2024 MPA Legislative Report: Week 2 — Committee Work Begins for House and Senate Bills

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The following is a legislative update from Clarkston Nelson, LLC concerning the Missouri General Assembly’s spring legislative session. It is not for republication in your newspaper, although the information contained within could inspire local coverage for issues important to your readers.

A reminder, Missouri Press Association’s Day at the Capitol is Thursday, Jan. 25. You can register to attend here: https://mopress.wufoo.com/forms/mqk9r5s0v5fd4f/

Committee Work Begins for House and Senate Bills

Despite the bitter cold and snow showers, the Missouri General Assembly slugged through the second week of session with numerous House and Senate Committee public hearings. The Speaker and Senate President have referred a large number of bills to committees this week, which will lead to a heavy amount of committee work in the weeks ahead. Both chambers held public hearings on education reform proposals. The House Education Committee held a hearing on legislation to allow students to transfer between public school districts, while the Senate Education Committee discussed expanding a tax credit program aimed at parental choice on public and private education opportunities. Next week, we expect the Missouri Senate to begin working on its version of the federal reimbursement tax (FRA) extension, which is essential to finding the needed funding for the state Fiscal Year 2024 budget. The FRA tax accounts for more than $4 billion in funding for our state’s public health programs. The General Assembly will not be in session on Monday as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is observed.

Budget Update
This week was relatively quiet on the budget front. The House Sub-Committee on Appropriations-General Administration was scheduled to meet but due to the inclement weather, the hearing was postponed to next Wednesday. The Office of the Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General have yet to present their FY2024 Supplemental requests or their FY2025 budget requests and the committee will also need to hear from the Judiciary and Public Defenders Office.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has also posted a hearing for next Wednesday but will be focusing on policy issues rather than receiving testimony from the various departments regarding their FY25 budget requests. The bill scheduled to be heard is SB 748, sponsored by Senator Lincoln Hough (R-Springfield) and is the renewal of the Federal Reimbursement Allowance (FRA) taxes. These taxes are critical to funding the state’s Medicaid program and without them it would face a catastrophic shortfall.

Gubernatorial Appointments

SENATE APPROVES CAROLE ILES AS ADMINISTRATIVE HEARING COMMISSIONER
Carole Iles of Ashland, who was appointed to the Administrative Hearing Commission by Gov. Mike Parson on June 2, 2023, appeared before the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee on Jan. 10, and was introduced by Sen. Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia). Her nomination was unanimously approved by the full Senate on Jan. 11. Ms. Iles has previously served of counsel to the law firms Akerman LLP and Bryan, Cave, Leighton, Paisner LLP. She has served as general counsel for the Missouri Department of Revenue, as an assistant Missouri attorney general, and as a law clerk to Judge Charles Blackmar of the Missouri Supreme Court. She served two terms as chair of the Missouri Bar Taxation Law Committee and is a current member of the Boone County Bar Association. Ms. Iles earned an Associate in Arts degree from Cottey College, Nevada, MO, a Bachelor of Arts in international affairs from George Washington University and received a Juris Doctor from the University of Missouri, Columbia, where she was a member of the Missouri Law Review and elected to the Order of the Coif.

RAY WAGNER’S APPOINTMENT TO CONSERVATION COMMISSION APPROVED
Ray Wagner of Town and Country, a Republican appointed to the Missouri Conservation Commission by Gov. Mike Parson on Sept. 29, 2023, appeared before the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee on Jan. 10, introduced by Sen. Andrew Koenig (R-Manchester). Wagner said his interest in conservation goes back his entire life. He hopes to bring his 40 years in the business community, public service, and his interest in and commitment to the outdoors to his position as commissioner. His nomination was unanimously approved by the full Senate on Jan. 11. Wagner recently resigned as senior advisor for the Missouri Attorney General’s office. He previously served as senior vice president of global government and public affairs for Enterprise Holdings. He holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Missouri, Kansas City, School of Law, an LLM law degree from Washington University School of Law, and a Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Arts in political science from Saint Louis University.

JONATHAN HELD APPROVED AS WINE AND GRAPE BOARD MEMBER
Jonathan Held of Hermann, who was appointed to the Missouri Wine and Grape Board by Gov. Mike Parson, appeared before the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee on Jan. 10, introduced by Sen. Ben Brown (R-Washington). Held said he and his family are dedicated to growing grapes and making wine in Missouri. He has served on wine committees at the state and federal levels. He provided the committee with a brief history of Stone Hill Winery. His nomination was unanimously approved by the full Senate on Jan. 11. Held has worked for his family-owned Stone Hill Winery since he was seven years old. He graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno, with a degree in Enology, the science of winemaking. While attending CSUF, he was a two-time recipient of American Society for Enology and Viticulture scholarships and was also awarded the Alpha Zeta Agriculture Honor Fraternity Outstanding Senior Award.

HEMEYER AND MAYFIELD OKAYED AS LOTTERY COMMISSIONERS BY SENATE
Both John Hemeyer of Ralls County and Lance Mayfield of Viburnum, both Democrats, were reappointed in 2023 to the State Lottery Commission by Gov. Mike Parson, with their new terms beginning in November 2023. The reappointments were taken up by the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee on Jan. 10, and were unanimously approved by the full Senate on Jan. 11.

