The Missouri General Assembly worked through snow and frigid temperatures this week as members continue to move full speed ahead with legislative tasks. The Missouri House has been holding hearings in 14 separate committees each Tuesday and Wednesday and has made it a challenge for many to keep up. In addition, to date, 1,189 bills have been filed in the Missouri House, and 527 bills have been filed in the Missouri Senate.
ILLEGAL GAMING MACHINES, GAS TAX ON SENATE AGENDA
To kick-off this week of Feb. 8, the Senate took up Senate Bill 10, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan), a bill aimed to reel in illegal gambling machines used across the state in many convenience stores and other locations. Sen. Schatz offered a senate substitute to the bill during floor debate Monday, then laid the bill over before afternoon adjournment.
On Tuesday, Sen. Schatz’s SB 262, a bill to increase the state’s gasoline tax by 10 cents over five years, was voted Do Pass by the Senate Transportation Committee. The vote was 5-1 with Sen. Bill Eigel (R-St. Charles) voting no. The Senate Committee added a provision to allow Missouri taxpayers to claim an exemption or refund with the Department of Revenue if they provide certain documentation to prove eligibility. This provision is similar to a law passed in 2018 by South Carolina.
WAYFAIR TAX LEGISLATION RECEIVES HEARING
Numerous retail businesses testified in support of three bills heard by the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, legislation known as Wayfair that would enact sales and use tax collection on purchases made online in Missouri. Florida and Missouri currently are the only states that do not collect taxes on such purchases, creating an uneven playing field for retail businesses vs. online businesses. Wayfair is sure to receive much attention in both the House and the Senate, and sticking points include what to do with increased revenue from the tax collections.
INITIATIVE PETITION BILLS
On Feb. 10, the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee conducted a 4.5-hour hearing on 10 bills that would change the initiative petition process to amend the state’s constitution. The bills heard by the committee are House Joint Resolutions that, if approved by the General Assembly, would require a vote of the people to become effective.
One bill, HJR 22 (Eggleston, R-Maysville), would require initiative petitions proposing amendments to the state constitution to be approved by both houses of the general assembly after the initiative petition has received the required number of signatures but before it is placed on the ballot.
Several of the HJRs would require initiative petitions to be signed by more than the current eight percent of registered voters in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts to be placed on the statewide ballot. Other HJRs would require a higher percentage of voters (60 percent, event 67 percent) to approve a state constitutional ballot issue rather than just by a simple majority.
Testifying in favor of the legislation were the Missouri Soybean Association, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Missouri Farm Bureau, a high school student from St. Louis, a University of Missouri sophomore from Lee’s Summit, a resident of Carterville, Shane Schoeller of Greene County, and Opportunity Solutions Project. Opposition testimony was submitted in written form by some dozen individuals and the Missouri AFL-CIO and Missouri Coalition for the Environment. Also testifying in opposition were Jobs With Justice Voter Action and a resident of St. Louis. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft spoke for information only.
Ashcroft said he believes the people of Missouri should control the state’s constitution, not outsiders who sometimes file dozens and dozens of initiative petitions. “Our constitution should not be for sale,” Ashcroft said.
Committee chairman Dan Shaul (R-Imperial) said the state’s constitution is meant to be the document that controls us. The statutes can be changed, he said. “We have to make sure we look at these issues from both sides of the political aisle,” he told committee members. Fair, transparent, and trustworthy elections are what we need to keep in mind, he said.
The committee took no action on the bills, but action is expected in the committee’s next meeting on Feb. 17.
House Bill 59 (Schnelting, R-St. Charles) establishes provisions to protect law enforcement officers and first responders. Substitute language was adopted to provide clean up language to address areas of concern relating to the assessor offices and title searches. On February 8 the House Rules and Legislative Oversight Committee held an executive session where HCS for HB 59 was voted do pass.
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. The House Special Committee on Homeland Security conducted a hearing on HB 177 on Feb. 10. The bill had earlier that day been added as an amendment onto HB 362, a bill concerning the Sunshine Law. There was no public testimony presented to the committee, and no further action was taken.
House Bill 201 (McGirl, R-Potosi) adds corrections officers to the list of persons (parole officers, federal pretrial officers, peace officers, judges, or a member of the person’s immediate family) whose motor vehicle and driver’s license records are to be kept confidential for security purposes by the Department of Revenue. The House Transportation Committee voted Do Pass on HB 201 by a vote of 13-0 on Feb. 8.
House Bill 228 (Basye, R-Rocheport) prevents public school districts or 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 (Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973). On Feb. 9 the House Consent and Procedure Committee voted HB 228 do pass by a vote of 8-0.
House Bill 271 (Wiemann, R-O’Fallon) establishes the “Missouri Local Government Expenditure Database.” According to the bill’s provisions, Missouri’s cities and counties may voluntarily submit to the MO Accountability Portal an account of expenditures, dates of expenditures, vendors, and purposes of expenditures twice per year, beginning January 1, 2023. After brief discussion on the House floor on February 10, the House provided its first of two necessary approval votes.
