When most weeks are marked with what gets done in the General Assembly, this week is noted as what didn’t get completed: the new U.S. Congressional districts map for Missouri. Candidate filing deadline was Tuesday this week, but on Thursday the Senate and House of Representatives adjourned without adopting a new map.
The Senate had approved its version of the map in the early hours of March 24, sending its map to the House. On Tuesday, the amended map bill, HB 2117, was sent back to the Senate by the House on a 115-19 vote, seeking a conference committee to rework the map. On Wednesday, the Senate refused to recede from its position on the map the Senate had approved and requested the House to accept and pass the Senate’s version. On Thursday, the House overwhelmingly voted down the Senate’s version of the map, 26-129. Then, the House sent its map back to the Senate, seeking approval of the House map, and if not, asking for a House-Senate conference committee. The Senate adjourned on Thursday morning without taking action on the redistricting issue. The House adjourned, also, and both chambers are scheduled to return to regular session on Monday afternoon. If the General Assembly cannot decide a Congressional map, the courts may decide the boundary lines.
COVID IS OVER IN MISSOURI
At a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Mike Parson announced the COVID-19 crisis is over with the state entering an endemic phase of COVID-19 response much like influenza: the disease will continue to be found in communities. The state will continue to monitor sewer sheds (for viruses), hospitalizations, deaths and outbreaks of illnesses reported to emergency departments. The state transition becomes effective Friday, April 1.
FILINGS END FOR AUGUST PRIMARY ELECTION
Candidate filings for the August 2 primary election ended on Tuesday, March 29. According to the Secretary of State’s office, 506 candidates have filed for the primary. The candidate breakdown by parties includes 318 Republicans, 166 Democrats, 20 Libertarians, and two Constitution candidates filed with the Secretary of State. Candidates that filed on the first day, February 22, drew a random number to determine the order their names will appear on the ballot. The names of candidates that filed after will appear on the ballot in chronological order based on the time of filing. For a current list of candidates and more information, visit the official website here.
HOUSE, SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEES UPDATES
The House Budget Committee began marking-up the FY2022 second supplemental budget, the 13 budget bills for FY2023, and HB 3020 which contains the majority of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. The committee met Monday afternoon and late into the evening to discuss the changes that committee chair Cody Smith (R-Carthage) made to the various bills. There are changes that were made across-the-board which are expected to pass which include a 5 percent administrative cap on federal grant funds, an update on some county identification demographic language with the newly released census data, almost across-the-board reductions in the flexibility the departments have to spend their funds, and, particularly in HB 3020, “ongoing funding” was changed to “one-time funding.” It is expected the House will begin floor debate on the budget bills sometime next week.
The Senate Appropriations Committee also convened on Tuesday morning to receive a presentation from state budget director Dan Haug regarding the FY2022 second supplemental bill (HB 3015). Numerous committee members took the opportunity to express their frustration with the House Budget Committee’s lack of action, at that time, on the various budget bills. Members were also frustrated that a second supplemental was needed and lashed out at department directors over the lack of a coherent spending plan for the requested funds. Many members also expressed doubts the amounts requested by the departments could be expended by the end of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2022.
House Bill 1580 (Mayhew, R-Crocker) specifies that the Missouri State Highway Patrol shall, subject to appropriation, maintain a web page, searchable by the public, listing the serial numbers of firearms that have been reported stolen. All law enforcement agencies making arrests shall notify the central repository of any firearm reported stolen and the serial number of that firearm. HB 1580 was heard by the House General Laws Committee on March 28. One person in support of the bill said there may need to be language added so when a stolen gun is returned to the original owner, the patrol’s web page will be updated. The committee took no action on the bill.
House Bill 2052 (Riggs, R-Hannibal) establishes the “21st Century Missouri Broadband Deployment Task Force.” 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. On March 30 the House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee voted HB 2052 “do pass”.
House Bill 2678 (McCreery, D-St. Louis) The bill allows elected officials to use campaign contribution funds to be used for reasonable legal fees incurred in defense of legal proceedings arising out of their official duties as elected officials. The House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee held an executive session on March 30 where HB 2678 was voted “do pass”.
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 combined and voted “do pass” by the House Special Committee on Government Oversight by a vote of 10-0 on March 29. 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. 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 used, 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. The committee substitute bill allows the commissioner to speak to the top three bidders on a project and give them more detail on what is needed for a bid. Currently, the commissioner is not allowed to speak to bidders.
