The House of Representatives has completed its work on the supplemental budget (House Bill 3015), the FY 23 budget bills (HB 3001-3013), and the American Recovery Plan (HB 3020). The House Budget Committee is now working on the capital improvement budget bills (HB 3017-3019) and has held a public hearing on HB 3021 that would provide taxpayers a one-time, non-refundable tax credit of $500 for individuals and $1,000 for married couples.
The Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday passed HB 3015 with some changes and next week will begin budget work in earnest when it starts mark-up on HB 3001-3013 and HB 3020. The Senate will then take the bills to the floor during the week of April 25. Once passed, the House and Senate will meet in conference to finalize the budget and move it on to the Governor’s Office. The FY 23 budget (HBs 3001-3013) must be passed by May 6.
MAJOR BILLS TAKEN UP IN BOTH CHAMBERS
A bill creating the “Parents’ Bill of Rights Act of 2022,” an omnibus education bill compiling nearly a dozen other bills dealing with education, was perfected by the House on Tuesday, as the bill nears its departure to the Senate. House Bill 1858 (Baker, R-Neosho) lists parents’ and students’ rights in school districts and touches on discussion of topics in the classroom. The bill gives parents transparency in education, requiring easy access to what is being taught in schools. Parents could bring civil lawsuits against school districts on issues contained in the bill. Teachers and students would not be forced to adopt ideas concerning race, ethnicity, color, or national origin. School administrators’ and teachers’ salaries would be posted on the Missouri accountability portal, and public comment regulations required at local school board meetings are enacted. The bill needs another House vote before moving to the Senate.
In the Senate, Senate Bill 756 (White, R-Joplin), a 124-page bill dealing with public utilities, was third read and passed Thursday. Next stop is the House. Senator White noted his legislation will benefit utility companies and consumers alike through grid modernization efforts, affordable energy rates, quicker outage support, and other utility measures. The bill allows rural electric cooperatives to receive funds from the Missouri Disaster Fund. SB 756 specifies that no deed restrictions or similar binding agreements shall prohibit installation of solar panels on roofs of any property or structures. Records of residential customers of municipally owned utilities are closed under the bill.
UNITED KINGDOM OFFICIAL VISITS STATE CAPITOL
On Tuesday, James Cleverly, the United Kingdom’s minister of state for Europe and North America, addressed the morning session of the House of Representatives and met with Gov. Mike Parson and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe. Later, he traveled to Fulton where Winston Churchill gave his historic Iron Curtain speech in 1946. Cleverly said more than 60 British companies do business in Missouri, while nearly 30 Missouri companies are active in Great Britain. Last month Gov. Parson visited the U.K. on a trade mission.
SHORT WEEK NEXT WEEK
With Easter being observed this coming Sunday, the General Assembly is taking Monday off as a holiday. The House of Representatives will convene at 12 noon on Tuesday, April 19, while the Senate will convene at 4 p.m. that day.
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 voted “do pass” by the House General Laws Committee by a vote of 12-0 on April 11.
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. Senate Committee Substitute for HB 1606, as amended, was voted “do pass” by the Senate Local Government Committee by a vote of 7-0 on April 14. 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 county financial statement language has been negotiated with legislators and supported by the Missouri Press Association and its membership during the past three years. The Senate committee substitute’s language also modifies county coroners’ salaries, county sheriffs’ salaries, public administrators’ salaries, and allows delinquent property auctions to be conducted both in-person and on the internet.
House Bill 1836 (Wiemann, R-O’Fallon) modifies the Trauma Informed School Initiative to require participating schools to keep a record of specific incidents and to inform parents by phone, letter, or email within 48 hours of a child’s removal from a classroom due to an outburst. HB 1836 was heard by the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee on April 12. Testimony in support of the bill was offered by a member of the Fort Zumwalt School Board who said he sees the bill as an important step of transparency to bring parents and schools back together. No opposing testimony was presented. The committee took no action on 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. Senate Committee Substitute for HB 1878 was voted “do pass” by the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee by a vote of 4-3 on April 14. The Senate committee substitute closely mirrors Senate Bill 654 (Crawford, R-Buffalo), an omnibus elections bill. HB 1878 now 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; mail-in ballots are prohibited among other changes; and election authorities are limited on accepting outside donations to be used to conduct elections.
