Week 15: Sweeping Education Bill Sent to the Governor’s Desk

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The following is a legislative update from Clarkston Nelson, LLC concerning the Missouri General Assembly’s spring legislative session. Use the information within to inspire local coverage of issues important to your readers.

Sweeping Education Bill Sent to the Governor’s Desk

Only three weeks remain to pass the budget before the constitutional deadline to send the budget to the Governor for final consideration. All eyes are anxiously watching the Senate Appropriations Committee members, who are set to begin their process to review the House budget proposals next week. With time quickly running out and the continued dysfunction in the Senate, the threat of a special session is now looming. In addition to passing the Fiscal Year 2025 state budget bills by 6 pm on May 10th, the Senate has yet to pass the extremely critical renewal of the state federal reimbursement allowance tax on healthcare providers. This tax, often referred to as the “FRA,” contributes state tax dollars to provide for a match for federal dollars to bring more than $4 billion dollars to the state budget for covering costs associated with our state Medicaid plan. Without the passage of the FRA in the weeks ahead, our legislature and Governor will be unable to institute a balanced state budget and will be forced to make dramatic cuts to state aid for items such as healthcare and public education. The budget process and FRA approval will take center stage for the next three weeks in both legislative chambers.

The biggest item that has passed thus far occurred on Thursday afternoon when the Missouri House of Representatives gave its final approval of Senate Bill 727, which is a very broad public education funding bill that provides increases in teacher starting salaries, increased funding in traditional public education settings (including student transportation dollars), allows for the expansion of state sponsored charter schools, and triples the size of the existing school voucher program (Education Savings Accounts or ESAs). This bill has been very controversial over the years and was passed by the Missouri House on Thursday by a roll call vote of 82-69. To pass a bill in the 163 member House, you must have 82 votes and that is the exact vote for final passage. The bill now heads to Governor Mike Parson (R) for his signature. The House vote shows that this bill could not clear a Governor veto override and thus all the attention will now be directed to the Governor’s office on the 2nd floor of the Missouri capitol building.

The Missouri General Assembly will adjourn sine die on May 17th at 6:00 pm. Many legislative priorities are yet to pass including Initiative Petition Reforms (IP), Fiscal Year 2025 State Budget, Ban on funding of abortion services, and extension of the state FRA tax for Medicaid.

House Ethics Committee Issues Report

After months of closed-door hearings, the House Ethics Committee conducted is first public hearing Monday afternoon. The committee ultimately voted down a draft report which concluded the committee lacked direct evidence of ethical misconduct in Speaker of the House Dean Plocher’s advocacy for a six-figure software contract, in his firing of a former staffer or in years of filing false expense reimbursement reports. The rejected report recommended a formal letter of disapproval for Speaker Dean Plocher, that he hire an accounting professional to manage his expense reports moving forward and that he refrain from retaliation against any legislator or House employee who cooperated with the committee. By Wednesday afternoon, Speaker Plocher released a statement that since the committee failed to adopt the report, “the disposition of the complaint remains open and pending before the Ethics Committee.” The report can be viewed here.

Hataway Named as Director of Economic Development

Governor Parson has elevated Michelle Hataway from “Acting” Director of the Department of Economic Development to Director. She has been with the Department for more than eight years and has served as the Acting Director since June of 2023. Her appointment requires confirmation by the Senate which must happen before they adjourn in May.

Sen. Greg Razer Appointed to State Tax Commission

On April 12, Gov. Mike Parson announced 23 appointments to various state boards and commissions. Among the appointees is State Sen. Greg Razer (D-Kansas City), who was appointed to the State Tax Commission. If the Missouri Senate votes to confirm Sen. Razer’s appointment, he would have to vacate his seat in the Senate. He was first elected to the Senate in 2020, and he had filed to run for reelection this year. His previous service includes serving as a State Representative for the 25th House District and as deputy regional director for former U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill’s northwestern Missouri office. Senator Razer holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Missouri, Columbia.

Landfill Deal

On Monday, the Raymore City Council and KC Recycle & Waste Solutions, developers of a controversial landfill proposed in South Kansas City, announced a deal had been struck. The council voted unanimously to set out the terms for a settlement that would pay the developers of the proposed landfill $3.73 million to scrap their project, including $440,000 for Raymore to acquire one of the developer’s 12-acre parcels. The agreement is contingent on the Missouri legislative body passing proposed legislation.

Budget Update

This week, the Senate dedicated floor time to debate HB 2016, sponsored by Representative Cody Smith (R-Carthage), and co-sponsored by Senator Lincoln Hough (R-Springfield). This is the Emergency Supplemental bill for $2.2 million to allow for funding the Governor’s Executive Order to send Missouri National Guard members and Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers to Texas. After about an hour of debate, the Senate passed the bill by a 30-2 vote. The bill now will be sent to the Governor for final consideration. This is the first bill sent to the Governor this session.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Lincoln Hough (R-Springfield) announced the timeline for the Senate to begin the review of the House’s proposed FY2025 budget. The Appropriations Committee is expected to convene by next Tuesday to begin the “mark-up” process. This process entails either agreeing with the House position, which eliminates the item for conference, agreeing with the Governor’s position, or creating a Senate position, which immediately designates that item for conference. If the process is not completed Tuesday, the committee will convene again on Wednesday. Once the committee mark-up process is complete, it is Chairman Hough’s intention to bring the budget bills before the full Senate for debate the following week. This will leave one week before the constitutional deadline for both chambers to negotiate any differences.

