’22 Legislative Reports: Week 16: Short Week, Budget Moving, Omnibus Bills on the Horizon

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The Easter Holiday, observed Monday, resulted in less than three days of House and Senate activity before adjournment on Thursday. The Senate spent most of its week allowing the Senate Appropriations Committee to work through the proposed FY 2023 budget. The full Senate will take up the budget bills next week. The House worked on capital improvement bills tied to the budget and sent them to the Senate for consideration. Omnibus bills are beginning to raise their heads as numerous amendments are anticipated on legislation with only three weeks remaining in the 2022 session. Only two weeks remain for the Senate and the House to compromise and finalize the budget bills and deliver them to the Governor.

The Senate Appropriations Committee chose to fund teacher raises by allocating $37.1 million which would raise starting salaries to $38,000. The committee also fully funded K-12 public school transportation for the first time in more than 20 years with an allocation of $214 million. A surprising cut was made to the Office of Attorney General of $500,000 which would have funded five new attorneys.

Supplemental budget proposals and three remaining capital improvement bills were on the House floor this week for approval. HB 3017-HB 3019 deal with ongoing capital improvement projects, maintenance and repair projects, and new spending for large capital improvement projects. The House on Thursday also approved a one-time tax credit for Missourians: up to $500 nonrefundable tax credit to individuals and up to $1,000 to married couples filing jointly.

On Thursday, the Senate confirmed several of Gov. Mike Parson’s appointments, including former State Rep. Sheila Solon as director of the Division of Professional Registration and Nicholas S. Gerth as a member of the State Lottery Commission.

Committee Activity

House Bill 1562 (Griffith, R-Jefferson City) The bill establishes the “Stars and Stripes Historic Region of Missouri”. Hearing held April 19 in the Senate Economic Development Committee. The Historic Revitalization for MO supported the bill. No opposing testimony was provided.

House Bill 1637 (Schwadron, R-St. Charles) is legislation pertaining to mail theft or “porch piracy.” On April 19, the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Justice Committee conducted a hearing on HB 1637. The bill was retitled in the House as a crime prevention bill. 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. A House 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.

During the Senate hearing, testimony in favor of the bill was offered by Amazon Services, the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Robbins Law Firm, MMW Law Firm, the Missouri Retailers Association, American Bail Coalition, Missouri Alliance of Professional Bail Bond Agents, Coalition for Surety Agents of Missouri, St. Louis County, Missouri 911 Service Board, and Missouri Parks and Recreation Association. During testimony, the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys said it does not support the bill’s expungement language that requires closed records to be destroyed, saying the House floor amendment to the bill had not been heard in any House committee. Testimony in opposition to the bill was offered by Associated Industries of Missouri (opposed to repeal of whistleblower protection language), Advantage Metals and Recycling and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (opposed to language that curtails catalytic converter theft), the Missouri Hospital Association and other associations that represent nursing homes and long-term care facilities (opposed to language affecting visitation rights). The committee took no action on the bill.

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 voted “do pass” by the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee by a vote of 19-0 on April 21.

House Bill 2168 (Porter, R-Montgomery City) In this bill, if a policy of insurance is purchased through the Internet, a mobile application, a computer, a mobile device, a tablet, or any other electronic device or platform or if a policy of insurance 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. Hearing held April 19 in the Senate Insurance and Banking Committee. Missouri Insurance Coalition, State Farm Insurance Companies and Missouri Association of Insurance Agents testified in support of the bill. No testimony in opposition.

Immediately after the hearing, the committee went into executive session to consider Senate Bill 1042 (Crawford, R-Buffalo). The bill is the Senate companion to HB 2168, highlighted above. During committee discussion, substitute language was adopted to align the bill with HB 2168 by including language that ensures it only pertains to policies purchased online. More specifically, someone who purchases a policy online will receive all communications electronically. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 6-0 vote.

House Bill 2587 (Riley, R-Springfield) The bill is the House companion to Senate Bill 1068 (Hoskins, R-Warrensburg) and establishes the “Regulatory Sandbox Act”, which creates the Regulatory Relief Office within the Department of Economic Development. The Regulatory Relief Office will be responsible for 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. Hearing held April 19 in the Senate Economic Development Committee. Associated Industries of MO, Americans for Prosperity, MO Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Cicero Action supported the bill. The Sierra Club opposed the bill.

