Week 13: Six Weeks Remaining in the Legislative Session

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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.

Six Weeks Remaining in the Legislative Session

While this was a shortened week due to the Easter holiday, both chambers managed to make up for the lost time by working late into the evenings. The House spent the majority of the week finalizing their version of the FY25 budget, meanwhile, the Senate worked diligently to send several bills to the House.

Next week, the House chamber will not be in session on Monday due to the 2024 total eclipse. House members are planning on traveling to the southeast region of the state to participate with several local events and to experience the totality of the eclipse. The Senate plans on conducting business per usual. With time quickly running out, any lost time will surely be made up with continued late nights. The Senate is expected to tackle the difficult issue of extending the federal reimbursement allowance tax for Medicaid services. The FRA tax is currently aligned with prohibiting the funding of planned parenthood services which is strongly opposed by the Senate Democrat Caucus.

Budget Update

The full House finished crafting their version of the $50.7 billion FY25 budget this week. The House version contains $1.9 billion less than the Governor’s recommendation. On Tuesday, the House debated the budget for nine hours before finally giving initial approval to the 17 appropriation bills. Over 400 amendments were filed for the appropriation bills with 109 of those being adopted. Some of the failed amendments included restoring Governor Parson’s recommendation of a 3% increase in funding for colleges and universities, rather than keep the committee recommendation of a 2% increase, an increase in rates for services for people with disabilities through centers for independent living, a cut to children’s health premiums and a removal of the cap on a key variable that determines how much money is given to public schools.

Some amendments that did pass include a cut of $53.4 million in federal funding for COVID-19 mitigation and prevention, $1 million in federal funding for Lincoln University for an Industrial Hemp program, $300,000 for an environmental impact study for I-70 for improvements between Blue Springs and Grain Valley, a restoration of a $2 million transfer for tourism, increases to grants to provide education on opioid abuse and over $25 million dedicated to establishing an engineering program and facilities at UMSL.

All eyes will now turn to the Senate as they begin to craft their version of the budget. Sweeping changes are expected as the Senate does not have the same balancing rule as the House. The Senate also only has five weeks to mark-up the bills, debate them before the full Senate and work out the differences with House before the constitutional deadline of May 10th.

Committee Activity

Unmanned Aerial Systems Security Act

On Wednesday afternoon, the House Special Committee on Homeland Security heard HB 1415, sponsored by Rep. Dan Stacy (R-Blue Springs). The bill establishes the “Unmanned Aerial Systems Security Act of 2024.” HB 1415 prohibits the purchase or use by a government agency of a drone or any related service or equipment produced by a manufacturer domiciled in a country of concern, as defined in the bill. Rep. Stacy said he had prepared a House Committee Substitute, but primarily he went into detail why he is seeking the legislation. Basically, many if not most drones flying in the U.S. are manufactured in China. Rep. Stacy expressed concern about cybersecurity, data that could be collected and shared with China, that the manufacturer DJI is considered a military company in China. He said drones are essential tools for law enforcement and other agencies, but Missouri tax dollars should not support that company. The U.S. should develop its own technologies. Testimony in support of HB 1415 was offered by State Armor Action represented by James Harris who said Utah has passed a similar piece of legislation and that the cheapest drones on the market are made in China. This bill will help Missouri protect itself, he said. Numerous witnesses testified in opposition to the bill, saying the cost of drones made in various countries are dramatically different and studies have been done validating that Chinese drones do not gather data information. Opposing witnesses included the St. Charles County Ambulance District, St. Charles County Police Department, the Monarch Fire Protection District, the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 15, eastern Missouri; the Cape Girardeau Fire Department, the CEO of Agri-Spray Drones used for agricultural purposes, Boone County Fire Protection District, Task Force 1, Cape Girardeau County Sheriff’s Office, Wright City fire chief, the Missouri Police Chiefs Association, City of Branson police and fire, Wright City Fire Protection District drone pilot, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Kansas City fire department and police department, St. Louis County Police Association, Fire Service Alliance, and Missouri Fire Chiefs Association. Information only testimony was offered by the Council on Public Higher Education, saying the legislation is unclear if it applies to public colleges and universities.

Sunshine Bill Exempts Minors’ and Campers’ Information

On Tuesday afternoon, SCS HCS HB 1720 was voted “do pass” by the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee. The committee vote was 6-0. 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.” The Senate Committee Substitute added SB 1019, sponsored by Sen. Justin Brown (R-Rolla) to the bill. SB 1019’s language authorizes a public governmental body to close records that relate to individually identifiable customer information for visitors who make a camping, lodging, or shelter reservation for a Missouri State Park or State Historic Site, unless the records are requested by the visitor or authorized for release by the visitor.