Key Upcoming Dates:
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
August 28, 2024 – Effective Date of all Passed Legislation
September 11, 2024 – Veto Session
November 5, 2024 – Missouri General Elections

Committee Activity

Public Safety Legislation Touches a Variety of Topics

On Monday afternoon, SCS HCS HB 1659, sponsored by Rep. Lane Roberts (R-Joplin), a lengthy public safety bill, was voted “do pass” on a 5-0 vote by the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. Added by the Senate committee to HCS HB 1659 was SB 754 which includes establishing Max’s Law, which would increase the penalty for assaulting a law enforcement animal by making it a class A misdemeanor if the animal is injured, a class E felony if the animal is severely injured, and a class D felony if the assault results in the animal’s death. The bill also modifies provisions relating to funding for the Office of Public Defender; modifies provisions relating to certification of juveniles for trial as adults; establishes a conviction review unit; modifies provisions relating to expungement; and modifies provisions relating to eligibility for parole. The House bill addresses the following: wrongful convictions, persistent offenders, armed criminal action, creation of the Stop Cyberstalking and Harassment Task Force, endangering the welfare of a child, unlawful discharge of a firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm, injuring law enforcement animals, drug trafficking, civilian oversight divisions, and Office of Public Defender funding from grants, private gifts, and donations. Among some of the provisions in the bill, the Cyberstalking Task Force will collect feedback from stakeholders, including victims, law enforcement, victim advocates, and digital evidence and forensics experts and will make recommendations on what resources and tools are needed to stop cyberstalking and harassment. The bill establishes “Blair’s Law,” which specifies that a person commits the offense of unlawful discharge of a firearm if, with criminal negligence, he or she discharges a firearm within or into the limits of a municipality. The bill allows a city, county, or the City of St. Louis to establish a division of civilian oversight that provides civilian review oversight of police agencies. The board, division or other entity has power solely limited to receiving, investigating, making findings, and recommending disciplinary action upon complaints by members of the public against members of the police department.

Omnibus Political Subdivision

The House Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee convened Monday afternoon to 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 now includes over 20 new provisions including:

  • 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 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 1484, which modifies tobacco product regulations;
  • HB 2380, which prohibits political subdivisions from requiring a home inspection before the sale of residential property;
  • Modifies filings for transfers of real property with outstanding collectible judgments; and,
  • HB 1720, which modifies provisions of the sunshine law.

The committee voted the bill do pass by a vote of 7-2.

Automatic Expungement of Records Postponed

On Monday afternoon, the House Rules – Legislative Oversight Committee met in executive session but postponed voting on HCS HB 2555 & 2108, sponsored by Rep. Justin Hicks (R-Lake St. Louis). HB 2555 & 2108 establishes 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,” a fund dedicated to the creation, operation, and maintenance of the program. An expungement 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. The bill does not expand which types of criminal records are expungable.

AI Generated Media Prohibited in Politics

On Tuesday morning, the Senate Emerging Issues Committee heard HCS HB 2628 & 2603, sponsored by Rep. Ben Baker (R-Neosho). No witnesses testified on the bill. The legislation pushes back against false political advertising produced by artificial intelligence (AI). The penalties for the most part in the bill are misdemeanors for makers of deepfake videos that are used within 90 days of an election to injure the reputation of a candidate or party or otherwise deceive a voter. The bill defines “deceptive and fraudulent deepfake,” and “synthetic media” as an image, audio recording, or video recording of an individual’s appearance, speech, or conduct that has been created or intentionally manipulated with the use of digital technology to create a realistic but false image, audio, or video. The section of the bill does not apply to radio or television stations, cable or satellite television operators that broadcast a deceptive deepfake as part of a bona fide newscast, news interview, documentary or other coverage, if the broadcast acknowledges there are questions about the authenticity of the material. The section shall not apply to radio or television stations, cable or satellite television when it is paid to broadcast a deceptive and fraudulent deepfake. The responsibility and liability rests solely with the advertiser or entity that paid for the broadcast. Also, the provisions shall not apply if the audio or visual media includes a disclosure stating, “This _____ has been manipulated or generated by artificial intelligence.” This legislation shall not apply to an internet website or newspaper, magazine or other periodical, including an internet or electronic publication that carries news and commentary of general interest. Language in the HB 2603 portion of the bill pertains to adding business subscribers to the No-Call List and specifies that a person does not have to renew his or her objection to receiving solicitations. The bill also establishes the “Caller ID Anti-Spoofing Act” which creates the offense of caller identification spoofing.

