’22 Legislative Reports: Week 9: Busy Week in both House and Senate

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This week was a busy one in the state capitol. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate conducted a jam-packed schedule of committee hearings, Monday through Thursday, and the Senate worked on and perfected four Senate bills on Wednesday, a record for this session. Tensions among Senators are still evident during debates, and the state’s updated Congressional redistricting map is still in limbo in the Senate.

Senate bills perfected on Wednesday included SB 652 (Rizzo, D-Kansas City) providing a sales tax exemption for the sale of 2026 FIFA World Cup tickets to matches held in Jackson County, SB 681 & 662 (O’Laughlin, R-Shelbina and Arthur, D-Kansas City) modifying provisions regarding educational outcomes, SB 655 (Crawford, R-Buffalo) relating to Missouri’s local government employees’ retirement system, and SB 649 (Eigel, R-Weldon Spring) modifying taxation provisions.

The House on Wednesday focused on perfection of HB 2168 (Porter, R-Montgomery City) relating to the delivery of documents required for insurance transactions, HBs 1897 & 2414 (DeGroot, R-Ellisville) setting up infant nurseries within correctional centers, HB 2355 (Andrews, R-Grant City) relating to time-critical diagnosis, HB 2366 (Shields, R-St. Joseph) for gifted children, and HB 1861 (Eggleston, R-Maysville) dealing with COVID-19 vaccination status.

The deadline for filing new bills in the General Assembly was March 1. There is one more week of session until legislators embark on Spring Break, March 14-18. When they return to Jefferson City, eight weeks will remain in the regular session until adjournment on Friday the 13th of May. 

GOVERNOR APPOINTS NICKELSON AS DHSS ACTING DIRECTOR
On March 1, during a press conference at the state capitol, Governor Mike Parson announced his selection of Paula Nickelson to serve as the Acting Director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). The appointment was effective March 1. Nickelson, a Missouri native, has served within DHSS for more than 22 years and has a distinguished career in public health and health care management. For most of her time with DHSS, she has been a leader in program areas, including maternal-child health, chronic disease prevention, and emergency preparedness and response.

Nickelson was also involved in the state’s H1N1 response and planning efforts following the 9/11 attacks. Most recently, she was instrumental in COVID-19 response efforts. She helped establish the state’s first PPE warehouse, led an interagency team that implemented the “box it in” COVID mitigation strategy for long-term care facilities, oversaw the state’s antigen testing program, and led the implementation of the state’s decontamination system for N95 masks for health care workers when resources were still scarce.

Nickelson earned a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Central Missouri and a Master of Education in counseling psychology at the University of Missouri, Columbia. 

VACCINE MANDATES
The Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee met Wednesday morning to consider passage of SB 702, SB 651, SB 636, and SB 693, sponsored by Senator’s Karla Eslinger (R-Wasalo), Bill Eigel (R-Weldon Spring), Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis), and Rick Brattin (R-Belton). All four bills include provisions prohibiting all public and private employers from requiring an employee or prospective employee to receive a vaccination against COVID-19 as a condition of commencing or continuing employment. SB 693 varies slightly and includes additional provisions prohibiting political subdivisions from requiring a COVID-19 vaccination to access transportation systems, services, or public accommodations, and prohibits students from being required, as a condition of school attendance or participation in school-sponsored extracurricular activities, to be immunized against COVID-19 or to undergo any testing policy as an alternative to a COVID-19 vaccination. During committee discussion, substitute language was adopted to combine all provisions from the four bills into SB 702, creating one legislative vehicle. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 10-1 vote. 

House Bill 2631 (Kalberloh, R-Lowry City) requires that any elected official who orders the closure of a private business without proper authorization under state law or guidelines to address any public health concern or the spread of a contagious disease during a pandemic shall have his or her pay suspended during the period of private business closure. Hearing held Feb. 28 in the House Workforce Development Committee. No testimony in support or opposition of the bill.


