House Bill 27 (Walsh, R-Ashland) requires posting notice, required under the Sunshine Law, of meeting times, dates, places, and agendas as well as minutes of open meetings on a public governmental body’s website and social media pages. In addition, public governmental bodies must post proposed and adopted rules, ordinances, laws, or regulations on their website and social media pages within three days after the meeting at which they are proposed or adopted exclusive of weekends and holidays. The House Special Committee on Government Accountability held an executive session on March 22 where House Committee Substitute for HB 27 was voted do pass by a vote of 12-0. The substitute states if the municipality does not have a website then it does not have to create one for this purpose, includes statutory reference changes from the AG’s office, and changed from one business day to three business days, exclusive of weekends and holidays, to get information posted. On March 25 the House Rules-Administrative Oversight committee voted HB 27 do pass by a vote of 11-0.
House Bill 251 (Schroer, R-O’Fallon) adds Subdivision (4) of Subsection 1 of Sec. 571.030, RSMo, which is when a person exhibits, in the presence of one or more persons, any weapon readily capable of lethal use in an angry or threatening manner, to the offenses eligible for expungement. On March 24, the House Judiciary Committee conducted a hearing on HB 251. Testimony in favor of the bill was presented by two attorneys who represent clients. The committee took no action on the bill.
House Bill 362 (DeGroot, R-Ellisville) amends several portions of the Sunshine Law. The bill was heard on March 25 by the Senate Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee. HB 362 closes email addresses and telephone numbers submitted to a public governmental body by persons or entities for the sole purpose of receiving electronic or other communications limited to newsletters, notifications, advisories, and alerts. The House had added the following amendments to HB 362: — Allows closure of meetings of a public governmental body when the discussion topic includes evacuation and lockdown procedures for a building owned or leased by the public governmental body or software or surveillance companies that secure access to such buildings, the public disclosure of which would threaten public safety. — Adds individually identifiable customer usage and billing records for residential customers of a municipally owned utility to the list of records that may be closed under the Sunshine Law. — Allows a public records custodian to act later than three days after a records request is made, if a published notice is provided at least 72 hours prior to the request for records that the public governmental body will be closed for an extended period outside of normal hours of operation. Testifying in support of the bill were Joe Garritano, Wildwood city council member, who said personal information such as email addresses submitted by residents to receive city newsletters should not be available for businesses to obtain and use; the Missouri Municipal League, the Municipal League of Metropolitan St. Louis, and City Utilities of Springfield. No opposition testimony was presented. Written testimony was submitted by the Missouri Press Association concerning language in the bill that could be interpreted to affect and delay public notice requests when state legislators are out of session. The committee took no action on the bill.
House Bill 381 (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. The bill language includes the name and current gross annual salary of each elected or appointed county official whose salary is set by the county salary commission. On March 23 the House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee held an executive session where HB381 was voted do pass by a vote of 13-0.
House Bill 402 (Mosley, D-St. Louis) prohibits the Lottery Commission, state lottery, any contracted organization, or any of their employees from publicizing the name, address, or identifying information of a lottery winner in printed or electronic form for distribution or sale to the public. Any violation of these provisions is a class A misdemeanor. On March 22, the House General Laws Committee voted do pass on House Committee Substitute for HB 402 by a vote of 16-0. The amended bill adds an “opt-in” for people who wish their names to be publicized.
House Bill 580 (Riggs, R-Hannibal) requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to submit an annual report to the General Assembly listing the number of elementary and secondary students who do not have home internet access or who have limited home internet access. Hearing held March 23 in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. The Missouri School Board Association supported the bill. No opposing testimony was presented during the hearing.
House Bill 617 (Rogers, D-Kansas City), House Bill 822 (O’Donnell, R-St. Louis) and House Bill 848 (Sander, R-Lone Jack) were heard in the House Downsizing State Government Committee on March 24. The bills establish the “Daylight Saving as New Standard Time Pact”. There were no witnesses to testify in support or opposition of the bill and the committee took no further action.