House Bill 2003 (Pouche, R-Kansas City) adds all settlements and judgments paid from the state’s Legal Expense Fund to the list of financial transactions disclosed in the Missouri Accountability Portal. HB 2003 was voted “do pass” by the House Special Committee on Government Accountability by a vote of 12-0 on April 11.
House Bill 2083 (Porter, R-Montgomery City) provides that the State Highway Patrol may charge a minimum fee of $5 for any records request where there are currently allowable fees of less than $5. The superintendent of the Patrol may increase this minimum fee by no more than $1 every two years beginning on Aug. 28, 2023. This minimum fee shall not exceed $10. Also, a request for public records to the Patrol shall be considered withdrawn if the requester fails to pay all required fees within 30 days of a request for payment. HB 2083 was voted “do pass” by the House Transportation Committee by a vote of 11-0 on April 11.
House Bill 2624 (Perkins, R-Bowling Green) creates the “Uniform Public Expression Protection Act.”The bill is anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) legislation. HB 2624 was heard by the House Judiciary Committee on April 13. 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, 2022. Witnesses providing testimony in support of the bill were KMIZ-TV, the Missouri Broadcasters Association, Americans For Prosperity, Missouri Right To Life, the Missouri Press Association, and the Institute for Free Speech. The committee took no action on the bill.
House Bill 2705 (Lovasco, R-O’Fallon) This bill prohibits any county, city, town, village, municipality, state agency, or other political subdivision from enacting, adopting, or enforcing any law, ordinance, regulation, order, or other provision that authorizes the use of any automated traffic enforcement system, as defined in the bill, to establish evidence that a motor vehicle or its operator was not in compliance with traffic signals, traffic speeds, or other laws, ordinances, rules, or regulations on any public street, road, or highway within this state, or to impose or collect any civil or criminal fine, fee, or penalty for the noncompliance with certain exceptions. Retaining any data recorded by such a system regarding a person’s location or movements without a warrant is prohibited. Any county, city, town, village, municipality, state agency, or other political subdivision that has an automated traffic enforcement system installation or maintenance contract with a company on August 28, 2022, must arrange to complete or terminate the contract by September 1, 2023, after which date the city, town, village, municipality, state agency, or other political subdivision will be subject to the prohibition. Hearing held April 13 in the House Downsizing State Government Committee. No testimony in support. Missouri Sheriff’s United, Missouri Police Chiefs Association, Missouri State Troopers Association, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, Missouri Fraternal Order of Police, St. Louis Area Major Case Squad, St. Louis County Police Department and Kansas City Police Department. Missouri Trucking Association testified for informational purposes regarding trucking issues.
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT LEGISLATION
On April 13, a joint hearing was held on House Joint Resolution 79 and House Joint Resolution 91 by the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee.
House Joint Resolution 79 (Henderson, R-Bonne Terre) is a proposed state constitutional amendment that if approved by voters would require a two-thirds supermajority vote for passage of an amendment to the state’s Constitution. HJR 79 requires initiative petition signatures to place a measure on the ballot as a Constitutional amendment to be collected in each of Missouri’s eight U.S. Congressional districts using a percentage requirement of 10 percent. Statutes may be placed on the ballot using the current percentage requirement of 5 percent. (Currently, a Constitutional amendment may be placed on the ballot by initiative petitions signed by eight percent of legal voters in six of Missouri’s eight Congressional districts, and the ballot issue currently would take effect if a simple majority of votes cast approves the issue.) The bill would require the Secretary of State to administer public forums in each Congressional district at least 15 days before the measure is voted on a statewide ballot to give members of the public an opportunity to review and comment on the initiative petition. HJR 79 also has an effective date of Jan. 1, 2023, if approved by voters.
