Week 12: Easter Break Begins

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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 of issues important to your readers.

Easter Break Begins

Missouri legislators returned to the Capitol this week from their annual spring break. With renewed interest in legislative priorities, there was an influx of committee and floor substitutes and amendments, along with productive debate in both chambers. Additionally, the House Budget Committee finalized their version of the FY25 Budget, which is expected to be debated by the full House Chamber next week.

With the quickly approaching adjournment date of May 17th, House and Senate members are now eyeing every opportunity available to advance their proposals to Governor Parson’s desk. There are only seven weeks remaining, with the House dedicating next week to Budget debate. The Missouri Senate is expected to tackle some thorny issues next week such as regulations on solid waste facilities as a group of KC area legislators wish to prevent the construction of a landfill in Raymore, MO.

The legislature will not be in session on Monday, April 1st to observe the Easter holiday. Both chambers will resume session on Tuesday, April 2nd. The House convenes at 10:00 AM and the Senate at 4:00 PM.

Executive Order 24-04

Published in the April 1st Missouri Register, Governor Mike Parson updated his list of agency supervisory authority – see the full list Here.

Statewide Candidate Filing Deadline

Tuesday was the last day of candidate filing for the 2024 elections. While the majority of people were eyeing the 3-CD race, the Secretary of State race has now become the hot race to watch. Within the last couple of hours of filing, House Speaker Dean Plocher pivoted from his previous Lieutenant Governor bid to Secretary of State. Additionally, Senator Mary Elizabeth Coleman pivoted her 3-CD race to also bid for Secretary of State, joining an already crowded GOP race for Secretary of State.

Late withdrawals from four congressional races, four state House races and the Lieutenant Governor’s race means filing for those offices will resume on Tuesday. Filing for those offices will occur during business hours and will open at 8 a.m. on Tuesday and close at 5 p.m. on April 5 at the Secretary of State’s office in Jefferson City. Under Missouri law, when candidates withdraw within two days of the close of filing, a special filing period opens for four days in the following week.

Media Matters Lawsuit

Attorney General Andrew Bailey has filed suit against Media Matters to compel the nonprofit to submit documents related to his investigation into its alleged fraudulent business practices. The investigation began in November 2023 after evidence surfaced that Media Matters solicited donations from Missourians under false pretenses, aiming to influence advertisers to withdraw from X, formerly known as Twitter, in direct violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act. The Attorney General is seeking a court order mandating Media Matters to comply with the Civil Investigative Demand within 20 days.

Budget Update

As the House Budget Committee adjourned Monday evening after completing the markup process for the FY2025 budget, Chairman Cody Smith (R-Carthage) had trimmed nearly $2 billion from Governor Parson’s original $52.7 billion spending plan. The largest part of the deduction is from a decline in Medicaid enrollment. What is usually a marathon hearing lasting well into the evening and consisting of contentious debate on the Chairman’s changes, was condensed into less than five hours. Committee members drafted over 100 amendments, but after Chairman Smith announced the four-hour time-limit, only fifteen additional amendments were offered in committee. Still included in the budget is a 3.2% pay raise for state workers, an increase in base pays for teachers of $40,000, a fully funded foundation formula and a 3% increase for institutions of higher education.

The 17 budget bills are expected to be brought before the full House chamber next week. Typically, appropriations bills have a set time limit for full debate, with each party having a predetermined amount of time for each bill which is determined by the Majority and Minority Floor Leaders. It is highly anticipated Democratic members will be drafting and offering numerous amendments in an attempt to further modify the $50.7 billion dollar budget.

The complete listing of committee changes from the Governor’s recommended FY 2025 Budget can be found Here.

Key Upcoming Dates
April 1, 2024 – Easter Break – No Session
April 2, 2024 – General Municipal Elections
May 10, 2024 – Last Day to Constitutionally pass the FY 2025 Budget
May 17, 2024 – Last Day of the 2024 Legislative session
August 6, 2024 – Missouri Primary Elections
September 11, 2024 – Veto Session
November 5, 2024 – Missouri General Elections

Committee Activity

Restoring Presidential Preference Primary Election

On Tuesday afternoon, the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee gathered to hold a hearing on HB 1525, sponsored by Rep. Cyndi Buchheit-Courtway (R-Festus), and on HB 2895, sponsored by Rep. Kurtis Gregory (R-Marshall). The two bills are nearly identical, reinstating the presidential preference primary election to be held statewide on the second Tuesday after the first Monday in March of each presidential election year. The bills deal with the filing deadline for candidates to appear on the ballots, filing fees, and costs of the election. If political subdivisions or special districts hold elections on the same date as the primary election, costs will be shared with the state. During the hearing, both Rep. Gregory and Rep. Buchheit-Courtway said they had heard frustration from constituents, asking why the presidential primary was eliminated and seeking its return. Rep. Buchheit-Courtway said her bill mirrors the previous state law, and she is considering an amendment to allow the state political parties to decide how much candidates should pay to be on the ballot. This year, they said, some 25,000 Republicans and 20,000 Democrats in Missouri participated in caucuses. Four years ago more than 1 million Missourians voted in the presidential primary election.

