Legislative Report: Week 16: Governor Announces Major DHSS Changes

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On Tuesday, Governor Mike Parson named his deputy chief of staff Robert Knodell as acting director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), effective immediately. Governor Parson had accepted a letter of resignation from Dr. Randall Williams earlier that day. “Dr. Williams has been a huge asset to Missouri, especially this past year in dealing with COVID-19,” the Governor said. “We greatly appreciate all the work he has done for the people of our state and wish him the best in his future endeavors.” Williams had served four years as DHSS director.

Knodell has served as deputy chief of staff to the Governor since 2018. “As deputy chief of staff, Robert brings valuable knowledge and leadership experience to our team and the entire state of Missouri,” Governor Parson said. “For more than a year, he has also played a leading role in Missouri’s COVID-19 response efforts, and I am more than confident in him to take over as acting director of the Department of Health and Senior Services.”

Reports this week said Drew Erdmann, chief operating officer under Governor Parson, was leaving the staff, also. Both Erdmann and Williams were appointed to their positions by former Governor Eric Greitens.

“Senate position.” “House position.” “Governor’s position.” Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee have been working long hours this week, reviewing the FY2022 state operating budget, line-by-line, deciding whether to recommend the Senate, the House, or the Governor’s spending position on billions of dollars.

On Wednesday night, the Senate Committee took up Medicaid expansion (increased citizen eligibility), and the vote failed on a 7-7 tie. This debate and vote set up a major debate for next week in the Senate chamber. The Senate Appropriations Chair Dan Hegeman (R-Cosby) voted against Medicaid expansion, and thus the proponents of increasing the Medicaid rolls are likely to be unsuccessful. The Missouri House elected to not fund Medicaid expansion in its proposed budget in March. The clock is ticking on the budget, which must pass the General Assembly by 6:00 p.m. on Friday, May 7.

This week Missouri House members continued their efforts to move numerous bills from their chamber on issues such as public education, local government, and criminal justice. The House spent two days debating and ultimately laying over a bill that would address issues surrounding transgender athletics in Missouri high school activities. The bill created a very heated and controversial debate at times. The House will return to work Monday at 4:00 p.m.

On Wednesday, the House third read and passed House Complaint No. 2, submitted by the House Ethics Committee, voting 153-0 to expel Rep. Rick Roeber (R-Lee’s Summit). Roeber had been under investigation by the Ethics Committee after accusations that he sexually abused his children when they were younger. Roeber had submitted his resignation, effective April 16, but the House unanimously voted to postpone the resignation until the Ethics Committee’s investigation and report could be completed. Roeber won election in November 2020 to replace his late wife, Rep. Rebecca Roeber, who died in 2019 of injuries suffered in a car accident.

Committee Activity

House Bill 201 (McGirl, R-Potosi) includes anyone employed by the Department of Corrections, corrections officers, jailers, municipal judges, members of the General Assembly, elected officials of the state or any political subdivision, and probation and parole officers in the list of persons whose home address and vehicle information is to be kept confidential by the Department of Revenue. Hearing held April 20 in the Senate Transportation Committee. No supporting or opposing testimony was provided during the hearing.

House Bill 228 (Basye, R-Rocheport) prevents any public-school districts and charter schools from prohibiting a parent or guardian from audio recording any meeting held under the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or a Section 504 plan meeting. Hearing held April 20 in the Senate Education Committee. MO Disability and Empowerment, and Kids Win MO supported the bill. No opposing testimony was provided during the hearing.

House Bill 273 (Hannegan, R-St. Charles) The Senate Professional Registration Committee approved HB 273, an omnibus bill, by a vote of 4-0 on April 19. Nine bills were rolled into a Senate Committee Substitute for HB 273, which prohibits the Division of Professional Registration from requiring a license if a person engages solely in shampooing under the supervision of a licensed barber or cosmetologist. The following legislation was added in the substitute:

House Bill 476 (Grier, R-Chesterfield) modifies provisions relating to occupational license reciprocity for military members.

SCS/Senate Bill 308 (Koenig, R-Manchester) modifies criminal background check procedures for certain professional licensing authorities.

Senate Bill 330 (Burlison, R-Battlefield)/House Bill 542 (Shields, R-St. Joseph) adopts the Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact.

SCS/Senate Bill 257 (Burlison, R-Battlefield)/House Bill 481 (Coleman, R-Grain Valley) modifies provisions relating to the licensure of architects, engineers, and landscape architects.

Senate Bill 9 (Riddle, R-Mokane) modifies provisions relating to prisoner complaints against a psychologist’s license.

Senate Bill 473 (Brown, R-Rolla) authorizes discipline against real estate licensees related to advertisement.

Senate Bill 584 (Eslinger, R-Wasola) modifies provisions related to advanced practice registered nurses.

Senate Bill 548 (Hoskins, R-Warrensburg) allows insurance producers to receive continuing education credit hours for participation in a professional insurance association.

SCS/Senate Bill 263 (Crawford, R-Buffalo) modifies provisions of the Uniform Athlete Agents Act.

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 April 20 voted do pass on the original HB 290. The vote was 6-0. The bill sets the offense of organized retail theft as a class C felony if the aggregated value of all the thefts committed during a 120-day period is at least $1,500 and no more than $10,000, and a class B felony if the aggregated value is $10,000 or more. The factors for determining the aggregated value are specified in the bill. The bill had been returned to the Public Safety Committee after controversy emerged regarding a House Committee Substitute bill that had been approved.