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. House Committee Substitute for SB 724, as amended, was voted “do pass” by the House Public Policy Committee by a vote of 5-0 on April 21. One amendment added to the bill applies to county planning board hearing notices which must continue to be published in a local newspaper. Another amendment deals with charitable organizations but the section does not apply to labor organizations. The complete House Committee Substitute was not available for review when this report was written. 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.

Senate Bill 745 (Cierpiot, R-Lee’s Summit) The bill as originally filed, allows the Public Service Commission to track all utilities true amounts of property taxes. During the bills progression through the Senate, the bill was amended to include SB 881, which authorizes a sales tax exemption on the purchase of solar; SB 763, creates the Task Force on Distributed Energy Resources and Net Metering; SB 756, The bill seeks to create economic incentive discount rates to increase utilization on electric, sewer, water, and gas usage. Additionally, allows the Public Service Commission to directly contract counsel, financial advisors, or other consultants as necessary to carry out 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. Lastly, allows coal-fired utilities maintenance costs to be captured during cases of emergency or disaster; and SB 827, adds individually identifiable customer usage and billing records for 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. Hearing held April 20 in the House Utilities Committee. Evergy, MO American Water, Ameren MO, Spire MO, Liberty Utilities, MO Chamber of Commerce and Industry, City Utilities, MO Municipal Utilities, MO Solar Energy Association, MO Energy and Development Association, and Clean Grid Alliance supported the bill. No opposing testimony was presented.

Senate Bill 845 (Eslinger, R-Wasola) The bill is the Senate companion to House Bill 1606 (McGaugh, R-Carrollton) and modifies provisions in statute regarding the reporting of county annual financial statements. Currently, all second, third, and fourth class counties are required to provide entire financial statements in local newspapers, however first class counties are only required to provide simplified financial statements. The bill would allow all counties to provide simplified financial statements. Hearing held April 21 in the House Local Government Committee. The Missouri Press Association, Missouri Association of County Clerks, and Election Authorities provided supporting testimony. There was no opposition testimony presented to the committee. Chairman Falkner stated he would like to keep the bill as clean as possible and if there are any amendments offered, those that pertain only to the title would be entertained. He also stated they will exec on the bill next Tuesday.

Senate Bill 1219 (Gannon, R-DeSoto) establishes the “Uniform Public Expression Protection Act.” The bill is anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) legislation. SB 1219 was voted “do pass” by the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee by a vote of 4-0 on April 19. 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.

Floor Activity

Senate Bill 741 (Crawford, R-Buffalo) The bill establishes the “Personal Privacy Protection Act” and prohibits public agencies from disclosing or requiring the disclosure of personal information. During debate on the Senate floor April 21, the sponsor offered substitute language to provide clarifying language. Senator Andrew Koenig (R-Manchester) further amended the bill to include SB 930, to exempt GPS data and security procedures of law enforcement from the Sunshine law and modifies the definition of public record. Additionally, it redacts the name and emails of constituent emails. Senator Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis) then amended the bill to include SB 653, which establishes the “Parents’ Bill of Rights”. Senator Eric Burlison (R-Republic) also amended the bill to include SB 968, which prohibits the state from imposing any filing or reporting requirements for charitable organizations that are more burdensome than those already in statute. Lastly, Senator Karla Eslinger (R-Wasola) amended the bill to include SB 845, which modifies provisions in statute regarding the reporting of county annual financial statements. Once modified, the Senate provided its first of two necessary approval votes and perfected SS for SCS for SB 741.

Senate Bill 761 (Brown, R-Rolla) The bill provides that a minimum fee of $5 may be charged by the Missouri State Highway Patrol for any request where there are allowable fees of less than $5. Additionally, the bill allows any minor’s information to be redacted from court automated systems and includes SB 653, which establishes the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” and provides that every parent of a child shall have a fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education, health care, and mental health of such parent’s child. After no debate on the Senate floor on April 20, the Senate passed the bill by a 27-5 vote. The bill now will be sent to the House for further consideration.

Senate Joint Resolution 41 (Roberts, D-St. Louis) This constitutional amendment, if approved by the voters, allows a county or a city not within a county to exempt taxpayers sixty-five years of age or older meeting certain criteria, as described in the amendment, from increases in the assessed valuation of such taxpayer’s residential real property. Such exemption shall be approved by the governing body of the county or city not within a county through an ordinance. In addition to criteria required in the amendment to receive an exemption, a county or city not within a county may also require a taxpayer to meet certain income requirements. On April 20 the Senate third read and passed SJR 41 by a vote of 29-2. The bill will now move to the House for further consideration.

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