled voters after that date. No testimony in support of the bill was offered. Testimony in opposition was presented by the Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Authorities, League of Women Voters of Missouri, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri. Information only was presented by the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council. The committee took no action on the bill.
House Bill 2675 (Riggs, R-Hannibal) The bill requires the Office of Broadband to develop a grant program to deploy high speed broadband to underserved areas and also includes definitions for broadband projects and underserved areas. Additionally, the bill requires preference be given to areas which do not meet current FCC speed guidelines. Hearing held March 23 in the House Special Committee on Broadband and Infrastructure. The Missouri Association of Municipal Utilities, Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, BJC Healthcare, Missouri Municipal League, Missouri Catholic Conference and Health Forward Foundation supported the bill. There was no opposing testimony presented to the committee.
House Bill 2685 (Hudson, R-Cape Fair) and House Bill 2686 (Richey, R-Excelsior Springs) are identical bills that modify requests for proposals and state purchases with more transparency. HB 2685 and HB 2686 were heard jointly by the House Special Committee on Government Oversight on March 22. In the legislation, if the commissioner of the Office of Administration waives the requirement of competitive bids or proposals for supplies because the commissioner determines there is only one feasible source for supplies, the contract cannot be more than one year in length and notice of the proposed purchase must be posted on the MissouriBuys internet platform. The commissioner must post a list of all single feasible source contracts on the MissouriBUYS platform also. This legislation requires the commissioner to compose a competitive procurement process to be completed within 12 months of an emergency procurement, and these contracts cannot be more than one year in length. The legislation creates a “qualified vendor list.” When a QVL is utilized, the commissioner of OA shall post notice on the MissouriBUYS platform and contact all qualified vendors for a response. The commissioner must, for the purchase of goods or services exceeding $1 million, develop and implement contract reporting requirements. Rep. Hudson said the bills are early in the process and are sure to have changes. Testimony in favor of the legislation was presented by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The committee took no action on the bills.
House Bill 2737 (Johnson, D-Kansas City) The bill requires the Department of Economic Development to develop a program to expedite the deployment of high-speed internet service to bridge the digital divide in underserved areas of the state. The bill also modifies the definition of “underserved” populations to include social factors rather than simply upload and download speeds. Finally, the bill also contains an emergency clause. Hearing held March 23 in the House Special Committee on Broadband and Infrastructure. AARP, BJC Healthcare, Missouri Municipal League, aSTEAM Village, KC Digital Drive, Health Forward Foundation, and Missouri Catholic Conference provided supporting testimony. There was no opposition testimony presented to the committee. The MOST Policy provided informational testimony.
House Bill 2781 (Evans, R-West Plains) relates to offenses committed against the General Assembly. HB 2781 was heard by the House Judiciary Committee on March 23. The bill applies to a person subpoenaed to testify at a hearing or proceeding of the General Assembly, and provides penalties for perjury, giving a false statement, failing to comply, making a false affidavit, and tampering with a witness when the person is a witness in a proceeding before the body of the General Assembly. HB 2781 creates the offense of contempt of a body of the General Assembly, which a person commits if he or she was subpoenaed as a witness by a body of the General Assembly and the person willfully fails to appear to testify; knowingly solicits, accepts, or agrees to any benefit to avoid the subpoena; after having appeared, refuses to answer any question pertinent to the question under inquiry; or fails to produce required documents. Such a bill has been passed by the House for the past three years but did not pass the Senate. Rep. Evans said this is a “kinder, gentler bill.” No witnesses provided testimony. The committee took no action on the bill.
House Bill 2798 (Reedy, R-Windsor) allows a county collector to hold an auction of lands with delinquent property taxes through electronic media at the same time as said auction is held in-person. On March 24, the House Local Government Committee heard testimony on the bill. Rep. Reedy said allowing the online bidding process would give people an opportunity to attend remotely and participate in multiple auctions that are held on the same day in August each year. Testimony in favor of the bill was provided by the Missouri County Collectors Association, the St. Charles County Collector, and the Stoddard County Collector and Treasurer. No testimony in opposition. Testimony for information only by the Missouri Press Association, saying newspapers have no issue with the bill as filed since public notices of the land auctions would continue. The committee took no action on the bill.
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. Substitute language was adopted to remove St. Louis City from the provisions of the bill. The House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee voted HJR 123 do pass by a vote of 10-0 on March 23
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. 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. On March 23 the House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee voted HJR 131 “do pass” by a vote of 7-3.
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. On March 23 the House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee voted HJR 132 “do pass” by a vote of 7-3.
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. On March 24 the House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee voted HJR 133 “do pass”.
House Joint Resolution 134 (Taylor, R-Republic). Upon voter approval, this proposed Constitutional amendment subjects the State Road Fund to appropriation by the General Assembly as well as subjects funding for the Conservation Commission and Department of Conservation to appropriation by the General Assembly. The sponsor of HJR 134 removed the Conservation Commission and the Department of Conservation from the resolution. HJR 134, as amended to only affect the State Road Fund, was voted “do pass” by the House Special Committee on Government Oversight by a vote of 10-3 on March 22.