House Bill 764 (Andrews, R-Grant City) Currently, to legally qualify as a newspaper to publish public notices, a 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 764 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. On March 25 the House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee voted HB 764 do pass by a vote of 10-1.
House Bill 842 (Hill, R-Lake St. Louis) Beginning on January 1, 2022 this bill requires the use of paper ballots marked by hand. Electronic touch screen machines may be used to assist disabled voters until January 1, 2024, and ballot marking devices may be used to assist disabled voters at any time. During committee discussion in an executive session of the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee on March 24, substitute language was adopted to provide technical changes. Once modified, the committee voted the bill do pass by a vote of 8-2.
House Bill 1091 (Hovis, R-Cape Girardeau) would create privileged communication protections for persons who report alleged criminal activities to a crime stoppers organization. On March 23, the House Public Safety Committee voted do pass on the bill by a vote of 6-0. HB 1091 specifies that no person will be required to disclose, by testimony or otherwise, a privileged communication between a person who submits a report of alleged criminal activity to a crime stoppers organization and the person who accepts the report on behalf of the organization or to produce, under subpoena, any records, documentary evidence, opinions, or decisions related to the privileged communication, as specified in the bill. Any person arrested or charged with a criminal offense may petition the court for private inspection of the records of a privileged communication concerning the person made to a crime stoppers organization.
House Bill 1135 (Hardwick, R-Waynesville). Currently, notice to sell defaulted property in a self-service storage unit by the facility’s operator must be made in the classified section of a newspaper in the jurisdiction. HB 1135 allows newspaper notice or allows the seller to advertise in any other commercially reasonable manner. The advertisement is “commercially reasonable” if at least three independent bidders attend or view the sale at the time and place advertised. The House Emerging Issues Committee held an executive session on March 23 where HB 1135 was voted do pass by a vote of 13-0.
House Bill 1162 (Trent, R-Springfield) prevents public schools from posting or publishing publicly any individually identifiable information about a child, parent, or guardian without consent. Information may be disclosed internally. On March 22, the House General Laws Committee voted do pass on HB 1162 by a vote of 16-0. The bill establishes procedures governing the use of and access to student data by third parties. Whenever a school provides access to student data to a contractor, the contractor shall agree to a written contract with the school governing the contractor’s access to and use of student data. The bill also requires the operators of school websites that collect, maintain, or use student data to maintain security practices designed to protect student data. The bill requires notification of the school and affected students and parents if security breaches cause the unauthorized disclosure of student data. The bill also establishes a task force to study issues relating to student data privacy.
House Bill 1209 (Morse, R-Dexter) Currently, political subdivisions that fail to submit the required annual financial statement to the State Auditor are fined $500 a day. The bill reduces the fine to an amount of not more than 10% of the total sales and use tax revenue of the fiscal year for which the annual financial statement was not filed for municipalities with fewer than 3,500 inhabitants. Hearing held March 25 in the House Local Government Committee. No supporting or opposing testimony was provided during the hearing.
House Bill 1345 (Rep. Scott Cupps, R-Shell Knob) modifies and creates new provisions relating to legal notices in newspapers. HB 1345 modifies the requirements for the publication of statewide ballot measures by the Secretary of State to be in conformity with the current Missouri Constitution. HB 1345 also modifies the unclaimed property notice requirements required to be made by the State Treasurer. The bill would allow the State Treasurer to use any method he or she deems appropriate and consistent with the intent to notify the owners of the property. The bill allows the State Treasurer to exclude unclaimed property notices in newspapers and by mail.