Regulatory Sandbox Act Established

On Tuesday afternoon, the House General Laws Committee gathered to conduct a hearing on SB 894 & 825, sponsored by Sen. Travis Fitzwater (R-Holts Summit), a bill relating to the promotion of business development. The bill requires the Commissioner of Administration to file an annual report with the General Assembly that includes information on contracts awarded to businesses that have been in operation for less than three years. The legislation establishes the Right-To-Start Act to promote businesses that have been in operation for less than three years including businesses owned by racial minorities, women and military veterans. The Office of Entrepreneurship is created within the Department of Economic Development to promote policies and initiatives to support such businesses with fewer than 10 employees. The bill establishes the “Regulatory Sandbox Act,” which creates the Regulatory Relief Office within the DED for identifying state regulations that could potentially be waived or suspended for participating businesses during a two-year period in which the participating business demonstrates an innovative product offering to consumers. The bill creates the 11-member General Regulatory Sandbox Program Advisory Committee that advises and makes recommendations to the Regulatory Relief Office on whether to approve applications to the Sandbox Program, and meetings of the Advisory Committee shall be considered public meetings under the Sunshine Law. Supporting testimony on the bill was offered by Cicero Action, the Opportunity Solutions Project, National Federation of Independent Business, Missouri Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and KC Tech Council. Testimony in opposition was offered by Arnie Dienoff who said the sandbox issues are duplicative to current state programs and waste taxpayers’ money.

Campaign Finance Disclosure Reports

On Tuesday morning, the Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolution and Ethics Committee gathered for a hearing on SB 1134, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Koenig (R-Manchester). Under SB 1134, the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC) would require campaign committees, continuing committees, and political party committees for campaign finance reports, required to be filed eight days prior to an election, to pay $100 per day (currently $10 per day) in late fees for the reports. Candidate committees will continue to pay $100 per day. All other campaign finance reports will be charged a $20 per day late fee, rather than the current $10 per day fee. Other points of the bill: Funds held in all committees may be invested in mutual funds; The bill raises from $100 to $200 expenditures to be itemized on disclosure reports filed with the MEC; Disclosure reports’ late filing fine is increased from $10 to $20 per day; And a limited liability (LLC) company located outside the state is not considered to be transacting business in Missouri by making a campaign contribution to any political committee. During discussion, some opposition was voiced to late fee changes, and Sen. Koenig said he did not oppose returning them from $20 to $10 per day. There were no witnesses testifying at the hearing.

State Board of Education’s Responsibility of Appeals

The Senate Committee on Empowering Missouri Parents and Children convened Tuesday morning to discuss Senate Bill 1297, sponsored by Senator Jason Bean (R-Holcomb). This bill provides that the State Board of Education shall be responsible for handling appeals of decisions made by statewide activities associations. Currently, a statewide activities association that facilitates interscholastic activities for secondary school students who attend a public school in this state may serve as the appellate body that handles appeals of decisions made by such activities association. This act transfers the authority to handle such appeals to the State Board of Education. Within 48 hours of receiving an appeal, the State Board of Education shall meet to consider the appeal, and within 24 hours of such meeting, the State Board of Education shall decide on the appeal. No witnesses testified in support or opposition.

County Officials Legislation Includes Online Auctions

On Tuesday afternoon, the House General Laws Committee gathered in executive session to vote “do pass” on HCS SB 1363, sponsored by Sen. Sandy Crawford (R-Buffalo). The vote count was 11-1. HCS 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. The committee added two amendments to the bill, one involving the Stone County highway commission and one requiring the position of St. Charles police chief to be an elected position.

Floor Activity

Omnibus Judicial Bill with Anti-Slapp Provision

On Monday afternoon, the House brought up for third reading HB 1886, sponsored by Rep. Rudy Veit (R-Wardsville). The bill was third read and passed by a House vote of 146-6 and now it moves to the Senate. 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.

Changes in Redaction of Court Documents

On Monday afternoon, the House brought up for third reading HB 2064, sponsored by Rep. John Black (R-Marshfield). HB 2064 is an omnibus civil proceedings bill and includes provisions amending state law related to what information must be redacted from court documents. The changes include redacting information concerning a victim or witness in a criminal case that is confidential “as otherwise provided by statute or prescribed in Missouri Supreme Court Rules of Criminal Procedure or Operating Rules.” It also adds any other information redacted for good cause by order of the court. The House third read and passed HB 2064 by a vote of 146-0 and the bill now moves to the Senate.

Commercial Transactions, Public Notices

On Monday afternoon, the House brought up for third reading HCS HB 2780, sponsored by Rep. Justin Hicks (R-Lake St. Louis). The bill was third read and passed by the House on a vote of 96-27 and now it moves to the Senate. The bill revises and creates provisions relating to commercial transactions. A House floor amendment was previously 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. Also amended onto the bill was HB 1478, 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.

Upcoming Hearings

Senate-Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence
04/22/2024 2:00 PM
Committee Hearing, SCR 1
SB897 Trent – Modifies provisions relating to judicial proceedings
SB1400 Brown – Modifies provisions relating to the offense of posting unlawful information

House-Elections and Elected Officials
04/22/2024 4:30 PM or Upon Adjournment
Committee Hearing, HR 7
Executive Session:
HB1525 Courtway – Reinstates the presidential preference primary
HB2895 Gregory – Reinstates the presidential preference primary

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