Shortly after midnight Wednesday morning, Feb. 9, the Senate ended a 31-hour filibuster without resolving the U.S. Congressional redistricting map that’s needed for this year’s state elections.
The filibuster was started by the Senate’s Conservative Caucus, a handful of Republicans, who are opposed to the redistricting map delivered to the Senate by the House of Representatives. The map likely would maintain a seat split of 6 Republicans and 2 Democrats from Missouri in Congress. The caucus instead has sought a 7-1 split.
During the 31-hour filibuster tying up the Senate which began Monday, Feb. 7, at about 5 p.m., senators read articles and song lyrics and other materials, even tales shared about Jim The Wonder Dog, an amazing canine whose home was in Marshall. During the filibuster, quorum calls were requested every 30 to 60 minutes, calling senators to return to the near vacant chamber to hear senators’ offerings.
The Senate returned to session at noon on Wednesday. Sen. Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis), who renewed the filibuster on Wednesday, has named the redistricting map “the Shaul Map, the 2117 Map, the Pelosi Map, the Sellout Map.” House Bill 2117, sponsored by Rep. Dan Shaul (R-Imperial), is the bill that includes the redistricting map passed by the House of Representatives. The Senate adjourned Wednesday about 7:00 p.m.
Nearly a dozen Senate committee hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday were canceled due to the filibuster. The Senate held a few committee hearings on Thursday morning but is continuing floor session into Friday this week.
HOUSE MOVES SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET BILL TO SENATE
House Bill 3014 (Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage) is a supplemental budget bill with $4.8 billion of new funding for the current Fiscal Year 2022, if approved by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Mike Parson. HB 3014 was third read and passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 114-11 (with 25 present) on Thursday, Feb. 10. New funding in the bill includes $92 million for state employee wage increases (the Governor had recommended $98 million), additional funding for Medicaid to ensure enough funds to run the program and extend coverage to new eligible citizens, and some $2 billion in ESSER III for schools through the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. $4.3 billion of the bill’s funding is from federal funds. Legislators and the Governor had hoped to have the bill make its way through the House and Senate by early February. However, recent snow, illnesses of some legislators, and other issues have slowed the process.
INITIATIVE PETITION LEGISLATION ADVANCES TO SENATE
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. On Feb. 10, the full House of Representatives third read and passed HJR 79 by a vote of 98-53, and moved the bill to the Senate. 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 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.) A floor amendment to 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 a delayed effective date of Jan. 1, 2023, if approved by voters.
House Bill 1641 (Coleman, R-Grain Valley) states that an employer that requires an employee to undergo or provide proof of receiving a vaccination against any disease as a condition of employment or continued employment shall exempt an employee who in writing claims a religious or conscientious objection, provides evidence of acquired immunity to the disease, or provides a written statement from a physician that the vaccination is medically contraindicated for the employee. This bill makes an employer liable for damages or injury arising from the required vaccination. During an executive session of the House Judiciary Committee on February 9 substitute language was adopted to remove conscientious objection provisions from the bill. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 9-2 vote.
House Bill 2093 (Wiemann, R-O’Fallon) prohibits any employer from implementing a vaccination program ordered by any government entity. During an executive session in the House Judiciary Committee on February 9, language was modified to ensure only government agencies and entities are prohibited from implementing vaccine programs and removed the sunset. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 7-4 vote.
House Bill 1455 (Billington, R-Poplar Bluff) prohibits individuals or organizations, including election authorities and boards of election, from distributing unsolicited applications for absentee ballots by mail, email, or other means. A violation of the bill’s provisions will be a class four election offense. HB 1455 was heard by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee on Feb. 9. No testimony in favor. Testimony in opposition was offered by a Jewish organization located in St. Louis and by the Livingston County Clerk, who said some candidates may carry applications for absentee ballots with them when campaigning door-to-door, and that could be considered illegal under this bill. The committee took no further action on the bill.
House Bill 1606 (McGaugh, R-Carrollton) was heard by the House Local Government Committee on Feb. 10. 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. The bill’s language has been negotiated with legislators and supported by the Missouri Press Association and its membership during the past three years. Testimony in favor of the bill was presented by Mark Maassen, representing the Missouri Press Association, and representatives of the Missouri Association of Counties and Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Authorities. No testimony was offered in opposition. The committee took no action on the bill.
House Bill 1619 (VanSchoiack, R-Savannah) prohibits the use of a drone or unmanned aircraft to photograph, film, videotape, create an image, or livestream another person or personal property of another person, with exceptions. During an executive session of the House Downsizing State Government Committee on February 9, substitute language was adopted to allow a state agency or a political subdivision to use a drone or unmanned aircraft if they have probable cause, instead of requiring a search warrant to fly the aircraft over private property. Additionally, the substitute clarifies the provisions of the bill shall not prohibit the operation of unmanned aircraft by a public utility or rural electric cooperative if the aircraft is used for the purpose of inspecting, repairing, or maintaining utility transmission or distribution lines or other utility equipment or infrastructure. During committee discussion, the substitute was further amended to clarify language pertaining to creating images, and clarifies that the pilots of the unmanned aircrafts or drones need to be federally certified by the FAA. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by an 8-4 vote.