On March 22, the House General Laws Committee conducted a hearing on HB 1345. Rep. Cupps said the current unclaimed property notice statute was enacted before social media avenues on the internet came into existence. He said his bill would allow the State Treasurer to decide how to notify unclaimed property owners. State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick (R) testified in support of the bill and said about $100 million in unclaimed property is turned over to his office every year. He said he spends about $1 million with newspapers to try to reach unclaimed property owners. “We believe that print still is a valuable medium in some parts of the state,” Fitzpatrick said. Rep. Wes Rogers (D-Kansas City) noted that in some rural and urban areas of the state there is limited access to the internet. “We would look at it on a county-by-county basis,” Fitzpatrick said, remarking that he would still plan to use some newspapers. Rep. Rogers noted the newspaper industry is struggling. “I don’t think this one thing would cause a newspaper to go out of business,” Fitzpatrick answered. Rep. Mitch Boggs (R-LaRussell) suggested to the State Treasurer, “You don’t like the mandate part of the statutes. This will untie you to find an efficient method to find owners of unclaimed property.” Fitzpatrick told the committee that he is “open to continuing conversation” with the Missouri Press Association but did not agree to any compromises that MPA had offered, the last offer being to require only one insertion of the unclaimed property notice instead of two insertions.
Testimony in opposition to HB 1345 was given by Gary Castor, managing editor of the Jefferson City News Tribune, who was critical of the effects of such a bill on government transparency. He said a neutral third party such as a newspaper should publish public notices, not the government publishing its own notices. He said a large segment of the state’s population would be left behind, including his father who lives in northwest Missouri, if newspaper notices were eliminated. Many areas lack high-speed internet, he said. “Taxpayers would have to find the website,” he noted. Mark Maassen, executive director of the MPA, told the committee about efforts to compromise with the State Treasurer. He said even though Fitzpatrick has said he would continue to use some newspapers in publicizing unclaimed property, “what about the next Treasurer?” Information only testimony was presented by an assistant to the Secretary of State. The committee took no further action on the bill.
House Joint Resolution 39 (Seitz, R-Branson) Upon voter approval, this proposed Constitutional amendment provides that any individual 65 years or older that has a Missouri taxable income of less than $45,000 will not be subject to or liable for any property tax. The sponsor stated the bill needs more work and plans to submit an amendment adjusting the age range and income level stated in the bill as filed. Hearing held March 24 in the House Ways and Means Committee. No testimony in support or opposition of the bill.
House Joint Resolution 42 (Griesheimer, R-Washington). Upon voter approval, this proposed Constitutional amendment would limit service in the General Assembly for members elected on or after November 8, 2022, to 12 years total in any proportion between the two houses of the General Assembly. An existing exemption for service of less than one year for House members, or less than two years for Senate members, serving the term of another person is maintained. During committee discussion in an executive session of the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee on March 24, substitute language was adopted to remove language from the resolution stating “service of General Assembly resulting in election prior to 1992” to allow the inclusion of current elected members if the resolution shall pass. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a vote of 8-2.
House Joint Resolution 47 (Bailey, R-Eureka). Upon voter approval, this resolution proposes amending the Missouri constitution to change the state board of education (SBE) from being appointed by the Governor to a board elected at the same time as the next presidential election. One member will be elected from each congressional district by the voters of the congressional district and one member will be elected by the voters of the state. Vacancies may be filled by the Governor as outlined in the bill. On March 23 the House Rules-Legislative Oversight Committee held an executive session where HJR47 was voted do pass by a vote of 9-2.