House Joint Resolution 91 (J. Eggleston, R-Maysville). 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 resolution 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 an effective date of Jan. 1, 2023.
Testimony in support of both HJR 79 and HJR 91 was presented by the Missouri Farm Bureau. Testimony in opposition to both HJR 79 and HJR 91 was offered by Empower Missouri, Missouri Healthcare for All, the Missouri NAACP, Service Employees International Union, League of Women Voters of Missouri, Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, Sierra Club of Missouri, Missouri Alternatives to the Death Penalty, American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, Health Forward Foundation, Missouri National Education Association, League of Women Voters of Kansas City, Pro Choice Missouri, Missouri Faith Voices of Jefferson City, Jobs With Justice Voter Action, and individuals from University City, O’Fallon, Independence, Jefferson City, Columbia, St. Louis, Milo, Mo., and Kansas City. The committee took no action on the resolutions.
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 April 13 the House Fiscal Review Committee held an executive session where HJR 132 was voted “do pass”.
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. A political subdivision could be disincorporated for failure to submit the financial statement. The bill also requires a condensed county financial statement to be published on or before June 30 each year 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. SB 724 was heard by the House Special Committee on Public Policy on April 14. Witnesses testifying in favor of the bill were the Missouri Municipal League and the Missouri Press Association. Testifying in opposition to the bill was a resident of St. Charles County who does not support a portion of the bill that would affect the school bonding process only in that county. The committee took no action on the bill.
Senate Bill 758 (Hough, R-Rolla) was heard by the House Economic Development Committee on April 14. SB 758 would require public notice in newspapers for all state contracts for projects in excess of $100,000. The bill requires publication of an invitation to bid for a period of 10 days or more in a newspaper where the work is located, in one daily newspaper in the state which does not have less than 50,000 daily circulation, and on the Office of Administration’s website. Currently, notices must be published for such projects for five days in a daily newspaper in the county where the work is located or at least two times in a period of 10 days in a newspaper in the county where the work is located and in one daily newspaper in the state which has more than 50,000 daily circulation. The bill also makes numerous changes to state statutes affecting Design-build projects, public works contracts, construction projects, and single feasible source purchasing authority. Testifying in support of the bill were witnesses from construction and architectural firms and associations. The committee took no action on the bill.
Senate Bill 1219 (Elaine Gannon, R-DeSoto) establishes the “Uniform Public Expression Protection Act.” The bill is anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) legislation. SB 1219 was heard by the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on April 11. While Missouri statutes include some anti-SLAPP protections, Senator Gannon said current law does “too little to protect our citizens.” SB 1219 provides procedures for dismissal of causes of action in a civil action based on a person’s exercise of the right of freedom of speech or of the press, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution or the Missouri Constitution, on a matter of public concern such as when a person is speaking at a public hearing or meeting of a legislative, executive, judicial, administrative, or other governmental proceeding. Testimony in support of the bill was presented by Jean Maneke, a media defense attorney representing the Missouri Press Association; Curtis Varns, general manager of KMIZ-TV, Columbia; Missouri Right To Life, the Motion Picture Association, Americans For Prosperity, Institute for Free Speech, and the Missouri Broadcasters Association. Maneke said SB 1219 provides much better defense for individuals than the current Missouri law. She offered two legal cases that could have been avoided if the legislation had been in place. She said 21 states have strong anti-SLAPP laws, while Missouri and 12 other states have more limited laws. Varns gave a specific example of “journalists doing their work,” a case KMIZ was drawn into that cost the station $27,000 in legal fees. In 2019, station reporters were accused of defamation, invasion of privacy, and false light by a public official who finally dismissed the case after 11 months. The committee took no action on the bill.