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. This practice is similar to the current law on statewide ballot measure labeling. HB 1859 was heard by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee on Feb. 9. Testimony in favor of the bill was presented by Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller, representing county clerks and election authorities. No testimony in opposition was offered. The committee took no further 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. Any applicant who requests a photo ID nondriver’s license for voting shall not be required to pay a fee; the fee will be paid by the state. A similar bill passed the House in 2021 but died in the Senate. On Feb. 10, HB 1878 was heard by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee. Testimony in favor of the bill was offered by Deputy Secretary of State Trish Vincent and the Opportunity Solutions Project. Testimony in opposition was presented by AARP Missouri, the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, NAACP Missouri, and PROMO. The committee took no further action on the bill.
House Bill 2168 (Porter, R-Montgomery City) would make it easier for insurance companies and consumers to conduct business online. It would facilitate buying online and the option of receiving notice online or through paper. During an executive session of the House Insurance Committee on February 8, substitute language was adopted to provide for minor changes to ensure the consumer protections applied throughout the whole bill. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 12-0 vote.
House Bill 2359 (Basye, R-Rocheport) expands the information to be made accessible on the Missouri Accountability Portal to include all forms of compensation and benefits paid to or on behalf of employees and all bonds issued by any public school district, and requires public school districts to supply all such information to be made accessible on the Portal to the Office of Administration. Currently, all expenditures made by a municipality or county shall be maintained and made publicly accessible on the Missouri Local Government Expenditure Database. This bill amends the definition of expenditures to now include any form of compensation or benefit made to municipal or county employees, as defined in the bill. Hearing held February 8 in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. No testimony in support or opposition of the bill.
House Bill 2419 (Kidd, R-Buckner) changes the laws regarding county officials by making certain information disclosed to the recorder of deeds optional and requiring county assessors to obtain permission to enter private property. This bill provides that disclosure of the sales price for a deed, mortgage, conveyance, deed of trust, assignment, bond, covenant, or defeasance are not required for recording by the recorder of deeds. The bill also requires permission from a landowner before a county assessor or an employee of the assessor can enter onto any lands or enter the interior of any structure on any lands of the landowner for purposes of a physical inspection in order to assess the personal or real property. Hearing held February 10 in the House Local Government Committee. The Missouri Association of Realtors testified in favor of the bill. There was no testimony in opposition. The Missouri State Tax Commission testified for informational purposes and it was noted by both the bill sponsor and members of the committee the legislation needs a lot of work.
House Joint Resolution 70 (Davidson, R-Republic) 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 House-Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee held an executive session on February 9 where HJR 70 was voted do pass by a vote of 7-5.
House Joint Resolution 94 (Simmons, R-Washington). Upon voter approval, this proposed Constitutional amendment requires voters to provide a valid government-issued photo identification. An exception may be provided to allow a person to vote by provisional ballot. On Feb. 10, HJR 94 was heard by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee. Testimony in favor of the bill was presented by the Opportunities Solution Project and the Deputy Secretary of State Trish Vincent. Testimony in opposition to the bill was offered by AARP Missouri, NAACP Missouri, PROMO, and the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition. The committee took no further action on the bill.
House Joint Resolution 123 (Kidd, R-Buckner) was heard by the House Financial Institutions Committee on Feb. 9. Upon voter approval, this proposed Constitutional amendment would require all assessors of charter counties and the assessor of the City of St. Louis City to be elected. Testimony in opposition was presented by the City of St. Louis. The committee took no further action on the bill.
HJRs VOTED ‘DO PASS’ BY ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
The House Elections and Elected Officials Committee voted “do pass” on the following 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). The committee voted HCS HJR 91 “do pass” on a vote of 9-4. 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. An amendment: The House Committee Substitute 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, and the resolution has a delayed effective date of Jan. 1, 2023.
House Joint Resolution 65 (Hardy Billington, R-Poplar Bluff). The committee voted HCS HJR 65 “do pass” on a vote of 7-6. 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. The House Committee Substitute has a delayed effective date of Jan. 1, 2023.
House Joint Resolution 74 and House Joint Resolution 85 (Ed Lewis, R-Moberly). HCS for HJR 74 was voted “do pass” on a vote of 6-5. HCS HJR 74 would require that initiative measures be approved by two-thirds of the votes cast on the proposal. HCS for HJR 85 was voted “do pass” on a vote of 7-5. HCS 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. Both House Committee Substitutes have a delayed effective date of Jan. 1, 2023.
Senate Bill 758 (Hough, R-Rolla) would amend public notice requirements for all state contracts for projects in excess of $100,000. Such contracts shall be let to the lowest, responsive, responsible bidder or bidders based on preestablished criteria after publication of an invitation to bid for a period of 10 days or more on a website of the state officer or agency or through an electronic procurement system. 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. Newspaper notice for such projects would be eliminated by the bill. SB 758 was heard by the Senate Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee on Feb. 10. Testifying in favor of the bill were the J.E. Dunn Construction Co. and the State Office of Administration. Testifying in opposition to the bill were the American Institute of Architects of Missouri, the Associated General Contractors of Missouri, and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Missouri. The bill also makes numerous changes to state statutes affecting public works contracts, construction projects, design-build projects, and single feasible source purchasing authority.
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This report is compiled for Missouri Press Association members by Lathrop GPM. Please do not republish.