Legislative Report: Week 15: House Speeding, Senate Leaning

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Members of the Missouri House kept their pedals to the metal and sped through debate and votes on more than 55 bills on the floor this week. In the meantime, members of the Senate stayed up all Tuesday night into the wee early morning hours of Wednesday, locked in debate on legislation regulating reimbursements for water and sewer utilities and civil justice reforms. In fact, Missouri senators began their work at 2:00 on Tuesday afternoon and did not adjourn until 6:15 on Wednesday morning. This late-night session led to the cancellation of numerous Senate committee meetings and no floor activity Wednesday afternoon.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to spend next week “marking up” and passing its version of the $36 billion Fiscal Year 2022 state operating budget. This process should be different than in previous years as Missouri voters passed a measure to expand Medicaid eligibility in August and did not include a funding mechanism to cover the increased cost to the state’s general revenue fund. The House passed its version of the budget two weeks ago and did not fund Medicaid expansion. Many observers expect the Senate Appropriations Committee to debate and discuss reshaping the House-passed budget and to include state and federal dollars to pay for the additional population eligible for Medicaid. Many expect the Medicaid expansion to lead to a difficult standoff during the next three weeks as the Legislature must pass the state operating budget by 6:00 p.m. on May 7, according to the state constitution.

The State of Missouri has halted administering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after six cases in the U.S. were noted of rare blood clots in women who had received the vaccine. Federal health agencies on Tuesday recommended suspending J&J vaccinations, and Missouri did the same with a new health order and to await further guidance from the Food and Drug Administration. The order does not affect Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. Data on Thursday showed 2,010,582 people in Missouri have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 1,338,159 people have completed their vaccinations.

Rep. Rick Roeber (R-Lee’s Summit), who won election in November 2020 to replace his late wife, resigned from the House this week, effective April 16. Roeber is accused of sexually abusing his children when they were younger and has been under investigation for several months by the House Ethics Committee. On Thursday, Rep. Travis Fitzwater (R-Holts Summit), chairman of the Ethics Committee, objected to the resignation until the committee’s work on the Roeber investigation concludes. House members then voted 153-0 that Roeber’s resignation be postponed. Rep. Rebecca Roeber died in 2019 of injuries suffered in a car accident.

Committee Activity

House Bill 271 (Wiemann, R-O’Fallon) establishes the “Missouri Local Government Expenditure Database” to be maintained by the state Office of Administration. According to the bill, for each fiscal year beginning after Dec. 31, 2022, the database must include extensive information about a given municipality’s or county’s expenditures and the vendors to whom payments were made. A municipality or county may voluntarily participate in the database or may be required to participate if a petition process used by its residents is used to require participation. The database must be accessible by the public without charge. The bill would not apply to villages with fewer than 50 residents. On April 14, the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee voted do pass on SCS HB 271 by a vote of 7-0. The Senate Committee Substitute changed the bill’s title to “expenditures of local governments” and added Sen. Crawford’s “county treasurer bill” allowing county treasurers to have access to all county documents that are financially relevant and in possession of any county official.

House Bill 290 (Roberts, R-Joplin) states that a person commits the offense of organized retail theft if the person, alone or in concert with others, commits a series of thefts of retail merchandise against a merchant with the intent to return the merchandise to the merchant for value or resell the merchandise for value, with penalties. The House Public Safety Committee on March 11 voted do pass on HCS HB 290. The substitute bill was returned to the Public Safety Committee by a House Rules Committee. HCS HB 290 specifies that a high-volume third-party seller on an online marketplace must provide to the marketplace certain information, such as bank account information and contact information, within 24 hours of becoming a high-volume seller. The online marketplace must verify within three days the information provided by the seller. Also, the online marketplace must, at least annually, notify each high-volume third-party seller that the seller must inform the marketplace within three days of any changes to the information provided. On April 13, the House Public Safety Committee conducted a hearing on HCS HB 290. Rep. Roberts, the bill sponsor, said the HCS changed his original bill significantly. Rep. Shane Roden, R-Cedar Hill, the committee chairman, said by requiring third-party verification, he thought the substitute bill provides good consumer protection. Testimony in support of the bill was provided by the Missouri Retailers Association, Walgreen’s, and Walmart, saying the substitute bill is a consumer protection bill, designed to discourage mass selling of stolen and fake products in the online marketplace. Testimony in opposition was presented by TechNet, a national network of technology leaders, saying the HCS would have adverse impact on small sellers, would create general privacy concerns, and would do little to curb online retail crime. TechNet said it is not opposed to the original bill. Missouri Press Association submitted written testimony in opposition to the bill because online classified advertising may be unintentionally affected by the substitute bill. The committee took no action on the bill.