Testimony in support of the legislation was offered by Russ Carnahan, chair of the Missouri Democratic Party, and Chandler Haynes, a leader in the Missouri Republican Party. Both had the same positive views on returning to a presidential primary election. Carnahan surprised the committee with a comment about the Missouri Press Association, saying it had sent an advisory to MPA members that the party caucuses were a political activity and that paid advertising should be required to promote the caucuses. Later in the hearing, MPA had responded, and committee chair Rep. Peggy McGaugh (R-Carrollton) said MPA had distributed a memo from attorney Jean Maneke, who said any paid ads published about the caucuses should have a “paid for by . . .” note at the bottom, so that newspapers would not be in violation of state statutes regarding political advertising. MPA was not advising newspapers to sell ads for these caucuses instead of publishing articles. Also testifying in support of the bills were David Courtway, Jefferson County Director of Administration; the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition; Derrick Good, an attorney from Jefferson County; and Arnie Dienoff. Testifying in opposition was the Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Authorities, concerned about the possible date of the presidential primary (too near the annual April elections or possibly combining the primary with the April elections), and saying the organization would help draft any changes. Information only testimony was presented by Trish Vincent, Deputy Secretary of State, who said current law prohibits holding a primary caucus prior to March 1, and she said April elections are usually non-partisan. Adding a presidential primary election in April could confuse voters, she noted.

Sunshine Bill Exempts Minors’ Information

On Monday afternoon, HCS HB 1720 was heard by the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bill Falkner (R-St. Joseph), adds a new Sunshine Law exemption to allow the closure of “any portion of a record that contains individually identifiable information of a minor 17 years and under held by a public governmental body, if such public governmental body is a city, town, village, or park board.” A House floor amendment was also added to the bill, allowing the Division of Labor Standards within the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to receive minors’ records for the purpose of enforcing child labor laws in state statutes. Testifying in support of the bill were the Missouri Municipal League and the Municipal League of Metropolitan St. Louis. There was no testimony in opposition to the bill.

Closing Initiative Petition Signatures Among Changes

On Monday afternoon, the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee heard HCS HB 1749, sponsored by Rep. Mike Haffner (R-Pleasant Hill). The bill would affect the initiative and referendum petition process used to amend the Missouri Constitution by voters, making several statutory changes to the process of collecting signatures and enabling topics to reach the statewide ballot. A floor amendment in the House was added “to protect the privacy of signatures” by closing the initiative petition signature sheets collected by the Secretary of State, while some legislators argued that reporters and the public should have access to signature pages to confirm signatures and have oversight of the process. The bill requires petition circulators to be U.S. citizens and residents of Missouri for at least 30 days, and they may not be paid based on the number of signatures they collect. Only Missouri registered voters can challenge the official ballot title or fiscal note for a Constitutional amendment, initiative petition, or referendum measure. The bill also requires that if a court orders a change that substantially alters the content of the official ballot title of a petition, all signatures gathered before the change occurred shall be invalidated. The bill requires “dark ink” to be used when petitions are signed. The bill repeals the requirement that the Joint Committee on Legislative Research hold a hearing to take public comment on a proposed measure within 30 days of the Secretary of State issuing certification that the petition contains enough valid signatures. Testifying in favor of the bill were Trish Vincent, Deputy Secretary of State, and the Missouri Farm Bureau, citing concerns that out-of-state interests could affect Missouri’s election process. Testifying in opposition to the bill were the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, the League of Women Voters of Missouri, ACLU of Missouri, the Missouri Association of Realtors, Missouri National Education Association, and Jobs With Justice Voter Action. Concerns expressed include the 30-day residency requirements for signature gatherers, adding more control in the initiative process to partisan elected officials, and putting extra barriers into the process.