Senate Bill 654 (Crawford, R-Buffalo) modifies numerous election statutes. SB 654 was voted “do pass” by the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee by a vote of 5-2 on March 23. An amendment to the bill would eliminate the U.S. Presidential Preference Primary Election, held every four years in Missouri. Other changes in the bill include: Allowing the Secretary of State to audit election authorities’ voter records; Allowing the Secretary of State to withhold funds if voter rolls are not maintained properly; No election law changes could be made within 26 weeks of a presidential election; Modifies qualifications for local election judges; Voters will be allowed to make address changes on election day in the county clerk’s or election authority’s office; Local election authorities must update voter history within three months after an election, now within six months; The Department of Revenue and the Secretary of State will work together on electronic voter registration; No person is allowed to be paid to recruit voter registrations; Electronic voting machines will not be used after Jan. 1, 2024, when paper ballots will be officially used; Photo identification cards will be needed by voters to cast ballots or to vote absentee; Voters can vote provisionally without photo IDs; No solicitations of absentee voters or pre-filled-out absentee ballots will be allowed; Absentee ballots are deemed to be cast when they are delivered to the election authority; and mail-in ballots are prohibited among other changes.
Senate Bill 668 (Burlison, R-Battlefield) modifies various provisions relating to elections. SB 668 was heard by the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee on March 23. The bill prohibits an election authority from taking or accepting funding, grants, or gifts of any kind from any source other than from the governing body of a political subdivision, the state of Missouri, or the federal government. The bill prevents a local election authority from appointing election judges who are registered voters of another local election authority’s jurisdiction. A current photo ID is required for a person to vote, and the bill creates new provisions governing the use of provisional ballots when a person does not have the proper form of identification to vote. All costs related to acquiring a photo ID are the responsibility of the individual, not the state. The bill also requires cybersecurity audits of election systems. Witnesses testifying in favor of the bill were the Opportunities Solution Project and Concerned Women for America of Missouri. Testifying in opposition were the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, AARP Missouri, Missouri National Education Association, Associated Students of the University of Missouri, League of Women Voters of Missouri, the Jewish Community Relations Council, Missouri State Conference of the NAACP, PROMO, Planned Parenthood of Missouri, and a Jefferson City resident. Information only testimony was presented by the St. Charles County director of elections. The committee took no action on the bill.
Senate Bill 695 (Brattin, R-Harrisonville) and Senate Bill 1065 (Hoskins, R-Warrensburg) are identical bills modifying numerous provisions relating to elections. SB 695 and SB 1065 were heard jointly by the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee on March 23. The legislation deals with election funding restrictions, rights of poll watchers and election challengers, maintaining voter rolls, electronic voting machines and moving to paper ballots, absentee ballot application requests, absentee ballot envelope requirements, voter identification, and voter petition-initiated audits. Witnesses testifying in favor of the bills were the Opportunities Solution Project and Concerned Women for America of Missouri. Testifying in opposition were the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, AARP Missouri, Missouri National Education Association, Associated Students of the University of Missouri, League of Women Voters of Missouri, the Jewish Community Relations Council, Missouri State Conference of the NAACP, PROMO, Planned Parenthood of Missouri, and a Jefferson City resident. Information only testimony was presented by the St. Charles County director of elections. The committee took no action on the bill. The committee took no action on the bills.
Senate Bill 812 (Eigel, R-Weldon Spring). Under SB 812, 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. SB 812 was voted “do pass” by the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee by a vote of 5-2 on March 23.
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. During an executive session of the Senate Commerce Committee on March 23, committee members expressed concerns with the language and stated the bill potentially could have unintended consequences. After brief discussion, the committee passed the bill by a narrow 6-5 vote.
Senate Bill1068 (Hoskins, R-Warrensburg) The legislation establishes the Regulatory Sandbox Act which creates a Regulatory Relief Office within the Department of Economic Development who 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. The Senate Small Business and Industry Committee held an executive session on March 22 where SB 1068 was voted “do pass” by a vote of 5-2.
House Bill 1606 (McGaugh, R-Carrollton) requires a condensed county financial statement to be published annually, on or before June 30, in local newspapers in all counties of the first, second, third, or fourth classification. The bill was third read and passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 148-0 on March 24. The bill has been sent to the Senate. 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. The bill’s language has been negotiated with legislators and supported by the Missouri Press Association and its membership during the past three years.
House Bill 1637 (Schwadron, R-St. Charles) is legislation pertaining to mail theft or “porch piracy.” On March 23, the House of Representatives perfected and printed HB 1637, as amended. The bill was retitled as a crime prevention bill, and 15 amendments were added. According to the original bill, a person commits the offense of mail theft if the person purposefully takes mail from another person’s mailbox or premises without the consent of the addressee and with intent to deprive the addressee of the mail. One floor amendment added to HB 1637 deals with expungements of arrest records. Those records that are expunged shall be destroyed and the records of the arrest shall be closed and inaccessible to the public, while the records will be available to law enforcement and the courts. Another amendment defines the offense of tampering with a judicial officer if the officer’s or the officer’s family’s personal information is disseminated by posting on the internet with the intent to harass, intimidate, or influence the person, and the amendment also applies to public officials, members of the General Assembly, statewide elected officials, first responders, children’s division employees, and employees of the department of corrections, and their families. “Personal information” includes a home address, Social Security number, federal tax identification number, checking or savings account numbers, marital status, and identity of a child under the age of 18. Another floor vote is needed to send the bill to the Senate.