House Bill 333 (Simmons, R-Washington) amends statutory regulations of the initiative petition process. The bill changes the format of petition signature sheets and requires a $500 refundable filing fee for each initiative or referendum petition. The bill allows the Secretary of State’s Petition Publications Fund to pay for any refunds. The deadline for submitting sample sheets to circulate petitions for signatures will be no earlier than 12 weeks following a general election. The bill specifies that any court ordered changes to a ballot title results in the invalidation of signatures collected prior to the order. On April 14, the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee voted do pass on HB 333 by a vote of 5-1.

House Bill 850 (Wiemann, R-O’Fallon) prohibits the modification of summary statements or ballot language approved by the General Assembly for state constitutional amendments or statutory measures. Courts will not have jurisdiction to rewrite or edit such language prior to placing it on the ballot. The secretary of state and attorney general would maintain their authority to review ballot language. On April 14, the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee voted do pass on HB 850 by a vote of 5-2.

Senate Bill 153 (Koenig, R-Manchester) commonly referred to as Wayfair, creates a framework for online sales tax collection. Throughout the bill’s legislative progression, various modifications were made to reflect years of negotiations. Sales tax caps were eliminated. Money generated from online sales tax collection will be deposited into the cash operating expense fund in order to calculate exact collections. Beginning August 28, 2023, the cable franchise fee paid to municipalities for right of way utilization will be reduced by 2.5% over the next five years and will be capped at 2.5% of gross revenues by 2027. Income tax rates are reduced by 0.1% each year for three years should net general revenue collections meet certain levels. The language also includes the “Missouri Working Family Tax Credit Act” to provide eligible taxpayers credits up to 20% of the federal earned income tax credit. The bill was a magnet for opinions and rhetoric. Much committee discussion centered on upfront tax cuts, use tax reauthorization votes, tax implementation at local and state levels. Hearing held April 14 in the House Ways and Means Committee. The MO Retailers Association, MO Society of CPAs, Associated Industries of MO, MO Cable Telecommunications Associations, City of Columbia, and St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, Wal-Mart, Greater St. Louis Inc., City of St. Charles, City of Chesterfield, Municipal League of Metro St. Louis, and MO Association of Counties supported the bill. No opposing testimony was presented during the hearing.

House Bill 900 (Rep. Tony Lovasco, R-O’Fallon) relates to strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP). The bill specifies that all laws in Missouri must be construed to afford qualified immunity from lawsuits and liability for any defendant or counter-defendant in any action that impacts the defendant’s or counter-defendant’s First Amendment rights, and the bill provides procedures for defending against such lawsuits. If a person successfully defends against a SLAPP lawsuit, the person may bring a claim to recover any damages, costs, and fees the trial court failed to grant. Such damages, fees, and costs include statutory damages of at least $10,000, compensatory damages, additional damages to the plaintiff in an amount calculated to deter the SLAPP plaintiff from bringing future SLAPP lawsuits, and attorneys’ fees and costs. Rep. Lovasco said the bill creates a state of qualified immunity for a person to use First Amendment rights of free speech. On April 15, the House Special Committee on Litigation Reform voted do pass on HB 900 by a vote of 6-1. Committee members, who voted in favor of the bill, said more work needs to be done on bill language.

House Bill 1177 (Davis, R-Kansas City) is the House companion to SB 605, sponsored by Senator Andrew Koening (R-Manchester) and establishes the Government Lending Transparency Act and creates new reporting requirements for the state auditor relating to state lending and credit support programs. During committee discussion in the House Downsizing State Government Committee on April 14, substitute language was adopted to align the language with its Senate companion by clarifying terms. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 10-0 vote.

House Joint Resolutions 20, 2, 9 & 27 (Henderson, R-Bonne Terre). Upon voter approval, this proposed Constitutional amendment would require an amendment to the state constitution to achieve a two-thirds supermajority vote for passage. Amendments referred by the General Assembly will take effect 30 days after the election if approved. The resolution 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. The resolution also requires petition signatures to place a measure on the ballot as a constitutional amendment to be collected in each congressional district using a percentage requirement of 10 percent. The resolution contains ballot language submitted to the voters under Chapter 116, RSMo. On April 14, the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee voted do pass on HJR 20, et al, by a vote of 5-2.

Senate Bill 119 (Burlison, R-Battlefield) establishes the “Caller ID Anti-Spoofing Act”, which creates the offense of caller identification spoofing and adds call spoofing as a method of telephone solicitation prohibited under the telemarketing no-call list provisions of law. Hearing held April 12 in the House General Laws. One private citizen testified in support of the bill. No testimony in opposition.

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 April 15, the House Economic Development Committee conducted a hearing on SB 365. No public testimony was presented on the bill. Sen. Wieland said the bill had passed as a consent bill, 34-0, in the Senate. His county assessor asked him to introduce the bill. The assessor estimates the savings in postage could be $65,000, Sen. Wieland said. The committee took no action on SB 365.

Floor Activity

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. Also, if a municipality does not have a website, it is not required to create one for this purpose. On April 15, the House third read and passed HB 27 by a vote of 150-0. The bill now moves to the Senate.