Closing Initiative Petition Signatures Among Changes

On Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee in executive session voted “do pass” on HCS HB 1749, sponsored by Rep. Mike Haffner (R-Pleasant Hill). The vote was 6-0. 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.

Allowing Committee Meetings in Locations Other Than the County Seat

On Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee met in executive session to consider HB 1909, sponsored by Rep. Tim Taylor (R-Bunceton). The committee voted “do pass” on a count of 6-0. 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.

Regulatory Sandbox Act 

The Senate Economic Development and Tax Policy Committee met Tuesday afternoon to discuss HB 1960, sponsored by Representative Alex Riley (R-Springfield). 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. The Opportunity Solutions Project, MO Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Economic Development Corporation of KC, Associated Industries of MO, City of KC, Civic Council of KC, UnitedWe, Greater KC Chamber of Commerce, Springfield Chamber of Commerce, MO Retailers Association, and the MO Grocers Association supported the bill. No opposing testimony was presented.

Notice of County Planning Board Hearings

On Wednesday afternoon, the House General Laws Committee met in executive session and voted “do pass” on HB 1992, sponsored by Rep. Sherri Gallick (R-Belton). The vote count was 13-0. The bill requires that notices of county planning board hearings be posted on the county’s website, and it repeals the requirement that such notices be posted at least 15 days in advance of the hearing in at least two places in each township. Notices of the hearings shall continue to be published in at least one newspaper in the county 15 days prior to the hearings.

Protecting Children From Online Porn

The House Rules-Legislative Oversight Committee met Wednesday afternoon to vote in executive session on HCS HB 1993, sponsored by Rep. Sherri Gallick (R-Belton). The “do pass” committee vote was 5-3. The bill requires any commercial entity that knowingly or intentionally publishes or distributes on the Internet material harmful to minors, as defined in the bill, to verify that any person attempting to access the material is at least 18 years old. The requirement to verify the age of users only applies to websites for which more than one-third of the total material meets the definition of material harmful to minors. Any commercial entity that violates these provisions will be subject to civil liability for damages resulting from a minor’s access to the material. The bill does not impose an obligation or liability on a provider or user of an interactive computer service on the Internet.

Powers of the State Auditor

The Senate Government Accountability Committee convened Thursday morning to discuss HB 2111, sponsored by Representative Phil Christofanelli (R-St. Peters). The bill provides that the Auditor may audit all or part of any political subdivision or government entity if, after an investigation, the auditor believes improper governmental activity has occurred. The Office of State Auditor provided supporting testimony. No opposing testimony was presented to the committee.

Omnibus Political Subdivision

The House Government Efficiency and Downsizing Committee convened Wednesday morning to re-consider passage of HB 2206, sponsored by Representative Richard West (R-Wentzville). The bill as originally filed requires political subdivisions to adopt a meeting speaker policy by July 1, 2025, to allow for public comments and prohibits a political subdivision from banning or removing individuals from a meeting. The bill had previously been voted out of committee, however as we near the end of session, members start to look for every opportunity to amend bills to include their priorities. Through a series of procedural moves, the committee brought back to the bill to reconsider and to offer a committee substitute ultimately creating an omnibus bill relating to political subdivisions. The bill now includes over 20 new provisions, specifically:

  • HB 2381, which establishes the Protecting Small Business Act;
  • HB 1512, which modifies provisions relating to the powers of libraries;
  • Bars political subdivisions from imposing or enforcing a moratorium on eviction proceedings unless specifically authorized by state law;
  • HB 1511, which requires political subdivisions that require the installation of electric vehicle charging stations at certain businesses to pay the costs associated with the installation, maintenance, and operation of such stations;
  • HB 2282, which establishes the Building Permit Reform Act;
  • HB 2057, which modifies provisions relating to video service providers;
  • HB 1995, which repeals the expiration date of the Uniform Small Wireless Facility Deployment Act;
  • HB 2286, which specifies that certain residency requirements of a city of the fourth classification may be satisfied by certain conditions;
  • HB 2571, which modifies provisions relating to financial statements of certain local governments;
  • HB 2104, which modifies provisions relating to elections;
  • Any local public health agency that imposes a fine or other monetary penalty against an individual, business, or church, shall return all monies collected.
  • HB 1522, which modifies provisions relating to the establishment of alternative county highway commissions in certain counties;
  • HB 1751, which modifies provisions regarding solid waste disposal permits;
  • HB 2265, which modifies provisions relating to pet shop operations;
  • HB 1460, which changes the law regarding industrial development corporations by terminating provisions applicable to only Lewis County;
  • HB 1484, which modifies tobacco product regulations;
  • HB 2380, which prohibits political subdivisions from requiring a home inspection before the sale of residential property;
  • HB 1514, which modifies provisions regarding homeowner’s association restrictions on pasturing chickens;
  • Modifies filings for transfers of real property with outstanding collectible judgments; and,
  • HB 1720, which modifies provisions of the sunshine law.

