Unlike the past few weeks, leadership of the Senate and the House of Representatives elected to continue working despite ice and snow covering the roads late Wednesday. The General Assembly continued their work on Thursday morning, and the Senate passed three bills this week: two Senate bills that included Governor Parson’s workforce training initiative and an income tax reduction ballot question. The Senate and House both finalized and passed a supplemental appropriations bill that contained several key initiatives of the Governor including a 5 percent state employee pay raise and roughly $2 billion in federal dollars for K-12 education. The Governor promptly signed HB 3014 into law on Thursday afternoon, and the bill will become effective immediately.
The House passed several bills this week including those on the initiative petition process and on voter integrity.
Tuesday was the official first day of candidate filing for the 2022 election. On the ballot this year will be Missouri’s U.S. Senate seat now held by Roy Blunt, eight Congressional seats, 17 seats in the state Senate, and 163 in the state House of Representatives. Hundreds of hopefuls have filed for those offices with the Secretary of State. The primary election is scheduled for Aug. 2, and the general election is set for Nov. 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 chamber on Tuesday morning, March 8. The speech, originally scheduled on Feb. 8, was canceled due to the Senate working non-stop on a Congressional redistricting map, a map that still has not been finalized.
Two weeks remain in the 2022 regular legislative session before Spring Break hits, scheduled for the week of March 14.
Supplemental Budget – The Senate dedicated floor time Wednesday afternoon to debate HB 3014 (Smith, R-Carthage). This is the FY2022 emergency supplemental funding bill and contains a 5.5% cost-of living pay raise to state workers, funding for Medicaid expansion, and $1.9 billion for the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education ESSER III dollars. During floor debate, Senator Dan Hegeman (R-Cosby) further amended the bill to provide language changes and reinstate the Governor’s recommendation regarding state employee wages to provide departments flexibility for higher wages. Senator Jill Schupp (D-St. Louis) then attempted to remove language that was included during the Senate Appropriations Committee process that restricted funding being provided to Planned Parenthood. After considerable debate, the amendment failed, and the Senate passed the bill by a 25-7 vote.
The House dedicated floor time Thursday morning to revisit the language. After brief debate, the House passed the bill by a 133-12 vote. Upon the final House vote, the bill was sent to the Governor for final approval. Within a matter of minutes, the Governor signed the bill into law to allow for current operations of state government to continue through FY 2022.
ARPA/HB 20 – The House Budget Committee convened Tuesday afternoon to continue to hear testimony from Budget Director Dan Haug regarding the America Rescue Plan Act Funds (HB 20).
- $9 million has been requested to invest in broadband for state parks across Missouri. A larger broadband discussion developed regarding the plan across departments and a map will be developed to show exactly where towers will be built on state land to deploy broadband.
- There is a $410 million request for political subdivision wastewater projects. There is $250 million available in grant funding from DNR for political subdivisions to apply for projects regarding wastewater and drinking water.
- $250 million has been requested for broadband Infrastructure and guidelines will be drafted in April to provide guidance to local political subdivisions and providers. There is a three-year window for the funds to be spent before the funds must be returned to the federal government.
- Over $126 million has been requested to upgrade the state’s IT systems (this will include remote work programs, server upgrades, and enhance the online portal which would allow ease of access for residents to find needed services in one place.
- $69 million has been requested to develop the Rock Island Corridor to develop bike and tourism activity in Missouri. Members suggested this project costs $1 million per mile to develop.
- $4.5 million has been requested for mental health records as the current system is failing to meet CMS reporting standards.
- $24 million has been requested for VOCA funding and is supplemental to the federal grant the state receives. Chairman Smith questioned how long the funding would last. It was noted this would last for a 2.5 year grant cycle. There needs to be $51 million in the fund to ensure grants can hold steady going forward. The last grant was at $19 million. It was stated if there is no future increases there will be a $15 million shortage in 5 years.
- The four-year, community colleges, and state tech CI projects have a state match range (if under $60 million it’s a 50% match if above $60 million it’s a 25% match).
Chairman Smith announced he would like to hold one more hearing regarding this bill before the committee drafts amendments to ensure all members’ questions are answered and they have a firm understanding of how the money will be spent. At the time of this report, that hearing has not yet been posted.