Senate Bill 180 (Sen. Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville) modifies provisions relating to the adoption and review of administrative rules by state agencies. On March 23, the Senate General Laws Committee voted do pass on Senate Committee Substitute for SB 180 by a vote of 5-2. The substitute bill requires that any state agency adopting or amending a rule shall rescind a rule that is unnecessary, obsolete, or burdensome. The rule to be rescinded shall be listed in the notice of proposed rulemaking of the proposed new or amended rule. The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules may grant an exception to this requirement upon the agency’s application for good cause. All rules shall expire five years after the year in which the rule takes effect unless the rule contains an earlier expiration date. All rules in effect on Jan. 1, 2022, shall expire on Jan. 1, 2027. The expiration date shall be extended each time that an unexpired rule is amended and the requirement of rescinded unnecessary, obsolete, or burdensome rules shall not apply to orders of rulemaking reauthorizing expiring rules.Additionally, these provisions shall not apply to proposed or existing rules promulgated by a board, commission, committee, council, or office assigned to the Division of Professional Registration.No later than a year after the review report on an agency’s rules is filed, this act requires that each agency amend or rescind rules identified as unnecessary, obsolete, overlapping, duplicating or conflicting with other state rules, accomplished by a less restrictive rule, or burdensome unless the agency provides good cause.
Senate Bill 214 (Hough, R-Springfield) adds individually identifiable customer usage and billing records for residential 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 a commercial customer’s name, billing address, location of service, and dates of service provided for any commercial service account. The bill’s language is supported by the Missouri Press Association. On March 24, the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy & the Environment Committee conducted a hearing on SB 214. Testimony in favor of the bill was presented by City Utilities of Springfield, Missouri Press Association, and the Missouri Association of Municipal Utilities. No testimony in opposition. The committee took no action on the bill.
Senate Bill 272 (Mosley, D-St. Louis) prohibits the Lottery Commission, state lottery, any contracted organization, or any of their employees from publicizing the name, address, or identifying information of a lottery winner in printed or electronic form for distribution or sale to the public. Any violation of these provisions is a class A misdemeanor. On March 23, the Senate General Laws Committee conducted a hearing on SB 272. No testimony in support was presented. Written testimony in opposition was submitted by the Missouri Press Association. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mosley, said she has a senate committee substitute for SB 272 that will add an “opt-in” for those winners who wish to release their names to the public. The committee took no action on the bill.
Senate Bill 365 (Wieland, R-Imperial) allows a county assessor, upon request of a taxpayer, to send personal property tax lists and notices in electronic form.On March 25 the Senate third read and passed SB 365 by a vote of 34-0. The bill will now move to the House for further consideration.
Senate Bill 378 (Onder, R-Lake St. Louis) establishes the paper ballot as the official ballot in Missouri. The sponsor’s intent with the bill is to phase out the use of electronic voting machines in an attempt to reduce election fraud. Hearing held March 24 in the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee. The MO Secretary of State, MO Coalition for Transparent and Secure Elections, Mid Missouri Patriots, Concerned Women for America, and numerous private citizens supported the bill. The MO NEA opposed the bill.
Senate Bill 399 (Eigel, R-St. Charles) provides that no court shall have jurisdiction to hear any action challenging the summary statement or fiscal note summary prepared by the General Assembly for a statewide ballot measure prepared by the General Assembly. On March 24 the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee held an executive session where SB 399 was voted do pass by a vote of 4-2.
Senate Bill 408 (Sen. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial) modifies the notice requirements required to be made by the State Treasurer for purposes of disposing of unclaimed property and would allow the State Treasurer to use any method of notification to owners of the property. Currently, notice must be published annually in a newspaper of general circulation once a week for two successive weeks in each county of property that is presumed to be abandoned. Newspaper notice could be eliminated under this legislation. On March 23, the Senate General Laws Committee voted do pass on SB 408 by a vote of 5-2. Prior to the vote, Sen. Greg Razer (D-Kansas City) said he has been in discussion with Sen. Wieland about a possible amendment to SB 408. The bill did emerge from committee as introduced without any amendments.
Senate Bill 547
(Hoskins, R-Warrensburg) changes laws regarding the consequences of a political subdivision for failure to file an annual financial statement with the State Auditor as required by law. The Senate Local Government and Elections Committee held an executive session on March 24 where Senate Committee Substitute for SB 547 was voted do pass by a vote of 6-0. The substitute language was adopted to mirror the House companion bill and provide technical changes.