House Bill 29 (Walsh, R-Ashland) adds all public employee retirement systems and quasi-governmental entities employees’ salaries and any incentive pay to the state’s government accountability portal in the same manner as all state departments and agencies report for public transparency. On April 12, the House perfected and printed HB 29 on a voice vote. A floor amendment was added to establish the “Government Lending Transparency Act,” to reveal government-backed debt in any state lending program that offers funds to private parties or municipalities that is expected to be repaid. The bill needs one more House vote before moving to the Senate.

House Bill 165 (Richey, R-Excelsior Springs) and House Bill 196 (Ellebracht, D-Liberty) would establish recall procedures for county commissioners in counties of the first classification. The bills would set recall petition requirements including the number of signatures required (10 percent of registered voters in the county) for a recall election to be conducted. The HCS for HB 165 & 196 requires 60 percent of qualified voters voting on the question must vote for removal, otherwise the commissioner shall continue to serve. On April 12, the House perfected and printed HB 165 & 196 on a voice vote. A floor amendment was added giving control to the presiding judge of the circuit court to establish rules and procedures for court facilities in any courthouse that contains both county offices and court facilities; and another amendment to require a county board of equalization to promptly issue a receipt to any person lodging an appeal to the board. The bill needs one more House vote before moving to the Senate.

House Bill 177 (Ellebracht, D-Liberty) 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. On April 13, several House floor amendments were added to the bill, including an amendment that in Kansas City and St. Louis, in a proceeding for a municipal ordinance violation or any other proceeding before a municipal court if the charge carries the possibility of 15 days or more in jail, a defendant shall not be charged any fee for obtaining a police report, a probable cause statement, or any video relevant to the traffic stop or arrest. Another floor amendment to HB 117 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 amended bill also 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. On April 15, the House third read and passed HB 177 by a vote of 150-1. The bill now moves to the Senate.

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. The bill adds an “opt-in” for people who wish their names to be publicized. On April 15, the House third read and passed HB 402 by a vote of 149-0. The bill now moves to the Senate.

House Bill 441 (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. The bill includes several floor amendments, including an amendment by Rep. Mike Henderson (R-Bonne Terre) that is identical to his HB 351, a bill supported by the fireworks industry, to extend statutes involving burn bans but shall not ban consumer fireworks, as defined, in all non-charter counties in Missouri. During floor debate on April 14, an amendment was added by Rep. Peggy McGaugh (R-Carrollton) that will condense the annual county financial statement published in local newspapers in counties of the first, second, third, and four classification, an amendment supported by the Missouri Press Association. HB 441 was perfected and printed on April 14 by a House vote of 98-48. The bill needs one more House vote before moving to the Senate.

House Bill 848, 617 & 822 (Sander, R-Lone Jack) establishes the “Daylight Saving as New Standard Time Pact” consisting of Missouri and any other state desiring to abstain from observation of Daylight Saving Time (DST). The bill exempts all areas of the state from the federal DST provisions. In the year in which a majority of states bordering Missouri have passed legislation entering those states into the Pact, each state will switch clocks to Daylight Saving for the last time and DST will be eliminated. On April 14, the House perfected and printed HB 848, 617 & 822 on a voice vote. Another House vote is needed to send the bill to the Senate.

House Bill 920 (Baker, R-Neosho) would change the election day for city, county, political subdivision, and special district officers from the current April date to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November each year, effective Jan. 1, 2022. On April 13, the House perfected and printed HB 920 on a voice vote. A floor amendment failed that would have continued April elections for city, county, political subdivision, and special district officers. Another House vote is needed to send the bill to the Senate.

House Bill 1030 (Taylor, R-Republic) creates the “Personal Privacy Protection Act”, creating provisions relating to the disclosure of personal information to public agencies. The bill prohibits public agencies from: (1) Requiring any person to provide a government agency with personal information or otherwise compel the release of such personal information, as defined in the bill; (2) Requiring any entity exempt from federal income taxation under Section 501(c) of the IRS Code to provide a public agency with personal information or otherwise compel the release of personal information; (3) Releasing, publicizing, or otherwise publicly disclosing personal information, as defined, in possession of the public agency; or (4) Requiring any current or prospective contractor or grantee with the public agency to provide the public agency with a list of entities exempt from federal income taxation under Section 501(c) of the IRS Code to which it has provided financial or nonfinancial support. The bill’s language allows the Missouri Ethics Commission to release information when responding to a lawful request or subpoena. On April 13, the House perfected and printed HB 1030 on a voice vote. The bill needs another House vote before moving to the Senate.

TAFP – Senate Bill 189 (Washington, D-Kansas City) allows for the issuance of a “Negro Leagues Baseball Museum” specialty license plate upon making a $10 contribution to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and a $15 fee in addition to the regular registration fee. On April 14, the House truly agreed and finally passed SB 189 by a vote of 149-0.

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