’22 Legislative Reports: Week 4: Budget Issues on the Forefront

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This week was extremely hectic in the House Budget Committee and Senate Appropriations Committee as the Governor’s office and varying state agencies began their presentations of Governor Mike Parson’s fiscal year 2023 state operating budget and plans for spending supplemental funds from federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Many of the “moon shot” ideas proposed in the Governor’s recommendation were met with opposition from budget committee members. In the weeks ahead, the Missouri House Budget Committee will finalize their Budget and likely send to the Missouri Senate by the beginning of the legislative spring break on March 14th.

MO HealthNet (Medicaid), Mental Health, and the Office of Administration presented to the House this week while the Senate had the Office of Administration and a presentation from the budget director on HB 20, the Governor’s $2.7 billion ARPA spending plan. Both committees will continue these hearings for the next several weeks.

Highlights include:

  • The Supplemental budget bill (HB 3014) is moving slowly. The supplemental, in addition to providing funding for departments to finish the fiscal year (June 30), has three large items. The education ESSER III funding of $1.8B which must be appropriated by mid-March, the 5.5% state employee pay raise and funding for additional patients because of Medicaid expansion. These issues become more pressing as the weeks go by.
  • The state’s General Revenue situation is strong. Along with the federal America Recovery Plan dollars, the state is providing increases to the Department of Higher Education and fully funding the K-12 education formula. Additionally, many of the Medicaid providers (Doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and home service entities) are getting a recalculation of their rate payments.
  • The Governor’s American Recovery Plan budget (HB 20) supports appropriating all $2.6B in funding to three large areas:
    1. Covid-19 response/economic impact
    2. Infrastructure including Broadband, drinking water, waste water and storm water projects
    3. Revenue loss

Projects include capital improvements at every college and university, broadband improvements, a new highway patrol crime lab and several more that are provided in the bill. A link is provided below:

Governor’s American Recovery Plan Budget

REDISTRICTING MAP CRIPPLES SENATE ACTIVITIES ON WEDNESDAY
The Missouri Senate was prepared to approve the previous day’s Senate Journal on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., when the Conservative Caucus of the Republican Party grabbed hold of the Senate floor and a filibuster set in for more than four hours. The Conservative Caucus desires a Missouri Congressional redistricting map that would lean toward 7 GOP vs. 1 Democrat. Currently, there are 6 Republican and 2 Democrat Members of Congress representing Missouri.

Members of the CC held the floor and spoke and exchanged comments in a nearly empty Senate chamber. During the four-plus hours, several pre-scheduled Senate hearings were canceled, and several others were rescheduled. One hearing canceled was the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee’s session where 18 individuals were to appear before the committee with hopes of receiving Senate approval of their recent appointments by Governor Mike Parson. Next week, the committee is scheduled to meet on Monday afternoon and again on Wednesday morning to interview appointees. At least, that’s the schedule.

VACCINE MANDATES
The House Judiciary Committee convened Tuesday morning to discuss 19 bills relating to employer vaccine requirements and public health. These are in addition to the 6 bills that were heard a few weeks ago. During committee discussion, Chairman David Evans (R-West Plains) announced he will be drafting a committee substitute to combine the various provisions from the 25 bills the committee has discussed pertaining to vaccine mandates into one legislative vehicle. No supporting testimony was provided. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce, Missouri Health Care Association, Missouri State Medical Association, Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Missouri Retailers Association, Missouri Grocers Association, Missouri Tire Dealers and Retreaders Association, and Associated Industries of Missouri provided opposing testimony. The hearing was fairly short as little in-person testimony was provided.

The House Judiciary Committee reconvened Wednesday to consider passage of HB 2358 (Evans, R-West Plains). The bill requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees in regard to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and states any adverse reactions are considered an occupational disease. During committee discussion, language was adopted to restrict judges from considering vaccination status as a reason to prohibit visitation rights for parents; modified the title; and added provisions from HB 1485, relating to exemptions from employer vaccination requirements. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by 9-2 vote.