HB 1886 Voted “Do Pass” in Rules Committee

On Monday afternoon, the House Rules – Regulatory Oversight Committee voted “do pass” in executive session on HB 1886, sponsored by Rep. Rudy Veit (R-Wardsville). The vote was 7-0. HB 1886 is a comprehensive judicial proceedings bill and includes establishing the “Uniform Public Expression Protection Act,” known as anti-SLAPP. 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. The bill establishes the “Uniform Interstate Depositions and Discovery Act” and modifies the amount paid to a juror who serves.

Allowing Committee Meetings in Locations Other Than the County Seat

On Monday afternoon, the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee met to hear HB 1909, sponsored by Rep. Tim Taylor (R-Bunceton). HB 1909 repeals the requirement that during primary election years, county central political party committees must hold their meetings in the county seat. Meetings could be conducted electronically or in another location. There was no public testimony presented in favor of or against the bill.

Automatic Expungement of Records

On Tuesday afternoon, the House General Laws Committee gathered to hold a hearing on HB 2108, sponsored by Rep. Phil Christofanelli (R-St. Peters) and on HB 2555, sponsored by Rep. Justin Hicks (R-Lake St. Louis). The two bills are nearly identical, establishing an automatic record-clearing process for closing of records pertaining to a “clean slate eligible offense,” which is an offense not excluded from eligibility for expungement along with offenses for which the Governor has granted a full pardon. The Office of State Courts Administrator would oversee the program, and the bill creates in the state treasury the “Missouri Expungement Fund,” which is a fund dedicated to the creation, operation, and maintenance of the program. During the hearing, Rep. Christofanelli said the current expungement process is difficult without an attorney’s help. Ongoing criminal records have an extreme impact on individuals seeking gainful employment and stable housing. He said the bill does not expand which types of criminal records are expungable. Testimony in support of the bill was offered by Empower Missouri, saying the legislation is to ensure that punishment fits the crime, no violent or sexual offenses would be expunged, and the bills can help potential workers with criminal records to become employed. Other organizations testifying in favor of the bills were The Christian Coalition, Powerhouse Community Development Corp., Missouri Appleseed, St. Louis University Workforce Development, Missouri Catholic Conference, Missouri Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and the Missouri Justice Coalition. Arnie Dienoff, testifying in support, noted the first three years of the legislation would cost nearly $180 million, according to the bills’ fiscal note. Six other supporting witnesses were people who had spent time in jail, but who are now working or trying to find jobs. The only testimony in opposition was offered by the Supreme Court and the Judicial Conference of Missouri, not in opposition to the bill’s merits but to the mechanics, the timeline to begin the expungement and state funding needed for the program. Testifying for information only was the Circuit Clerk of Greene County who explained the expungement process that is underway with marijuana usage crimes. He suggested there is no possible way for electronic expungements, but there would be a need for humans to staff the program throughout the state.

The Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee convened Monday afternoon to discuss SB 763, sponsored by Senator Brian Williams (D-Ferguson) and SB 1161, sponsored by Senator Curtis Trent (R-Springfield). The bills are identical and modify several provisions relating to expungement. Specifically, the bill closes records and files maintained by any court pertaining to clean slate eligible offenses without the filing of a petition and requires the Office of State Courts Administrator (OSCA) to identify and transfer on a monthly basis all clean slate eligible offenses records to the Central Repository and every prosecuting agency in the state within 30 days of the offense becoming eligible for expungement. Additionally, OSCA shall report on a yearly basis to certain committees of the General Assembly the number of records expunged and creates the “Missouri Expungement Fund” to provide system upgrades and staffing needs to provide and implement these provisions. Finally, the bill allows credit bureaus to report records of arrests, indictments pending trial and convictions of crimes for on longer than 7 years from final disposition, unless the records have been expunged or the person pardoned. Americans for Tax Reform, Georgia Congressman Doug Collins, Empower Missouri, All of Us or None, MOCRIS Coalition, Power House, Justice Action Network, Parkway United Christian Church, Missouri Poor People’s Campaign, Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice, Kansas City Builders Association, JE Dunn Construction, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Expo St. Louis, First Christian Church, Dream.org, Missouri State Conference of the NAACP, Missouri Catholic Conference, dozens of private citizens, provided supporting testimony stating this legislation would impact countless people seeking a second chance and an opportunity to seek employment and become contributing members of society. Missouri Sheriffs United, Missouri Police Chiefs Association, Judicial Conference of Missouri provided opposing testimony regarding the closed records provisions on multiple felony offenders and the mechanics and cost of implementing an automatic record expungement.