House Bill 2781 (Evans, R-West Plains) relates to offenses committed against the General Assembly. HB 2781 was voted “do pass” by the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 7-2 on March 30. 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.
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 the same auction is held in-person. On March 31, the House Local Government Committee voted “do pass” on HB 2798 by a vote of 10-0. No amendments were made to the bill by the committee.
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 affects the State Road Fund. On March 30 the House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee voted HJR 134 “do pass”.
Senate Bill 1144 (Crawford, R-Buffalo) allows a county collector to hold an auction of lands with delinquent property taxes through electronic media on the internet at the same time as the auction is held in-person. On March 30, the Senate Local Government Committee heard testimony on the bill. Testimony in support of the bill was presented by county collectors from Bates, St. Charles, and Stoddard counties, and by the Missouri Association of Counties. The Stoddard County Collector said he held an online auction in 2021, along with the in-person auction, and 42 properties were sold of 49 properties that were offered. No testimony in opposition to the bill. Information only testimony was presented by the Missouri Press Association, saying MPA is neutral on the bill as long as public notices in local newspapers are still required for such auctions. The committee took no action on the bill.
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 28, the House of Representatives third read and passed HB 1656 by a vote of 107-42. 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. The bill now moves to the Senate.
House Bill 2120 (Taylor, R-Republic) creates provisions relating to the disclosure of personal information to public agencies. HB 2120, as amended, was perfected and printed by the House of Representatives by voice vote of March 30. The bill establishes the “Personal Privacy Protection Act”, prohibiting public agencies from disclosing or requiring the disclosure of personal information, as defined in the bill. “Personal information” in the bill is defined as any list, record, register, registry, roll, roster, or other compilation of data of any kind that directly or indirectly identifies a person as a member, supporter, or volunteer of, or donor of financial or nonfinancial support to, any entity exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code. A floor 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 or other means 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. A committee amendment was added to the bill by the sponsor with language sought by Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft regarding any report or disclosure required by state law to be filed with his office. The bill prohibits public agencies from: (1) Requiring any individual to provide the public agency with personal information or otherwise compel the release of such personal information; and (2) Requiring any entity exempt from federal income taxation under Sec. 501(c) of the IRS to provide a public agency with personal information or otherwise compel the release of personal information. Penalties established. Another House vote is needed to send the bill to the Senate.
House Bill 2289 (Andrews, R-Grant City). Currently, to legally qualify as a newspaper to publish public notices, a Missouri newspaper must have been published regularly for a period of three years or must be the successor newspaper to a defunct newspaper that begins publication no later than 30 days after the termination of the prior newspaper. HB 2289 reduces the time of regular publication from three years to one year and increases the time from 30 days to 90 days within which a successor newspaper must begin publication. HB 2289, as amended, was perfected and printed by the House of Representatives by voice vote on March 30. The bill also allows a newspaper that has been purchased or newly established by another newspaper that satisfies these conditions to qualify. A House floor amendment added to the bill allows the state to seek bids on contracts over $100,000 by posting an invitation to bid on the Office of Administration’s website, eliminating public notice in newspapers. The bill also contains language that could eliminate newspaper notice prior to a self-service storage facility’s sale of personal property of an occupant in default. Another House vote is needed to send the bill to the Senate.
House Bill 2587 (Riley, R-Springfield) establishes the “Regulatory Sandbox Act” which creates the Regulatory Relief Office within the Department of Economic Development. The Regulatory Relief Office shall administer the provisions of the bill with the purpose of identifying state laws or regulations that could potentially be waived or suspended for participating businesses during a 24-month period in which the participating business demonstrates an innovative product offering to consumers. HB 2587, as amended, was perfected and printed by the House of Representatives by voice vote on March 30. A floor amendment to the bill adds transparency to the bill, suggested by the Missouri Press Association. Transparency issues addressed regard the identity of residents and businesses that make suggestions on the web site, most meetings of the advisory committee shall be considered as public meetings under the Sunshine Law, and incident reports shall be publicly available on the regulatory sandbox web page, among other provisions. Another House vote is required to send the bill to the Senate.
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. HJR 131 requires 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. HCS for HJR 131 was perfected and printed by the House of Representatives by voice vote on March 30. Another House vote is required to send the resolution to the Senate.