Committee Activity

House Bill 1585 (Murphy, R-St. Louis) creates the “Show-Me Digital Health Act” which would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to develop curriculum and provide it to districts by the 2024-25 school year. The curriculum will contain at least one unit of instruction on the responsible use of social media. HB 1585 was heard by the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee on Jan. 25. The curriculum developed by DESE will include standards, learning activities, resources, and training as outlined in the bill including: (1) The purpose and acceptable use of various social media platforms; (2) Cyberbullying prevention and response; (3) Ways to identify online misinformation; and (4) The applicability of protections for freedom of speech for online interaction in school settings as provided by DESE to school districts. School districts must adopt a curriculum like the DESE curriculum by the 2024-25 school year for grades three to 12 and provide a plan for professional development for teachers to use the curriculum. Rep. Murphy said what we don’t teach students in school about social media is “how do you process this information.” As much as government may try to regulate social media, “it’s only going to get worse,” he noted. “This not about what the content of media is. It’s how to process it,” he said. Testimony in favor of the bill was offered by Mark Gordon, executive director of the Missouri Broadcasters Association, who said MSBA’s more than 400 radio and television stations are involved in social media, producing “trusted information,” not to be confused with some information that’s distributed by other social media providers. Also testifying in support of the bill was Julie Smith, an instructor at Webster University, who said we need to go beyond “be nice online,” but help students “examine how they use social media and how social media uses them.” Other testimony in favor of the bill was by the Missouri School Boards’ Association and a freshman journalism student at the University of Missouri who said HB 1585 is needed in schools across the state to give students the tools they need in the 21st century. No testimony in opposition was presented. The committee took no further action on the bill.

House Bill 1637 (Schwadron, R-St. Charles) is legislation pertaining to mail theft or “porch piracy.” HB 1637 was voted “do pass” on Jan. 24, by the House Crime Prevention Committee on a vote of 6-1. According to the 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. The offense of mail theft is a class A misdemeanor for a first offense and a class E felony for a second or subsequent offense.

House Bill 2052 (Riggs, D-Hannibal) establishes the Missouri Broadband Deployment Task Force for the purpose 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. In presenting the bill, Rep. Riggs stated that the current number of task force member will likely increase from its current number of 24. Hearing held January 26 in the House Utilities Committee. During committee discussion, committee members expressed concern that the recommendations of the task force would not be acted upon without some kind of authority for the task force. The Missouri Association of Municipal Utilities, Missouri Municipal League, Missouri Farm Bureau, AT&T, Missouri Broadband Providers, Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, Whisper Internet, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Missouri State Medical Association, City Utilities of Springfield, and Lumen supported the bill and informed committee members that broadband has evolved from a luxury to a vital component for everyday life. It was also stated this task force differs from those that have come before as it involves the various stakeholders together to coordinate the actual deployment of broadband and they will have to work together to achieve this goal. No opposing testimony was provided. The Missouri Department of Economic Development – Office of Broadband Development provided informational testimony.

House Bill 2210 (Hurlbert, R-Smithville) provides that a publisher who offers to license electronic literary products, as defined in the bill, to the public shall also offer to license such products to public libraries. Publishers shall offer to license such products to public libraries on reasonably similar terms as those offered to the public. The terms of a license shall not include a limitation on the number of product licenses a public library may purchase on the same date such license is made available to the public, or on any later date. A violation of the provisions of this bill shall constitute unfair, abusive, or deceptive trade practice and is subject to enforcement in accordance with Sections 407.005 to 407.145, RSMo. Hearing held January 25 in the House Emerging Issues Committee. Missouri Library Association, Polk County Library, Rolling Hills Consolidated Library, Scenic Regional Library and Jefferson County Library District testified in support of the bill. The Association of American Publishers testified in opposition.

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. The bill also allows a newspaper that has been purchased or newly established by another newspaper that satisfies these conditions to qualify. The House General Laws Committee heard testimony on the bill Jan. 24. Rep. Andrews told the committee that many residents of his rural Northwest Missouri district depend on newspapers as their main and only source of local news. He supports the bill’s revisions and said, “this statute should have changed years ago.” Testifying in support of the bill was Mark Maassen, executive director of the Missouri Press Association, who noted the same language was filed during the last three. Last year, the bill passed the House of Representatives, but died in the Senate. Maassen provided comparisons with other states’ legal newspaper requirements (Missouri’s three-year requirement is the longest) and gave examples of three young newspapers that recently qualified in Missouri as legal publications. No testimony was offered in opposition. The committee took no action on the bill.