COVID-19 VACCINE LEGISLATION PASSES MISSOURI HOUSE
House Bills 2358 & 1485 (Evans, R-West Plains) requires an employer, unless clear and convincing evidence proves it would cause undue hardship to the employer, to make reasonable accommodations from a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for an employee if the employee requests one based on certain religious and sincerely held beliefs. On Feb. 22, the full House third read and passed HBs 2358 & 1485 by a vote of 105-46. The bill’s emergency clause, however, failed on a 105-48 vote (109 yes votes needed). Also included in the bill, when a COVID-19 vaccination is required or mandated by an employer as a condition of employment, any injury, disability, or death resulting from the vaccine is considered an occupational disease and is compensable if the vaccine was any factor in causing the injury, disability, or death. The bill also amends the definition of “misconduct” in Chapter 288, RSMo, related to employment security. The definition explicitly excludes failure to take any COVID-19 vaccine based on certain sincerely held beliefs. Termination or discharge from employment for such failure will not disqualify an employee from unemployment compensation. The bill specifies that a court shall not deny or limit visitation to a non-custodial parent because of the parent’s COVID-19 vaccination status. The bill does allow a judge to use discretion to deny or limit visitation if the child has a medical condition that would put the child at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. The bill was amended so no hospital, physician, procurement organization, or other person shall consider the COVID-19 vaccination status of a potential organ transplant recipient or potential organ donor in any part of the organ transplant process.
Secretary of State, State Treasurer discuss budgets with Senate Committee
The Senate Appropriations Committee met with statewide officeholders on Feb. 24, discussing their offices’ budgets for the Fiscal Year 2023 that begins July 1.
Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft told the committee the cost of election notices published in newspapers would be sizeable because of the quantity of likely ballot issues in August or November. The Secretary of State is requesting a $5.25 million budget for publication costs. He said issues such as recreational marijuana, ranked choice voting, school choice, and gaming may make the ballot as initiative petitions if enough voter signatures are collected, and joint resolutions passed by the General Assembly are probable. House Joint Resolution 35, modifying provisions for the State Treasurer’s ability to invest funds, passed in 2021 and will be on the ballot this year.
The Secretary of State also mentioned the $50,000 request for publishing the state’s Official Manual or Blue Book, noting sales of the book are down.
The State Treasurer mentioned costs for Unclaimed Property notices published in newspapers but did not go into detail with the committee.
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 voted “do pass” by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee by a vote of 8-4 on Feb. 23.
House Bill 1585 (Murphy, R-St. Louis) would create the “Show-Me Digital Health Act” which would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop curriculum regarding social media platforms, cyberbullying, ways to identify online misinformation, the responsible use of social media, and to provide the curriculum to school districts by the 2024-25 school year. However, HB 1585 failed on a vote of 5-5 by the House Rules-Legislative Oversight Committee on Feb. 22. Later in the week the committee reconsidered HB 1585 and voted the bill do pass by a vote of 8-1.
House Bill 1606 (McGaugh, R-Carrollton) requires a condensed county financial statement to be published in local newspapers in all counties of the first, second, third, or fourth classification. HCS HB 1606 was voted “do pass, consent” by the House Local Government Committee by a vote of 11-0 on Feb. 23. The House Committee Substitute amended the annual publication date from March 1 to June 30 so all counties will be using the same date for publication. 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.
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. The House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee met on February 24 where HB 1859 was voted do pass.
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. HB 1878 was voted “do pass” by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee by a vote of 8-4 on Feb. 23.
House Bill 2082 (Stacy, R-Blue Springs) authorizes voters to select political party affiliation options at the time of their registration, beginning Jan. 1, 2023. HB 2082 was heard by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee on Feb. 23. Such voter registration information, including political party affiliation, may be provided under the open records law procedures to various parties. Voter identification cards would include political party affiliation or unaffiliated status. Political party affiliation may be changed in a manner similar to a change of address application. Testifying in support of the bill was a resident of Platte County who said she supports closed primary elections. Testimony in opposition was presented by the NAACP of St. Louis County. The committee took no further action on the bill.
House Bill 2120 (Taylor, R-Republic) creates provisions relating to the disclosure of personal information to public agencies. HB 2120 was voted “do pass” by the House Rules-Legislative Oversight Committee by a vote of 12-0 on Feb. 22. A committee amendment was added to the bill by the sponsor with language sought by Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft regarding any report or disclosure required by state law to be filed with his office. The bill establishes the “Personal Privacy Protection Act”, prohibiting public agencies from disclosing or requiring the disclosure of personal information, as defined in the bill. “Personal information” in the bill is defined as any list, record, register, registry, roll, roster, or other compilation of data of any kind that directly or indirectly identifies a person as a member, supporter, or volunteer of, or donor of financial or nonfinancial support to, any entity exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code.
The bill prohibits public agencies from: (1) Requiring any individual to provide the public agency with personal information or otherwise compel the release of such personal information; and (2) Requiring any entity exempt from federal income taxation under Sec. 501(c) of the IRS to provide a public agency with personal information or otherwise compel the release of personal information. Penalties established.