Senate Joint Resolution 33 (Koenig, R-Manchester) This constitutional amendment, if approved by the voters, prohibits the General Assembly from setting an income tax rate exceeding 5.9%. It also modifies a provision prohibiting sales taxes levied on transactions not taxed as of January 1, 2015, by providing an exception for sales and use taxes on subscriptions, licenses for digital products, and online purchases of tangible personal property. Hearing held April 13 in the House Special Committee on Government Oversight. No supporting or opposing testimony was provided during the hearing.
House Bill 1637 (Schwadron, R-St. Charles) is legislation pertaining to mail theft or “porch piracy.” On April 11, the House of Representatives third read and passed HB 1637, as amended, by a vote of 93-45. The bill now moves to the Senate. The bill was retitled on the House floor 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.
House Bill 1859 (Eggleston, R-Maysville) imposes a labeling requirement for political subdivision and special district ballot measures using sets of letters from the alphabet and double letters if needed as specified in the bill. If a measure is labeled, but not voted upon at the next election, then it retains its letter designation until it has been voted on by the people. This practice is like the current law on statewide ballot measure labeling. On April 14, HB 1859 was perfected and printed by the House of Representatives on a voice vote. Another House vote is required to send the bill to the Senate. Two floor amendments were added to the bill. The bill now requires ballot language where there are multiple elected offices available, such as a school board election, should explain to voters the maximum number of candidates voters may vote for. Another floor amendment requires hand-marked ballots, or for disabled voters a paper ballot marking machine, to be used during elections. The bill also eliminates ballot drop boxes.
Senate Bill 761 (Brown, R-Rolla) creates and modifies provisions relating to access to public records. SB 761, as amended, was perfected by the Senate on April 13. Another Senate vote is needed to move the bill to the House of Representatives. The bill provides that the State Highway Patrol may charge a minimum fee of $5 for any records request where there are currently allowable fees of less than $5. The superintendent of the Patrol may increase this minimum fee by no more than $1 every two years beginning on Aug. 28, 2023. This minimum fee shall not exceed $10. A request for public records to the Patrol shall be considered withdrawn if the requester fails to pay all required fees within 30 days of a request for payment. The bill also creates the “Parents’ Access to Public School Records Act” which requires school districts that receive federal or state funds to provide to parents specific rights and information relating their child. No school district or public school shall collect any biometric data or other sensitive personal information about a minor child without obtaining written parental consent. SB 761 provides that any personal information of minors and, if applicable, any next friends shall be redacted from any court automation system that provides public access to electronic records on the internet. And, the bill 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.
Senate Bill 775, 751 & 640 (Thompson Rehder, R-Sikeston) modifies provisions relating to sexual offenses. House Committee Substitute for SB 775, et al, was voted “do pass” by the House Emerging Issues Committee by a vote of 13-0 on April 12. An amendment added to the bill prohibits a state court or any employee or agent of a state court to publicly disclose any confidential information of a living person unless the disclosure is permitted by federal law, federal regulation or state law. “Confidential information” is defined in the bill as personal information required under Missouri Supreme Court Operating Rule 4.07.1, including but not limited to, Social Security number and date of birth. For purposes of the section, “publicly disclose” shall not include the use of confidential information by courts, any law enforcement agency, or the Missouri Department of Public Safety in carrying out their constitutional powers or duties. Sections of the bill deal with witnesses of sexual offenses, sexual offenders, child pornography, and Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights. Under current law, certain identifiable information of victims of domestic assault or stalking shall be closed and redacted from public record. Another section of SB 775, et al, adds that such identifiable information shall also include, but shall not be limited to, the victim’s personal email address, birth date, health status, or any information from a forensic testing report.
Senate Joint Resolution 41 (Roberts, D-St. Louis) Upon voter approval and approval by the governing body of the county or city not within a county through an ordinance, the resolution would exempt taxpayers 65 years of age or older and meet certain criteria from increases in their residential property taxes. During debate on the Senate floor on April 13, the sponsor offered substitute language to update the title of the bill. Once modified, the Senate provided its first of two necessary approval votes.