Public Notices for ‘Master Agreement’ Services

On Monday afternoon, the House Rules – Administrative Oversight Committee voted “do pass” on HCS HB 2314, sponsored by Rep. Donnie Brown (R-New Madrid). The vote count was 9-0. The bill authorizes the Division of Facilities Management, Design, and Construction within the Office of Administration to establish “master agreements” for architecture, engineering, or land surveying services on an as-needed basis for indefinite projects over a year or two. The House Committee Substitute includes a requirement that “master agreement” public notices are to be published in newspapers and on a state website. The agreements, not exceeding $100,000 per project, are established through a qualification-based selection process.

High School Sports Issues and MSHSAA

On Wednesday afternoon, the House Emerging Issues Committee gathered to vote in executive session on HCS HB 2378, sponsored by Rep. Bennie Cook (R-Houston). The bill deals with the Missouri State High School Activities Association and its decision-making. The bill was voted “do pass” by a vote of 10-4. The bill would prohibit MSHSAA, that facilitates interscholastic activities for high school students who attend public or private schools, from serving as the appellate body that handles appeals of decisions made by MSHSAA. The amended bill designates the legislature’s Joint Committee on Education as the authority to handle such appeals. Within 48 hours of receiving an appeal, the committee shall meet, in person or remotely, to consider the appeal, and within 24 hours of such meeting, the committee shall decide on the appeal. MSHSAA would be responsible for any expenses of the committee members, according to the amended bill.

Condensed County Financial Statement

On Monday afternoon, the House Rules – Administrative Oversight Committee met in executive session and voted “do pass” by a vote of 9-0 on HB 2571, sponsored by Rep. Peggy McGaugh (R-Carrollton), a bill that requires a condensed county financial statement to be published on or before June 30 each year in local newspapers in all counties of the first, second, third, or fourth classification. The bill is identical to SB 1362, sponsored by Sen. Sandy Crawford (R-Buffalo). The bill language includes publication of the name and current gross annual salary of each elected or appointed county official. Another portion of the bill deals with political subdivisions that fail to submit their required annual financial statements to the State Auditor and currently are fined $500 a day. The bill allows for a reduction or elimination of the fine under certain circumstances

Floor Activity

Self-Storage Auction Notices and Catalytic Converters

The House on Wednesday morning brought up for third reading HCS HB 1948, et al, sponsored by Rep. Dane Diehl (R-Butler) and handled on the floor by Rep. Don Mayhew (R-Crocker). 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 and deals with catalytic converters. The House third read and passed the bill by a vote of 138-8. It now moves to the Senate. The legislation allows storage facility operators to advertise default auctions 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. Missouri Press Association is opposed to HB 1948’s original language.

The catalytic converter language added to the bill was originally in HB 2066, sponsored by Rep. Mayhew, and involves persons engaged in the buying or selling of catalytic converters or their component parts. Junk or scrap metal purchasers, collectors, or dealers must keep a written or electronic record for each purchase or trade-in of detached catalytic converters or catalytic converter materials. If the purchase or trade-in includes a detached catalytic converter, the seller must be a bona fide auto repair shop or there must be an affidavit that says the detached catalytic converter was acquired lawfully, and the record must include the make, model, year, and vehicle ID number of the vehicle from which the detached catalytic converter originated. Conviction of violating this section shall be a class E felony and if found guilty the person’s business license may be revoked. “Stealing” a catalytic converter is defined in the bill.

Election Law Changes Move

On Thursday morning, the House brought up for third reading HCS HB 2140, sponsored by Rep. Peggy McGaugh (R-Carrollton). The House third read and passed the bill by a vote of 101-37. The bill now moves to the Senate. The legislation makes several changes to state election statutes. The bill makes changes to opening and closing dates for candidates to file for office to avoid holiday closures of public offices where candidates file. Eligible voters would be allowed to vote by absentee ballot in presidential elections on election day in the county clerk’s office. Lists of absentee voters with permanent disabilities must be kept confidential. Campaigning would be prohibited within 25 feet of an election polling place, including when absentee voting occurs at the county clerk’s office. Provisional ballots would be made available at any public election, not just federal or statewide elections. Tampering with an election official would be a class 1 election offense and would be a class B felony if the offense results in death or bodily injury to the official or to a member of the official’s family. The bill also requires ballot measures relating to taxation to be labeled numerically or alphabetically in the order they are submitted. Also, any ballot measure seeking to change tax on real property shall estimate the effect of the proposed change within the ballot language.