Committee Activity

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. On March 2 the House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee voted the bill do pass by a vote of 6-3.
House Bill 1606 (McGaugh, R-Carrollton) requires a condensed county financial statement to be published annually, on or before June 30, in local newspapers in all counties of the first, second, third, or fourth classification. The bill was voted “do pass, consent” by the Consent and House Procedure Committee on March 1. 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 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 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. The House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee held an executive session on February 28 where HB 1878 was voted do pass by a vote of 9-4.
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 voted “do pass” by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee by a vote of 9-3 on March 2. 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.
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. House Committee Substitute for HB 2220 was voted “do pass” by the House Local Government Committee by a vote of 10-0 on March 3. The bill was amended to allow Stone County to eliminate two road commissioner positions. And a committee amendment was approved to prohibit municipalities of less than 3,500 population from collecting fines exceeding 10 percent of its total sales tax that is collected.
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. 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. On March 3 the House Rules-Legislative Oversight Committee voted HB 2289 do pass by a vote of 10-0.
House Bill 2502 (Houx, R-Warrensburg) and House Bill 2556 (Christofanelli, R-St. Peters) The bills are identical and seek to legalize sports betting in Missouri. During an executive session of the House Special Committee on Public Policy on March 2, substitute language was offered to combine both bills into one legislative vehicle. During committee discussion, Representative Ben Baker (R-Neosho) further amended the substitute to ensure elementary and secondary education athletic events are prohibited from the provisions of the bill, and increased the Problem Gambling Fund from $250,000 to $500,000. Representative Scott Cupps (R-Shell Knob) then amended the substitute to include a 5-year phase out to equal 100% of the promotional provisions that can be taken off before revenue is figured, and provided language to prohibit direct advertising as a condition of promoting. Committee Chairman Cupps then announced to the committee he was going to refrain from voting, unless he needed to break a tie-vote. Additionally, numerous other committee members expressed concern with the bill and stated the bill still needs a lot of work. However, it was stated they would vote to allow the bill to move forward so it could advance to the House floor for more deliberative debate and provide all members the ability to provide input. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 4-2 vote.
House Bill 2678 (McCreery, D-St. Louis) The bill allows elected officials to use campaign contribution funds to be used for reasonable legal fees incurred in defense of legal proceedings arising out of their official duties as elected officials. Hearing held March 2 in the House Judiciary Committee. No supporting or opposing testimony was provided.
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. The House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee voted HJR 94 do pass by a vote of 9-4 on February 28.
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. The House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee held an executive session on February 28 where HJR 125 was voted do pass by a vote of 9-4.
House Joint Resolution 128 (O’Donnell, R-St. Louis). Upon voter approval, this proposed Constitutional amendment would authorize the State Treasurer to invest certain funds not necessary for current expenses in obligations of the U.S. government or any agency or instrumentality thereof maturing and becoming payable not more than seven years from the date of purchase, municipal securities possessing one of the five highest long term ratings or the highest short term rating issued by a nationally recognized rating agency and maturing and becoming payable not more than five years from the date of purchase, and also invest in other reasonable and prudent financial instruments and securities as otherwise provided by law. HJR 128 was heard by the House Emerging Issues Committee on March 1. Testimony in favor of the resolution was offered by the Deputy State Treasurer. The committee took no action on the resolution. An observer raised a question with a committee member, asking if this is the same resolution as HJR 35 that was passed by the General Assembly in 2021 and sent to the Secretary of State’s office for the November 2022 statewide ballot.
House Joint Resolution 131 (Shaul, R-Imperial). Upon voter approval, this proposed constitutional amendment clarifies that only citizens of the United States are eligible to vote. The resolution requires that voters cast a single vote for each office or issue. Additionally, it requires that the plurality winner of any political party primary election be the only candidate for that political party on the ballot at the General Election. HJR 131 was heard by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee on March 2. Testimony in favor was presented by the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Secretary of State. Information only testimony was offered by Ron Calzone. The committee took no action on the resolution.
House Joint Resolution 132 (Kidd, R-Buckner). Upon voter approval, this proposed constitutional amendment requires that any constitutional amendment must receive both a majority of statewide votes and a majority vote in more than one-half of the state’s House of Representative districts in order to become effective. These requirements would also apply to constitutional changes or amendments proposed during a constitutional convention held under Article XII, section 3(c) of the Constitution of Missouri. HJR 132 was heard by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee on March 2. Ron Calzone of Missouri First and Mitch Hubbard of Callaway County offered testimony in favor of HJR 132. The committee took no action on the resolution.
