Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning this week were relatively “as usual” in both the Missouri House of Representatives and the Senate. However, with anywhere from six- to 18-inches of snow predicted to blanket areas of Missouri, Tuesday night through Thursday, leadership of the General Assembly decided to cancel all Wednesday and Thursday legislative activities this week. The Senate is scheduled to be back in session at 12 noon on Monday, Feb. 7, while the House’s next regular session is to begin at 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 7. Most legislators departed Jefferson City Tuesday, returning to their homes ahead of the snow.
STATE OF THE JUDICIARY ADDRESS SET FOR FEB. 8
Chief Justice Paul C. Wilson of the Missouri Supreme Court will deliver the annual State of the Judiciary Address to a joint session of the General Assembly in the House of Representatives chamber at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8. Chief Justice Wilson was appointed to the Supreme Court in December 2012 and retained by voters at the November 2014 general election for a 12-year term ending Dec. 31, 2026. He previously served as a circuit judge in Cole County. He assumed the role of chief justice on July 1, 2021. A native of Jefferson City, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Drury College, Springfield, in 1982, and a Juris Doctor, cum laude, University of Missouri, Columbia, School of Law, in 1992.
DHSS DIRECTOR KAUERAUF RESIGNS AFTER SENATE SPAT
Late on Feb. 1, Governor Mike Parson accepted the resignation of Donald Kauerauf as director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). Richard Moore, who serves as general counsel for DHSS, was temporarily appointed as acting director to lead the department.
During a Jan. 31 Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee hearing, Kauerauf was targeted with questions about his position on current health issues. Governor Parson had appointed Kauerauf as the director of DHSS, effective Sept. 1, 2021. On Feb. 1, the Senate committee did not vote on Kauerauf’s appointment. Later, Kauerauf resigned.
During testimony on Jan. 31, Kauerauf, a former assistant director of the Illnois Department of Public Health, was asked about his position on mask mandates, COVID-19 vaccination mandates, public schools requiring student COVID testing, and quarantining of students who are exposed to COVID. His answers agreed with the Governor’s. “We’re against mandates; they don’t work,” Kauerauf said. In the committee hearing room and in Capitol hallways outside were more than 100 members of the public, protesting Kauerauf’s appointment.
Kauerauf’s toughest critic was Sen. Mike Moon (R-Halltown) whose numerous questions and comments extended the committee hearing and whose 2-1/2 hour filibuster the next day on Feb. 1 canceled several Senate committee hearings and resulted in Kauerauf’s appointment not being voted upon by the Senate appointments committee. Several Republican and Democrat Senators on the committee voiced support of Kauerauf.
On Jan. 31, Governor Parson released a statement refuting misinformation surrounding Kauerauf’s confirmation hearing. “Back in July, after months of careful vetting and interviews, we selected Don to lead DHSS because he was the best qualified candidate for the job,” the Governor said. “He is an experienced public health professional with a disciplined moral compass that is guided by our Missouri principles: Christian values, family values, and love for this nation.
SENATE APPROVES ADMINISTRATIVE HEARING COMMISSIONER
Among recent appointments by Governor Mike Parson (R), receiving unanimous Senate approval on Feb. 1 is Katie Jo Wheeler of Kansas City, appointed to the Administrative Hearing Commission on Nov. 1, 2021. She was introduced at a Jan. 31 hearing by Sen. Lauren Arthur (D-Kansas City). Ms. Wheeler recently served as deputy director for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR), a position she held since 2018. Prior to becoming deputy director of DNR, she served as general counsel for the department. Ms. Wheeler is certified with the Missouri Bar and has completed The Missouri Way Advanced Management Training program. She received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Baylor University and earned her Juris Doctor from the University of Missouri, Columbia, School of Law.
House Bill 1637 (Schwadron, R-St. Charles) is legislation pertaining to mail theft or “porch piracy.” 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. On January 31 the House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee voted HB 1637 do pass by a vote of 12-0.