Hemeyer retired from law enforcement in 2012, having most recently served as a part-time detective with the Ralls County Sheriff’s Office. Previously, he served as the Cole County Sheriff for 18 years. He has advanced training in criminal justice from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Missouri Sheriff’s Academy, and the National Sheriff’s Academy, among others. He is a member of the Ralls County Electric Cooperative Board of Directors and a member of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives Legislative Committee. He holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Lincoln University in Jefferson City and a Master of Science in criminal justice administration from the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.

Mayfield is the local agent for Farmers Insurance Agency in Viburnum and the owner of Ozark Country Cabins in Branson. Previously, Mayfield held the roles of Labor Mill Operator, Truck Driver, and Journeyman Ironworker with St. Joe Minerals Corporation. He is a member of the Steelville, Branson, and Table Rock Lake Chambers of Commerce. He is also a member of the Viburnum Economic Development Area Corporation, the Viburnum Lions Club, and the Lebanon Masonic Lodge of Steelville. He is a graduate of Iron County C-4 High School and attended Phoenix University.

Committee Activity

DELETING NEWSPAPER NOTICES FROM SELF-STORAGE SALES
The House Emerging Issues Committee gathered Wednesday afternoon to hear House Bill 1948, sponsored by Rep. Dane Diehl (R-Butler). The bill modifies requirements of the public notice by an operator of a self-service storage facility for the auction sale of personal property of an occupant in default. HB 1948 allows the storage facility operator to advertise the auction in the classified section of a newspaper prior to the sale, OR the operator may instead advertise in any other commercially reasonable manner such as online. The advertisement is “commercially reasonable” if at least three independent bidders attend the sale.

Testimony in support of the bill was presented by the Missouri Self Storage Owners Association, StorageMart, and another owner of self-storage facilities in Columbia and Rolla. The witnesses said newspaper ads are “just not bringing in enough bidders. Online is bringing in more people.” The StorageMart witness said it conducted 4,700 such auctions last year, losing about $577 per unit. Several committee members asked about the price of newspaper ads, the number of Missourians who subscribe to newspapers, and if the number of newspapers is declining.

Testimony in opposition to the bill was offered by Dennis Warden, the publisher of weekly newspapers serving Owensville, Linn, Belle and Vienna. He noted every Missouri county has at least one newspaper, totaling some 207 newspapers in Missouri. The bill has no penalties if three or more bidders do not show up for the sale. He said newspaper notice of storage facility auctions increases transparency, and such notice is a part of due process. Large segments of rural Missouri are without strong internet, and residents without internet still depend on their local newspapers. These newspaper notices alert family, friends, even next-door neighbors of the property owner, as well as potential bidders, that a sale of property is about to happen, Warden said. Websites notify no one. A website does not push out or distribute notices to anyone, however, in a newspaper notice which is distributed to homes and businesses, a reader may see his or her property is being sold at auction. Simply placing the notice on the internet does not promote transparency.

Mark Maassen, executive director of Missouri Press Association, highlighted newspapers’ documentation in print, sworn affidavits, their independent third-party position in publishing notices, and transparency. He said the association’s website, MoPublicNotices.com, publishes online every public notice printed in newspapers, and more than 500,000 hits were received by the website in the past year.

COMPREHENSIVE BILL – ANTI-SLAPP LEGISLATION
On Wednesday afternoon the House Judiciary Committee met to consider HB 1886, sponsored by Rep. Rudy Viet (R-Wardsville). The legislation is a lengthy, comprehensive judicial proceedings bill, and includes establishing the “Uniform Public Expression Protection Act,” known as anti-SLAPP. Such law often functions by allowing a defendant to file a motion to strike or dismiss on the grounds that the case involves protected speech on a matter of public concern. James Harris, representing The Institute for Free Speech, testified in support of the anti-SLAPP portion of the bill, saying 31 other states have passed such legislation. Several attorneys testified in support of HB 1886 on various provisions. Other portions of the bill expand circumstances under which a limited liability company may be dissolved; establishes an alternative dispute resolution process to which a court may refer, by rule or court order, a single case or a category of cases; establishes the “Missouri Electronic Wills and Electronic Estate Planning Documents Act.” The bill also excludes “criminal proceedings” from the circumstances under which information and data obtained by a probation and parole officer is privileged information. A section of the bill that would prohibit any city from imposing a moratorium on eviction proceedings will be removed, according to Representative Viet.

Upcoming Hearings

House-Local Government
01/16/2024 10:00 AM
Committee Hearing, HR 7
HB1720 Falkner – Modifies provisions of the sunshine law
HB1909 Taylor – Removes the requirement for county and city committee meetings to take place in the county seat

Senate-Emerging Issues
01/16/2024 2:30 PM
Committee Hearing, Senate Lounge
SB750 Hough – Modifies provisions relating to the collection of delinquent property taxes

House-Government Efficiency and Downsizing
01/17/2024 8:00 AM
Committee Hearing, HR 6
HB2111 Christofanelli – Modifies powers of the state auditor
HB2206 West – Establishes general requirements for meetings of governing bodies of political subdivisions

House-Appropriations-General Administration
01/17/2024 8:15 AM
Committee Hearing, HR 3
*Office of the Attorney General, The Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Office of Administration, Judiciary, Public Defender and Real Estate will be presenting their FY 25 department budget requests and FY 24 supplemental budget requests

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