House Bill 323 (Hill, R-Lake St. Louis) prohibits the renewal of contracts earlier than three months prior to the expiration of any existing contract. The renewal of one contract shall not automatically entail agreement to a new contract. Definite action such as a vote shall be required to renew a contract and violations of the bill shall render contracts void and of no effect. Hearing held February 10 in the House Downsizing State Government Committee on February 10. During bill presentation, the sponsor stated he is currently working on substitute language to include a provision penalizing public bodies for extending contracts if not within a 3-month window and prohibiting school district executives from obtaining employment with vendors who did business with the school district while they were an employee. No supporting testimony was presented during the hearing. The MO Association of School Administrators provided opposing testimony. The MO NEA provided informational testimony, highlighting potential conflicts with substitute language dealing with probationary contract timelines.
House Bill 333 (Simmons, R-Washington) amends statutory regulations of the initiative petition process. On Feb. 10, the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee conducted a hearing on HB 333. 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 bill specifies that any court ordered changes to a ballot title results in the invalidation of signatures collected prior to the order. Testimony in favor of HB 333 was presented by Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and the Opportunity Solutions Project. Opposition testimony was offered by Jobs With Justice Voter Action. The committee took no action on the bill.
House Bill 334 (Simmons, R-Washington) makes changes to absentee voting, establishes voter identification requirements at the polls and use of provisional ballots, and repeals notice by the secretary of state in print, broadcast television, radio and other media about personal identification requirements for voting. On Feb. 11, HB 334 was voted Do Pass by the House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee on a 6-5 vote.
House Bill 657 (Trent, 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. On Feb. 11, HB 657 was voted Do Pass by the House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee on a 11-0 vote.
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. The House Emerging Issues Committee voted Do Pass on HB 764 by a vote of 12-0 on Feb. 9.
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 Feb. 10, the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee voted Do Pass on HB 850 by a vote of 7-3.
House Bill 920 (Baker, R-Neosho) Beginning January 1, 2022, this bill changes the dates for primary and municipal elections and the procedure to follow when there is a vacancy. In its main provisions, the bill: (1) Changes that upon a vacancy in any elective office, except for the office of Mayor, the successor shall serve until the next available general municipal election instead of the available regular April election; (2) Changes the first regular meeting of the city council after the election to no later than the second Tuesday after the general municipal election day instead of the fourth Tuesday in April; and (3) Changes the election day for the election of political subdivision and special district officers to the first Tuesday after the first Monday from April to November each year. The House Downsizing State Government Committee held an executive session on February 10 where HB 920 was voted do pass by a vote of 9-3.
House Bill 926 (McGaugh, R-Carrollton) modifies and creates new provisions relating to legal notices in newspapers. HB 926 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 926 also modifies the unclaimed property notice requirements required to be made by the State Treasurer. The bill allows the State Treasurer to use any method he or she deems appropriate and consistent with the intent to notify the owners of the property. On Feb. 9, the House Emerging Issues Committee conducted a hearing on HB 926. Rep. McGaugh noted the bill has a zero fiscal note, meaning the changes would not save the state any funding. She said the State Treasurer has developed the Show Me the Money website where unclaimed property can be searched for and claimed. She noted that many people still do not have computers or Internet access, so public notices in newspapers are still needed. The cost of the unclaimed property notices published in newspapers appears to be the issue, McGaugh saying “75 percent of the costs paid by the treasurer’s office goes to six newspapers in the state.” Rep. Tracy McCreery (D-St. Louis), a committee member, said she and her family support newspapers and support government transparency through newspaper notices. Testimony in favor of HB 926 was offered by State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick who said previous legislation in 2013 and 2018 was filed to amend unclaimed property notice requirements. He said the present language requiring newspaper notices was written prior to the Internet. He said newspaper notices cost the state about $900,000 in 2020. “We do believe there is a need for print,” he said, noting Internet access is limited in some parts of the state. Also testifying in support of the bill was Trish Vincent, deputy Secretary of State, who said the state constitution dictates how notices and text of constitutional amendments are required to be published in newspapers, and that HB 926 does not change the notice requirements. Testifying in opposition to the bill were Dennis Warden, publisher of weekly newspapers in Owensville, Linn and Vienna, and Mark Maassen, executive director of the Missouri Press Association. Warden described instances when subscribers call him during election years, asking when the text of statewide ballot issues is being published because they want to read what they’re voting on. Maassen thanked Rep. McGaugh, the bill sponsor, and the committee chairman, Rep. Aaron Griesheimer (R-Washington), and said the press association will work with the interested parties on possible negotiated changes to the bill. The committee took no further action.
Senate Bill 119 (Burlison, R-Battlefield) adds call spoofing, as defined in the act, as a method of telephone solicitation prohibited under provisions of law relating to the telemarketing no-call list. Hearing held February 9 in the Senate General Laws Committee. During bill presentation, the sponsor shared that the act of imitating a phone number is not illegal and numbers are being faked by robocallers. No supporting or opposing testimony was presented during the hearing.