Additionally, the bill was further amended by removing the provision regarding fire protection services in Hazelwood. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by an 8-4 vote.

Additional Information Required in Political Ads

On Tuesday morning, the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee gathered to hear HB 2544, sponsored by Rep. Hermann Morse (R-Dexter). HB 2544 requires any printed or broadcast advertising relative to a candidate for public office or ballot measure to provide a citation of the original source when referencing published material. The citation must include information specified in the bill and must appear near the “paid for by” notice for published material, and with the sponsor identification for broadcast material. No testimony was presented in support of or against the bill. Doug Crews, representing Missouri Press Association, testified for information only, saying the added citations would help promote truth in political ads.

Automatic Expungement of Records

On Wednesday afternoon, the House General Laws Committee gathered in executive session to vote on HCS HB 2555 & 2108, sponsored by Rep. Justin Hicks (R-Lake St. Louis). The vote count was 13-0. HB 2108 was sponsored by Rep. Phil Christofanelli (R-St. Peters) and a committee amendment merged the two bills. The bills were 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. Another committee amendment provides that an amendment can only occur for the person’s highest criminal charge if he or she has multiple charges, and when the expungement is given, the court must maintain records. During a committee hearing, it was 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. The bill does not expand which types of criminal records are expungable.

Presidential Preference Primary

On Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee met in executive session and voted “do pass” on SCS SB 1120, sponsored by Sen. Jill Carter (R-Granby). The vote count was 6-0. SCS SB 1120 would again establish a presidential preference primary election in Missouri to be held on the first Tuesday in March of each year in which a presidential election is held. An amendment to the bill increased candidate filing fees for the election from $5,000 to $50,000.

Review of School Staff Training Materials

The Senate Select Committee on Empowering Missouri Parents and Children convened on Thursday morning to consider passage of SB 1203, sponsored by Senator Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R-Arnold). The bill requires school districts and charter schools to post staff training, instructional aides, and curricular materials on topics including nondiscrimination, diversity, equity, and inclusion on the district’s website and expands the purview of the Missouri Attorney General’s Office to enforce provisions of the law and investigate allegations of noncompliance. After no discussion, the committee passed the bill by a 6-3 vote.

County Officials Legislation Includes Online Auctions

On Wednesday afternoon, the House General Laws Committee gathered to conduct a hearing on SB 1363, sponsored by Sen. Sandy Crawford (R-Buffalo). SB 1363 is a lengthy bill dealing with county officials, and a portion of it allows a county collector to hold an auction of lands with delinquent property taxes through the Internet at the same time as the auction is held in-person. The bill continues to require newspaper public notices listing delinquent property to be published for three consecutive weeks prior to the auction. Testimony in support of the bill was offered by the Missouri Association of Public Administrators, the Missouri Association of County Auditors, the Sheriff of the City of St. Louis, the City of St. Louis, Missouri County Collectors Association (in support of allowing delinquent property tax sales online), and Arnie Dienoff.

Initiative Petition Reform on Constitutional Amendments

On Tuesday morning, the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee gathered in executive session to vote on HCS SJR 74, sponsored by Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R-Arnold). The “do pass” vote was 11-5. The Senate Joint Resolution would change how proposed amendments to the state Constitution would be approved. Current law provides that any constitutional amendment proposed by the initiative petition process shall take effect when approved by a simple majority of the statewide votes cast on the measure. However, HCS SJR 74 requires all such proposed constitutional amendments to receive a majority of the votes cast statewide as well as a majority of the votes cast in at least a majority (five of eight) of the state’s Congressional districts. For HCS SJR 74 to go into effect, it must be approved by voters statewide by a simple majority vote. Sen. Coleman recently had testified to the committee that the SJR had passed the Senate by deleting some of the provisions in her original bill. On Tuesday, the House Elections Committee added back into the bill several provisions the Senate had deleted, including: foreign interference in elections, people eligible to vote to be citizens of the United States, and other provisions termed by several committee members as “ballot candy.” Rep. David Tyson Smith (D-Columbia) said it is “inappropriate that it’s being put back in. It misleads voters. I think it’s outrageous.” Rep. Ken Waller (R-Herculaneum) said Sen. Coleman “asked us to do this.” Rep. Joe Adams (D-University City) said the SJR would allow 23 percent of voters in Missouri to reject the other 70+ percent of Missourians. I would never vote for anything that would deny the people’s vote. This is an attempt to get rid of that right.” He added, “I hope you get it over to the Senate and blow it (the Senate) up again.”