House Bill 1656 (Hicks, R-Defiance) specifies that no political subdivision can require its employees to reside within a jurisdiction and changes the law regarding fire marshal employees. On March 23, the House of Representatives perfected and printed HB 1656, as amended. An amendment to the bill defines the offense of tampering with a judicial officer if the officer’s or the officer’s family’s personal information is disseminated by posting on the internet with the intent to harass, intimidate, or influence the person, and the amendment also applies to public officials, members of the General Assembly, statewide elected officials, law enforcement officers, and their families. “Personal information” includes a home address, Social Security number, federal tax identification number, checking or savings account numbers, marital status, and identity of a child under the age of 18. Another floor vote is needed to send the bill to the Senate.
House Bill 2502 & 2556 (Houx, R-Warrensburg) enacts sports wagering in Missouri. On March 24, the House of Representatives third read and passed HB 2502 & 2556, as amended, by a vote of 115-33. The bill now moves to the Senate. An amendment to the bill had been added to establish programs providing treatment, prevention, recovery, and education services for compulsive gambling. During floor debate, it was noted that the Kansas Legislature is expected to approve sports wagering soon. HB 2502 & 2556 allows licensed gaming operators to offer sports wagering at licensed facilities and over the internet through interactive sports wagering platforms to persons physically located within the state. The Missouri Gaming Commission shall have full jurisdiction to supervise all gambling operators and to adopt rules to implement the bill’s provisions. Persons under 21 years of age are not eligible to make sports wagers. The Gaming Commission shall publish a list of official league data providers on its website. Each gaming operator shall use only official league data to settle bets on athletic events sanctioned by the applicable sports governing body. A licensed applicant may apply to the Commission for each licensed facility in which the applicant wishes to conduct sports wagering, and the applicant shall pay an initial application fee of $100,000. Excursion gambling boats may offer sports wagering through up to three individually branded interactive sports wagering platforms on each boat. Sports wagering platform operators must apply for a license with the Commission to offer sports wagering on behalf of a licensed facility, paying an initial application fee of $150,000 and a renewal fee annually of $125,000. A sports wagering operator shall employ commercially reasonable methods to prohibit unfair betting practices. Sports wagering does not include bets on elementary or secondary school athletic or sporting events or on individual performance of a school athlete. A wagering tax of 8 percent (amended on the House floor from 10 percent) is imposed on the adjusted gross receipts received from sports wagering conducted by a sports wagering operator. Revenues received from this tax shall be deposited into the state’s “Gaming Proceeds for Education Fund.” A licensed facility that is a gambling boat shall pay an annual license renewal fee not to exceed $50,000.
Senate Bill 724 (Hegeman, R-Cosby). Currently, political subdivisions that fail to submit their required annual financial statements to the State Auditor are fined $500 a day. This bill allows for a reduction or elimination of the fine under certain circumstances. Also, a political subdivision could be disincorporated for failure to submit the financial statement. The bill was perfected on the Senate floor on March 9 to include Senate Bill 845 (Eslinger, R-Wasola). 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 “on or before” June 30. SB 724, as amended, was third read and passed by the Senate by a vote of 29-4 on March 21. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives.
Senate Bill 745 (Cierpiot, R-Lee’s Summit) is legislation affecting utilities. On March 21, the Senate third read and passed SB 745 by a vote of 26-6. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives. The bill authorizes a sales tax exemption for purchases by a Missouri company of solar photovoltaic energy systems and all purchases of supplies used directly to make improvements to such systems, provided that such systems allow for energy storage, include advanced or smart meter inverter capacity, or allow for utility scale projects greater than 20 megawatts. The bill establishes the Task Force on Distributed Energy Resources and Net Metering, to conduct hearings and research information related to net metering. The Task Force shall compile a report for the General Assembly by Dec. 31, 2023, then dissolve. SB 745 modifies the definitions of “department,” which is changed from the Department of Economic Development to the Department of Natural Resources, and “retail electric supplier,” which now includes municipally owned utilities. The sale of qualified electric energy units to any customer-generator shall be subject to provisions of law related to consumer protection. The bill also deals with accounting practices of electrical corporations, gas corporations, sewer corporations, and water corporations. SB 745 allows the Public Service Commission to directly contract counsel, financial advisors, or other consultants as necessary to perform the Commission’s duties related to financing orders, and the Commission shall not be subject to provisions of law relating to competitive bidding for state entities. Also, an electrical corporation shall be permitted to retain coal-fired generating assets in rate base and recover prudently incurred costs associated with such assets, including at a low-capacity factor or that are offline and providing capacity only in order to remain in service to customers for reliability during events such as extreme weather. During debate on the Senate floor, a Sunshine Law exemption was added to the bill. The amendment adds individually identifiable customer usage and billing records of 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 a customer’s name, billing address, location of service, and dates of service provided for any commercial service account.