House Bill 480 (Rep. Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peters) establishes the “Cronkite New Voices Act” to strengthen freedom of the press rights of college and high school students in public schools, colleges, and universities. On April 20, the House Elementary and Secondary Committee conducted a hearing on HB 480. Rep. Christofanelli said the bill had passed the House during the past three or four sessions, but has not passed the Senate. He said the bill provides clarity to which restrictions school districts can apply to student journalists. Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern (D-Kansas City), a committee member and former school teacher and student newspaper sponsor, said the legislation would allow students “to really practice the craft” of journalism. Testifying in favor of the bill was Mark Maassen of the Missouri Press Association. Maassen said 14 states have passed such legislation and no lawsuits have occurred as a result. He said a hope for HB 480 is to encourage young journalists to work in the industry. No testimony in opposition to the bill was presented. The committee took no action on the bill.

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. On April 22 the House Rules-Legislative Oversight Committee voted HB 580 do pass.

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 22 the House Rules-Legislative Oversight Committee voted the bill do pass.

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 Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee held an executive session on April 22 where HB 1135 was voted do pass by a vote of 12-0.

Senate Bill 5 (Wieland, R-Imperial) modifies provisions relating to certain infrastructure improvement districts. Under current law, no Advanced Industrial Manufacturing (AIM) multi-modal port authority zone may be established after Aug. 28, 2023. This bill extends that sunset to Aug. 28, 2030. On April 22, the House Economic Development Committee conducted a hearing on SB 5. Testimony in favor of the bill was offered by the Kansas City Port Authority, Missouri Port Authority Association (representing 15 ports and 17 authorities), the South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Northland Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. No testimony in opposition. The committee took no action on the bill.

Senate Bill 153 & 97 (Koenig, R-Manchester) was approved by a vote of 8-2 in House Ways and Means on April 21. This bill is a priority of the Senate and House Republican Majorities and allows for the collection of state and local sales taxes for online purchases. This bill and the House companion bill (HB 554) contain numerous other tax provisions as well. There was no discussion on the video service provider fee language, however the House Committee Substitute includes a preemption of taxes on satellite and streaming services.

The HCS adds:

-Includes the Senate position which allows for certified service providers or the Department of Revenue to use Streamline, however, the service providers will not get the 2% timely filing discount if used.

-Includes the Senate position of a two-year implementation of the Wayfair tax increase and income tax reduction.

-Includes the Senate position to tax taxable sales only.

-Includes the Senate position on time zones and sales tax holidays with one change related to the timing of the sales tax holiday which would be based on the location of the buyer rather than the location of the seller.

-The cash reserve fund language was removed.

-The Missouri Working Family Tax Credit “EITC” was modified to mirror the language included in House Bill 1139 which replaces the current ten bracket income tax rate structure with a single bracket and increases the Missouri standard deduction by $4,000.

-Compromise language was added on the timing of the income tax cut to include .1% up front followed by an additional .2%.

-Two amendments were added including a technical correction requested by the Department of Revenue and the creation of a tax credit to fund a presumptive cancer trust fund for firefighters with an aggregate cap of $4 million.

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 22, the House Economic Development Committee voted do pass on House Committee Substitute for SB 365 by a vote of 10-1. The substitute bill now includes: exempting federal COVID personal income payments from state taxes; earnings tax exemption for income earned outside the City of St. Louis because of telecommuting; exemption for earnings tax for minimum wage earners (voters in metropolitan cities must approve the exemption before it would go into effect); income tax exemption as a work incentive and reward for any person under age 23 on income up to $50,000; and allowing a safe harbor for companies having issues with certain paperwork during COVID.

Floor Activity

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. The bill includes 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. On April 19, HB 29 was third read and passed by the House by a vote of 148-1. The bill now moves 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. The bill also gives 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 the bill requires a county board of equalization to promptly issue a receipt to any person lodging an appeal to the board. On April 19, the House third read and passed HB 165 & 196 by a vote of 132-9. The bill now moves to the Senate.

House Bill 512 (Lovasco, R-O’Fallon) modifies the notices required to be published by the state treasurer for 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 in a newspaper of general circulation in each county once a week for two successive weeks annually. Newspaper notice could be eliminated under this legislation. On April 19, HB 512 was defeated on the House floor. The vote was 72 in favor, 82 against. Prior to the vote, a handful of legislators spoke in favor of the bill, saying it was common sense legislation and that unclaimed property notices should be distributed via internet and social media. The House vote board was kept open more than 10 minutes before the bill was announced as having been defeated. Other legislation in the House and Senate is still alive that would possibly eliminate unclaimed property notices in newspapers. The legislative session is scheduled to end at 6:00 p.m. on May 14. The underlying HB 512 also would modify provisions for expenditure of public funds on printed matter. No contribution or expenditure of public funds on printed matter shall be made directly by any officer, employee, director, board member, or agent of any state department, political subdivision, or special district to advocate for, support, oppose, or provide education on any ballot measure, any matter pending before the general assembly, or any candidate for public office. During committee and floor debate, the original underlying bill had attracted opposition from some school officials and school organizations.

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 19, HB 848, 617 & 822 was third read and passed by the House on a vote of 126-16. The bill now moves to the Senate.

House Bill 920 (Baker, R-Neosho) would change the general 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. On April 19, the House voted to send the bill to the House Legislative Review Committee to make any changes. On April 22, the Legislative Review Committee met, offered no amendments to HB 920, and voted unanimously do pass to return HB 920 to the House calendar.

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 19, the House third read and passed HB 1030 by a vote of 150-1. The bill now moves to the Senate.

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. The bill adds an “opt-in” for those winners who wish to release their names to the public. Any violation of these provisions is a class A misdemeanor. On April 20, the Senate perfected and printed SCS SB 272 on a voice vote, needing one more Senate floor vote before sending the bill to the House. On April 22, the Senate Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee voted do pass on the bill by a vote of 7-0.

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