Initiative Petition Changes Debated

On Tuesday afternoon, the House brought up for perfection HCS HJR 86, 72 & 119, sponsored by Rep. John Black (R-Marshfield). Upon voter approval, this Constitutional amendment makes numerous changes to the initiative petition process and to the process of approving Constitutional amendments. After some 90 minutes of floor debate, the House perfected and printed the resolution by voice vote. Another House vote is required to send the bill to the Senate. The resolution requires any amendment to the Constitution to receive a majority of the votes cast both statewide and also in a majority of the state’s eight congressional districts for approval. Currently, initiative petitions proposing amendments to the Constitution require signatures from 8 percent of the legal voters in two-thirds of the state’s congressional districts in order to be placed on the ballot. This resolution would require signatures from 8 percent of the legal voters in all of the state’s congressional districts in order to place a Constitutional amendment proposed by initiative petition on the ballot.

Other provisions of the resolution include: Voters in each Congressional district shall have the opportunity to review and comment on initiative petitions proposing amendments to the Constitution in a public forum administered by the Secretary of State. Only citizens of the United States who are residents of Missouri and properly registered to vote shall be considered legal voters. Foreign governments and political parties are forbidden from sponsoring initiative petitions and from engaging in electoral activity in support of or opposition to an initiative petition. The resolution grants the General Assembly exclusive authority to enact laws enforcing provisions of the Missouri Constitution relating to initiative petitions. And the resolution prohibits the General Assembly from modifying any statutory measure submitted by initiative petition and approved by voters for two years after the effective date of the change. This shall not apply if a court of competent jurisdiction issues a final judgment that declares the measure unconstitutional or otherwise invalid.

Business Development 

The Senate dedicated floor time Tuesday afternoon to debate SB 894, sponsored by Senator Travis Fitzwater (R-Fulton). The bill establishes provisions relating to the promotion of business development. Specifically, the bill creates the Regulatory Sandbox Act which provides small businesses creating innovative products in all industries a way to waive or suspend certain regulations for two years by applying to the Regulatory Relief Office created within the Department of Economic Development. The bill also eliminates the Small Business Fairness Board because they have not had a quorum or the capability to meet over the past ten years. Additionally, the bill includes the Right-to-Start Act, which requires the Commissioner of Administration, in conjunction with the Office of Entrepreneurship, which is established by the act, to file a report with the General Assembly making recommendations on improving access and resources for new Missouri businesses that have been in operation for less than three years and also creates the Office of Entrepreneurship to promote policies and initiatives to support growth in Missouri. During debate, the sponsor successfully amended the bill to provide for technical changes. Senator Rick Brattin (R-Belton) then attempted to amend the bill to create a Landfill Enhancement Zone, which would allow local governing bodies to adopt the zone and provides a tax credit for developers. After considerable debate, the amendment failed, the Senate then provided its first of two necessary approval votes.

Upcoming Hearings

House-Elections and Elected Officials
04/02/2024 11:00 AM
Committee Hearing, HR 6
HB2544 Morse – Requires citations in political ads that reference material published in a newspaper, journal, or book or on websites
Executive Session:
SJR74 Elizabeth Coleman – Modifies provisions relating to constitutional amendments

Senate-Economic Development and Tax Policy
04/02/2024 12:00 PM
Committee Hearing, SCR 1
HB1960 Riley – Establishes the “Regulatory Sandbox Act”

Senate-Local Government and Elections
04/02/2024 1:00 PM
Committee Hearing, SCR 1
Executive Session:
HB1720 Falkner – Modifies provisions of the sunshine law
HB1749 Haffner – Modifies provisions for initiative petitions and referendums
HB1909 Taylor – Removes the requirement for county and city committee meetings to take place in the county seat
SB1120 Carter – Reinstates the Presidential Preference Primary Election

Senate-Fiscal Oversight
04/02/2024 1:45 PM
Committee Hearing, Senate Lounge
SB894 Fitzwater – Modifies provisions relating to the promotion of business development

House-General Laws
04/02/2024 4:00 PM
Committee Hearing, HR 7
SB1363 Crawford – Modifies provisions relating to county officials
Executive Session:
HB1992 Gallick – Modifies provisions relating to the posting of notices
HB2108 Christofanelli – Establishes provisions relating to expungement
HB2555 Hicks – Establishes provisions relating to expungement

House-Government Efficiency and Downsizing
04/03/2024 8:00 AM
Committee Hearing, HR 6
Executive Session:
HB2206 West – Establishes general requirements for meetings of governing bodies of political subdivisions

House-Special Committee on Homeland Security
04/03/2024 12:00 PM
Committee Hearing, Joint Committee Room (Room 117)
HB1415 Stacy – Establishes the “Unmanned Aerial Systems Security Act of 2024”

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