Senate Bill 670 (White, R-Joplin) and Senate Bill 679 (Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville) were heard by the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee on March 2. SB 670 is an omnibus elections bill making changes to more than 15 elections statutes dealing with the Secretary of State’s audits of voter registration records, use of automatic vote tabulating equipment, absentee voting, voter identification, the use of paper ballots, and other provisions. SB 679 also modifies paper ballots and electronic voting machines, absentee voting, voter identification, challengers’ access to ballots, reporting of election results, and counting of ballots. The committee took no action on the bills. Testifying in opposition to both bills were the League of Women Voters of Missouri, AARP and Missouri NEA. The Opportunity Solutions Project testified in support of both bills with the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office testifying in support of SB 670 but for informational purposes for SB 679. The Missouri Association of County Clerks & Election Authorities and Greene Clerk testified for informational purposes on both bills.
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 an executive session of the Senate Government Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee on March 3, substitute language was adopted to clarify language. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 6-1 vote.
Senate Bill 827 (Hough, R-Springfield) The bill 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. After no discussion in an executive session of the Senate Commerce Committee on March 2, SB 827 was voted do pass by a vote of 11-0.
Senate Bill 845 (Eslinger, R-Wasola) was reviewed as a consent bill by the Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee on March 1. The committee agreed the bill should remain a consent bill. 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.
Senate Bill 919 (Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield) provides that a person commits the offense of mail theft or “porch piracy” if the person intentionally appropriates mail or packages from another person’s mailbox or premises without consent of the addressee and with intent to deprive such addressee of the mail. Sen. Burlison said reports show 210 million packages were stolen from doorsteps in the U.S. in 2021, and that 61 percent of Americans have been victims of this escalating problem. According to the legislation, the offense shall be a Class A misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class E felony for any second or subsequent offense. SB 919 shall not prohibit the person from being charged with another crime in relation to mail obtained in violation of the bill. The legislation was heard Feb. 28 by the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Justice Committee. Witnesses testifying in favor of the bill were Amazon Services and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The committee took no action on the bill.
Senate Bill 930 (Koenig, R-Manchester) The bill exempts any requests that include constituent contact information, and information regarding proposed legislation or the legislative process from MO Sunshine Law. Hearing held March 3 in the Senate Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee. During bill presentation, the sponsor informed committee members he is working on a committee substitute to exempt GPS data and security procedures of law enforcement into the provisions of the bill. The MO Municipal League, and Municipal League of Metro St. Louis supported the bill. MO Sunshine Coalition, and MO Press Association opposed the bill.
Senate Joint Resolution 31 (Onder, R-Lake St. Louis) Upon voter approval, the resolution increases the required threshold of voters from 8% to 15%, and raises the threshold from a simple majority to a 2/3 vote for any constitutional amendments. During an executive session of the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee on March 2, substitute language was adopted to stipulate only citizens of the United States are allowed to sign initiative petitions and includes ballot language. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 4-2 vote.
Senate Joint Resolution 37 (Crawford, R-Buffalo) Upon voter approval, the constitutional amendment requires initiative petitions proposing constitutional amendments to be approved by at least 60% of the votes, instead of a simple majority. During an executive session of the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee, substitute language was adopted to include an effective date of January 1, 2023, and requires 10% of legal voters from each of the congressional districts. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 4-2 vote.

Floor Activity

House Bill 1619 (VanSchoiack, R-Savannah) The bill 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. The bill allows 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. 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. Finally, the bill clarifies that the pilots of the unmanned aircrafts or drones need to be federally certified by the FAA. During floor debate on March 1, the sponsor successfully amended the bill to modify when law enforcement can use drones and included language to further prohibit drones from photographing, filming, videotaping, or creating an image of another person without consent. Representative Adam Schnelting (R-St. Charles) then amended the bill to carve out federally certified unmanned aircrafts operations, such as delivery drones. Once modified, the House provided its first of two necessary approval votes.
House Bill 2168 (Porter, R-Montgomery City) The bill states 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. After no debate on the House floor on March 2, the House provided its first of two necessary approval votes.

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