House Bill 2168 (Porter, R-Montgomery City). In this bill, if an insurance policy is purchased through the internet, a mobile application, a computer, a mobile device, a tablet, or any other electronic device or platform or if an insurance policy 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. HB 2168 was voted “do pass” by the House Rules-Legislative Oversight Committee by a vote of 10-0 on Feb. 22.
House Bill 2220 (Falkner, R-St. Joseph) changes the laws regarding the consequences to a political subdivision for failure to file an annual financial statement with the State Auditor, as required. Any political subdivision that has gross revenues of less than $5,000 or that has not levied a sales tax or use tax is not subject to the fine. In addition, the director of the Department of Revenue has the authority to make a one-time downward adjustment to any fine he or she deems uncollectible. Non-compliance could result in disincorporation of the political subdivision upon a vote of the political subdivision’s qualified voters. The Attorney General will also have authority to force the political subdivision into compliance with a court action. HB 2220 was heard by the House Local Government Committee on Feb. 23. Testimony in favor of the bill was presented by the Missouri Municipal League and the Missouri Economic Development Financing Association. No additional testimony was offered. The committee took no action on the bill.
House Bill 2502 (Houx, R-Warrensburg) and House Bill 2556 (Christofanelli, R-St. Peters) Both bills contain the same general terms to legalize sports betting in Missouri and were heard together in the House Special Committee on Public Policy on February 22. Testifying in favor of the bills were the St. Louis Baseball Cardinals organization testifying on behalf of the Missouri Pro Sports Teams Coalition, Penn National Gaming, Missouri Gaming Association, St. Louis Blues, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Soccer, The Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City Current, National Hockey League Players Association, Sport Radar, Missouri Chamber of Commerce, an individual citizen, and iDevelopment and Economic Association.
Testifying in opposition were Boyd Gaming, an Individual citizen, and J&J Ventures Gaming. No one testified for informational purposes only. Although the Committee had noticed House Bill 1666 (Christofanelli, R-St. Peters) for the hearing they did not hear the bill.
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. HJR 94 was voted “do pass” by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee by a vote of 8-4 on Feb. 23.
House Joint Resolution 125 (Christofanelli, R-St. Peters) This resolution states the income tax rate may not exceed 5.9%. However, upon this resolution’s passage subscriptions, digital product licenses, and goods bought online may be taxed at no set rate. On February 23, the House Ways and Means Committee held an executive session where HJR 125 was voted do pass by a vote of 6-3.
Senate Bill 633 (Hegeman, R-Cosby) changes various provisions of Missouri’s election laws. SB 633 was heard by the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee on Feb. 23. Among the changes are to allow no-excuse in-person absentee voting, not to allow mail-in voting which expired in 2020, new requirements for voters to show photo identification to vote, and the use of hand-marked paper ballots. Testimony in favor of the bill was not offered. Testimony in opposition to the bill was presented by the NAACP of St. Louis County, the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, PROMO, and AARP of Missouri. Information only testimony was presented by Shane Schoeller, Greene County Clerk representing the Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Authorities, and Trish Vincent, Deputy Secretary of State. The committee took no action on the bill.
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. Hearing held February 24 in the Senate Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee. During bill presentation, the sponsor informed committee members the language has already been passed in at least ten other states. People United for Privacy, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform in DC, Cannabis Issues, ACLU, and Cannabis Solutions supported the bill. No opposing testimony was provided.
Senate Bill 758 (Hough, R-Springfield) A few years ago, legislation was passed to allow public subdivisions to utilize different delivery methods for building project notices. The bill expands the delivery process to allow the state to use the same various methods for procurement methods. Hearing held February 24 in the Senate Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee. During committee discussion, substitute language was adopted to include compromise language to address various issues with thresholds. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 6-0 vote.
Senate Bill 827 (Hough, R-Springfield) 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. 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.SB 827 was heard by the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee on Feb. 23. This is the fourth year such legislation has been introduced, supported by the Missouri Press Association after a Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District decision. In 2021, the language was amended onto a lengthy bill that passed but was later vetoed by the Governor. Testifying in favor of the bill were City Utilities of Springfield, the Missouri Press Association, and the Missouri Association of Municipal Utilities. No testimony opposing the bill was presented. The committee took no further action on the bill.
House Joint Resolution 91 (J. Eggleston, R-Maysville) was perfected on the House floor by voice vote on Feb. 24. Another House vote is needed to send HJR 91 to the Senate. 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. A floor amendment to allow electronic signatures on initiative petitions failed by a vote of 42-96. 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 bill 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 a delayed effective date of Jan. 1, 2023.
Senate Joint Resolution 33 (Koenig, R-Manchester) Upon voter approval, this constitutional amendment 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. After no discussion, the Senate passed the bill by a 30-1 vote. The bill now will be sent to the House for further consideration.
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