House Bill 1689 (Hardwick, R-Waynesville) modifies the requirements of notice for sale by an operator of a self-service storage facility for the sale of personal property of an occupant in default. HB 1689 allows the storage facility operator to advertise in the classified section of a newspaper prior to sale, OR the operator may instead advertise in any other commercially reasonable manner such as online. The advertisement is “commercially reasonable” if at least three independent bidders attend the sale. The House General Laws Committee heard testimony on HB 1689 on Jan. 31. Testimony in support of the bill was presented by Storage Mart. Testimony “for information only” was offered by Doug Crews, representing Missouri Press Association, who said Rep. Hardwick had agreed to discuss possible compromise language with MPA. Crews said such newspaper notice of storage facility auctions increases transparency, and such notice is a part of due process. He said large segments of rural Missouri are without strong internet and residents without internet still depend on their local newspapers. This bill means such notices would be switched to the web, he said. These notices alert family, friends, and neighbors of the property owner, as well as potential bidders, that a sale is about to happen. Crews said MPA compromise language could include if the operator determines the contents in the leased space has a value of $500 or less, then a newspaper notice of that sale would not be required. The committee took no further action on the bill, but Rep. Hardwick did add the bill’s language, without changes, to HB 2289 (Andrews, R-Grant City), and the committee voted HCS HB 2289 “do pass” by a 14-0 vote.
House Bill 2168 (Porter, R-Montgomery City) requires electronic delivery of correspondence related to an insurance policy if purchased and delivered on-line. The legislation includes an opt-out provision to the electronic means of delivery. A committee substitute is anticipated that may outline a process to ensure delivery. Hearing held February 1 in the House Insurance Committee. Testifying in support of the bill included Missouri Insurance Coalition; Missouri Association of Insurance Agents; State Farm; and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City. There was no further testimony.
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 voted “do pass” on House Committee Substitute for HB 2289 by a vote of 14-0 on Jan. 31. Amended to HB 2289 was House Bill 1689 (Hardwick, R-Waynesville), language that could eliminate newspaper notice prior to a self-service storage facility’s sale of personal property of an occupant in default.
HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTIONS HEARD BY ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
The House Elections and Elected Officials Committee met Feb. 1 and heard four proposed state Constitutional amendments to amend the initiative petition process in Missouri. If approved by the House and the Senate, such amendments would require a majority vote later this year on a statewide ballot.
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. If placed on the statewide ballot, a two-thirds majority vote of the people is required for approval of the proposed amendment. Rep. Eggleston said requiring such initiative petition proposals to the General Assembly would allow for more information to be spread. “Voters are craving information about issues they are voting on,” Rep. Eggleston said. Rep. Joe Adams (D-University City) pointed out that very few initiative petitions in Missouri have been approved by two-thirds of the statewide voters. He said he believes such bills are to get rid of the initiative petition process. Rep. Eggleston said it is not his intent to get rid of initiative petitions. “I do not want to abolish it,” he said, but to make it “not too impossible or too easy” to pass an initiative petition.
HJR 65 (Hardy Billington, R-Poplar Bluff). Upon voter approval, this proposed Constitutional amendment requires that signatures of the legal voters for either amendments (eight percent) or statutory law changes (five percent) shall be collected in each of the eight Congressional districts in the state. Currently, initiative petitions shall be signed by legal voters in only six of the Congressional districts in the state. Rep. Billington said, “every area should have the opportunity for input into every Congressional issue.”
HJR 74 and HJR 85 (Ed Lewis, R-Moberly). These two HJRs were heard jointly by the committee. HJR 74 would require that initiative measures be approved by two-thirds of the votes cast on the proposal. HJR 85 would require that initiative petitions for proposed amendments to the Constitution be signed by 10 percent of legal voters in each of the eight Congressional districts and that initiative petitions proposing laws be signed by five percent of such voters. “We don’t want the Missouri Constitution to be a dumping ground for everything that comes down the road (in initiative petitions),” Rep. Lewis told the committee.
Each of the House Joint Resolutions received some public support in testimony submitted remotely, but the remote testimony was not revealed during the committee hearing. No testimony in support during live testimony. Testifying in opposition to the HJRs were the Jobs With Justice Voter Action organization and the Missouri League of Women Voters. The committee took no action on the bills.
House Joint Resolution 70 (Davidson, R-Republic) was voted “do pass” by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee by a vote of 7-3 on Feb. 1. 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.
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. The amended resolution adds definition of language to be reviewed on signature petitions and makes the effective date Jan. 1, 2023, if HJR 79 is approved by voters. It also requires initiative petition signatures to place a measure on the ballot as a constitutional amendment to be collected in each U.S. Congressional district using a percentage requirement of 10 percent. Laws 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 8 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.) On January 31 the House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee voted HCS for HJR 79 do pass by a vote of 9-4.
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