Senate Bill 129 (Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville) – Under current law, a person commits the offense of unlawful posting of certain information over the internet if he or she knowingly posts the name, home address, social security number, or telephone number of any person on the internet intending to cause or threaten to cause great bodily harm or death to such person. SB 129 modifies the current offense by adding “any other personally identifiable information” and further provides that if a person knowingly posts such personally identifiable information of any law enforcement officer, or an immediate family member of a law enforcement officer, he or she shall be guilty of a Class E felony. During an executive session of the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on February 8 the committee voted do pass Senate Committee Substitute for SB 129 by a vote of 5-2. The substitute expands the group of protected classes to include correctional officers, parole officers and prosecuting attorneys.
Senate Bill 149 (Onder, R-Lake St. Louis) modifies the initiative petition process by standardizing signature requirements, requires a $500 filing fee for each petition and requires the Attorney General and Secretary of State to review each petition for compliance. The Senate Local Government and Elections Committee held an executive session on February 10 where SB 149 was voted do pass by a vote of 5-2.
Senate Bill 153 (Koenig, R-Manchester), Senate Bill 97 (Hoskins, R-Warrensburg), and Senate n (Arthur, D-Kansas City). On Feb. 11, the Senate Ways and Means Committee conducted a joint hearing on the three bills, known as Wayfair legislation, which would modify taxation provisions and include requiring sales and use taxes to be collected by vendors on Internet/online purchases. Missouri and Florida are the only two states in the nation that do not require tax collection for online purchases, resulting in a disadvantage to Missouri’s brick-and-mortar businesses which must collect sales taxes. The three bills are similar in many ways. Differences include SB 153 and SB 97 that require the lowering of tax rates to neutralize the added sales and use taxes that would flow into the state’s revenue. SB 248 would establish the Missouri Working Family Tax Credit Act with the tax credit amount to be as much as 20 percent of a taxpayer’s federal earned income tax credit.
Witnesses testifying in favor of the three bills included the Missouri Society of CPAs, Associated Industries of Missouri, Missouri Economic Development Council, Missouri Cable Telecommunications Association, the Missouri Municipal League (supporting SB 153 only), Missouri Retailers Association, St. Louis Zoo, City of St. Charles, Wal-Mart, Greater St. Louis Inc., City of Chesterfield, Missouri Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and the Missouri Budget Project (supporting SB 248 and SB 97 only). Testimony in opposition to SB 153 was presented by the Missouri Budget Project, concerned with the projected individual income tax decrease and the fiscal note, saying there needs to be a revenue offset, but the General Assembly needs to decide that in later years after the Wayfair tax is in effect and revenues from the tax are known. For information only testimony was presented by Amazon.com Services LLC and Missouri Retailers for Fair Competition, Inc.
The committee took no action on the bills. Among the other provisions of the legislation, it: Requires the Department of Revenue to create and maintain a use tax map on its website that displays various sales tax information; Sets use tax economic nexus for vendors engaging in $100,000 or more of gross sales in-state and requiring them to collect and remit the use tax; Requires marketplace facilitators, as defined, that engage in business activities in-state to collect and remit sales and use tax on sales delivered into the state; Authorizes the Department of Revenue to work jointly with the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement’s Governing Board to allow sellers to use the Governing Board’s certified service providers and central registration system services; Modifies the school and Show Me Green sales tax holidays by repealing the ability for political subdivisions to opt out of the sales tax holidays; Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, for sellers collecting at least $250 in sales tax in the first or second month of a calendar quarter, such taxes shall be remitted on or before the last day of the succeeding month rather than on the twentieth day of the succeeding month; The DOR shall provide and maintain downloadable electronic databases at no cost to the user of the databases for taxing jurisdiction boundary changes, tax rates, and a taxability matrix detailing taxable property and services; Modifies local use tax ballot language, including language stating that the approval of the local use tax will eliminate the disparity in tax rates collected by local and out-of-state sellers; Provides that the portion of the local use tax imposed by St. Louis County shall be distributed by a population ratio to cities, towns, villages and unincorporated areas of the county.
Senate Joint Resolution 2 (Onder, R-Lake St. Louis) Under current law, initiative petitions proposing constitutional amendments shall be signed by 8% of the legal voters in each of two-thirds of the Congressional districts. This constitutional amendment, if approved by the voters, requires such petitions to be signed by 15% of the legal voters in each of the Congressional districts. Hearing held February 10 in the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee. Testifying in support of the bill was the Opportunity Solutions Project, Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Soybean Association and Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. Testifying in opposition were the Jobs for Justice Voter Action Network and Missouri AFL-CIO. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (R) testified on the importance of the maintaining the citizens’ initiative petition process and but the need to make amendments to the constitution more stringent than those amending state statutes.
On Feb. 10, House Bill 362 (DeGroot, R-Ellisville) was taken up by the full House and later perfected with three amendments added to the bill. HB 362 modifies provisions of the Sunshine Law by closing 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 added the following two bills as amendments to HB 362:
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.
House Bill 657 (Trent, 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.
Also, an amendment by Rep. Lovasco (R-O’Fallon) was added, allowing 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.
House Bill 362, as amended, was perfected by the House. The bill needs one more floor vote to move to the Senate.