Floor Activity

Post-Award Negotiations by O.A. with Vendors

On Wednesday afternoon, the House brought up for third reading HCS HB 1818 & 2345. The bill was third read and passed by a vote of 137-0, and now moves to the Senate. Sponsors of the original, nearly identical bills were Rep. John Voss (R-Cape Girardeau) and Rep. Louis Riggs (R-Hannibal). The bill allows for post-award negotiations with the lowest and best responsive vendor if identified in the solicitation along with the time frame for post-award negotiations by the Office of Administration. The O.A. Commissioner may waive post-award negotiations. Certain contract provisions must be reserved for post-award negotiations after the notice of award. If the negotiations fail, the Commissioner may cancel the award and award the contract to the next lowest and best vendor.

Commercial Transactions, Public Notices

On Wednesday afternoon, the House brought up for perfection HCS HB 2780, sponsored by Rep. Justin Hicks (R-Lake St. Louis). The bill was perfected and printed by voice vote and needs another House vote to move to the Senate. The bill revises and creates provisions relating to commercial transactions. A floor amendment was added to allow online notices instead of newspaper public notices for self-storage unit auctions, legislation opposed by the Missouri Press Association. Another floor amendment increases from $5,000 to $15,000 the maximum amount of insurance coverage available for self-storage unit contents. An amendment by Rep. Brad Christ (R-St. Louis) added HB 1478 to the bill, establishing the “Money Transmission Modernization Act of 2024.” HCS HB 2780 prohibits public entities from accepting payments using any central bank digital currency. The bill modifies Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) definitions. The bill makes hybrid transactions subject to the UCC under certain circumstances as specified in the bill. For jurisdiction, choice of law, and recognition of interbranch letters of credit, the bill provides that a branch of a bank is considered to be the address indicated in the branch’s undertaking. If more than one address is indicated, the branch is considered to be located at the address from which the undertaking was issued. The legislation deals with a person’s control of an electronic document.

Initiative Petition Process Changes

On Wednesday morning, the House brought up for third reading 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. The HJR was third read and passed by a vote of 106-49, and the resolution now moves 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 congressional districts (five of eight) 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 to be placed on the ballot. This resolution would require signatures from 8 percent of the legal voters in all 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 Thursday morning to revisit 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. After no further debate, the Senate passed the bill by a 31-1 vote. The bill now will be sent to the House for further consideration.

Geology and Land Survey

The Senate dedicated floor time Tuesday afternoon to debate SB 1351, sponsored by Senator Tony Luetkemeyer (R-Parkville). According to the bill, all information obtained by the Missouri Geological Survey shall remain confidential and shall not be released to the public in response to any request, including a records request, except certain information relating to water usage. During debate, the sponsor amended the bill to modify the title to reflect the proper department that oversees the program and provide clarifying language that provides the provisions of the act shall only apply to information obtained from major water users relating to water used on agricultural land. Once modified, the Senate provided its first of two necessary approval votes. The Senate dedicated floor time Thursday morning to revisit the bill. After no further debate, the Senate failed to pass the bill by a 16-16 vote.

Upcoming Hearings

House-Crime Prevention and Public Safety
04/09/2024 1:00 PM
Committee Hearing, HR 7
HB2728 Parker – Establishes the “Uniform Civil Remedies for Unauthorized Disclosure of Intimate Images Act”

House-Rules-Legislative Oversight
04/09/2024 3:30 PM
Committee Hearing, HR 5
Executive Session:
SJR74 Coleman – Modifies provisions relating to constitutional amendments

House-Crime Prevention and Public Safety
04/11/2024 8:30 AM or upon adjournment
Committee Hearing, HR 7
Executive Session:
HB2219 Buchheit-Courtway – Modifies the offense of unlawful posting of certain information over the internet
HB2728 Parker – Establishes the “Uniform Civil Remedies for Unauthorized Disclosure of Intimate Images Act”

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