House Joint Resolution 70 (Davidson, R-Republic) was heard by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee on Jan. 26. Upon voter approval, this proposed Constitutional amendment requires Constitutional amendments submitted by initiative petition to be approved by a majority of registered voters. Registered voters are defined in terms of persons allowed to vote at the most recent general, municipal, or primary election preceding the amendment vote. The Opportunity Solutions Project provided supporting testimony. The Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis, MO Realtors Association, Jobs With Justice Voter Action Network, Mid Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation and a private citizen opposed the bill. The MO Secretary of State provided informational testimony and answered committee questions. The committee took no further action on the bill.

House Joint Resolution 71 (Davidson, R-Republic) was heard by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee on Jan. 26. Upon voter approval, this proposed Constitutional amendment would require an amendment to the state Constitution to achieve a two-thirds supermajority vote for passage. The resolution specifies that the Constitutional phrase “legal voter” is defined as an individual who is a citizen of the United States, a resident of Missouri, and who is properly registered to vote. The resolution also requires petition signatures to place a measure on the ballot as a Constitutional amendment to be collected in each Congressional district using a percentage requirement of 10 percent of legal voters. The Opportunity Solutions Project provided supporting testimony. The Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis, MO Realtors Association, Jobs With Justice Voter Action Network, Mid Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation and a private citizen opposed the bill. The MO Secretary of State provided informational testimony and answered committee questions. The committee took no further action on the bill.

House Joint Resolution 88 (McGirl, R-Potosi) Upon voter approval, this proposed Constitutional amendment would require initiative petition signature collection for both Constitutional amendments and laws to occur in each Congressional district in the state. The requirements of 8% and 5% for amendments and laws respectively will remain the same. The resolution will also require all initiative petitions proposing Constitutional amendments to receive a majority vote in two-thirds of the counties in the state for passage. Hearing held January 26 in the House Elections Committee. During committee discussion, substitute language was adopted to change the effective date to January 1, 2023 if the resolution is placed on the ballot. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 9-4 vote.

House Joint Resolution 102 (Evans, R-West Plains) was heard by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee on Jan. 26. Upon voter approval, this proposed Constitutional amendment would require initiative petition signature collection for Constitutional amendments to occur in each Congressional district in the state with 10 percent of legal voters’ signatures required. Initiative petitions proposing laws would remain subject to a 5 percent voter signature requirement. Referendum petitions placing a law passed by the General Assembly to a public vote will be subject to the same requirements for ballot placement and will remain subject to majority vote. Petition circulators must be Missouri residents and may be paid in any manner except by per signature payment. The resolution also changes the majority vote requirement for Constitutional amendments proposed by either the General Assembly or the initiative process to a two-thirds majority vote requirement. The Opportunity Solutions Project provided supporting testimony. The Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis, MO Realtors Association, Jobs With Justice Voter Action Network, Mid Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation and a private citizen opposed the bill. The MO Secretary of State provided informational testimony and answered committee questions.

Senate Bill 724 (Hegeman, R-Cosby). Currently, political subdivisions that fail to submit their required annual financial statement 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 Senate Local Government and Elections Committee heard SB 724 on Jan. 26. No public testimony offered. The committee took no further action on the bill.

Senate Bill 845 (Eslinger, R-Wasola) was heard by the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee on Jan. 26. The legislation 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. The newspaper publishing the financial statement shall charge and receive no more than its regular local classified advertising rate as published 30 days before the publication of the financial statement. Testimony in favor of the bill was presented by Doug Crews, representing Missouri Press Association, and by the Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Authorities. The bill’s language has been negotiated with legislators and supported by the Missouri Press Association and its membership during the past three years. No testimony in opposition. The committee took no action on the bill.


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Tracking Report

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