Week 3: Committee Hearings Abundant, Floor Action Lacking

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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.

Week 3: Committee Hearings Abundant, Floor Action Lacking

The Missouri General Assembly was not in session on Monday for commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Also, a few committee meetings were canceled or changed earlier this week due to snow, ice, and extremely low temperatures and wind chills in central Missouri. The House and Senate continue advancing some of their key priorities through committee and we expect both chambers to tackle public education issues in the weeks ahead.

State of the State – January 24th

As a reminder, Governor Mike Parson (R) will deliver is annual State of the State Address to a Joint Session of the Missouri House of Representatives and Missouri Senate on Wednesday, January 24th. The State of the State Address is the time when a Governor’s priorities for the legislative session are outlined, including highlights of what budget recommendations the Governor is asking the legislature to consider. The State of the State Address will be live streamed on Governor Parson’s Facebook page and the House of Representatives website at House Media Feeds.

First Attempt at IP Reform Fails in the Senate

An attempt was made Thursday morning, tying up the Senate for some two hours by the conservative Missouri Freedom Caucus, to bring forth SJR 77, an initiative petition reform bill sponsored by Sen. Jill Carter (R-Granby). IP reform is a top Republican priority of both the Senate and the House, but complaints were voiced that during the first three weeks of the legislative session, no progress has been made on the issue. Sen. Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg) made the motion to bring SJR 77 to the full Senate, using the Senate rule of Committee of the Whole to bypass the usual committee hearing process. However, the motion failed by a vote of 7 yes, 25 no.

In a news release issued by the Missouri Freedom Caucus on Thursday morning, because IP reform has not moved, the caucus “is determined to block any and all proposed gubernatorial appointments in the Senate.” When a motion was made by Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) to approve a list of gubernatorial appointments, Sen. Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville) then took the floor and began a filibuster on behalf of the Missouri Freedom Caucus.

Participating in the filibuster were Sen. Bill Eigel (R-Weldon Springs) and Sen. Hoskins. Sen. Rowden and Sen. Andrew Koenig (R-Manchester) debated with Sen. Koenig saying, “I certainly wish the SJRs had been referred earlier.” Sen. Rowden said he would refer the SJRs on Monday if the gubernatorial appointments were approved Thursday. “My ask is to return to the most normal business as possible,” Sen. Rowden said.

About 9:15 p.m. after nearly 11 hours of the filibuster, Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden withdrew his motion to approve the gubernatorial appointments. Within minutes the session was adjourned until Monday at 4:00 p.m.

Budget Update

The House Sub-Committee on Appropriations-General Administration convened this week to complete the department presentations for FY2024 Supplemental requests and FY2025 Budget requests. The Governor’s Executive Budget will be presented next week during the State of the State Address. Once this has been released, the various sub-committees will decide whether additional information is needed from the various departments or if the sub-committee recommendation process may begin. After the sub-committee recommendations have been completed, the full Budget Committee will begin to meet.

Of particular interest this week, the Senate Committee on Appropriations convened to discuss SB 748, sponsored by Senator Lincoln Hough (R-Springfield). Currently, there is a two-year sunset on the Ground Ambulance, Nursing Facility, Medicaid Managed Care Organization, Hospital, Pharmacy, and Intermediate Care Facility for the Intellectually Disabled federal reimbursement allowances. The bill removes the sunset entirely. The sponsor stated he removed the sunset as this is a critical program and having to revisit it every year or two can impact the Medicaid program. The Missouri Hospital Association, Associated Industries of Missouri, Missouri Retailers Association, Missouri Grocers Association, Missouri Pharmacy Association, College of Emergency Physicians, Freeman Hospital, Fire Service Alliance, Missouri Assisted Living Facility Association, Preferred Family Health, Missouri Healthcare Association, Missouri Society of Anesthesiologists, Missouri College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Health Forward Foundation, BJC Healthcare, Ambulance District Association, Cox Health, Missouri Association of Rural Health Clinics, Rankin Jordan Pediatric Hospital, SSM Health, Mercy Hospital, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Missouri Budget Project, Children’s Mercy Kansas City, provided supporting testimony stating this tax helps to create matching federal funds which generates over $4.3 billion and concerns were raised that pro-life language would definitely result in lawsuits and cause delays in funding for critical programs. Missouri Right to Life provided opposing testimony stating the pro-life language is essential to protect life and no taxpayer dollars should go towards Planned Parenthood. Thursday morning the committee re-convened to consider passage of the bill. After a brief discussion regarding the lack of addition of pro-life language the bill passed by a 12-1 vote.

Committee Activity

Missouri Sunshine Law

On Tuesday morning the House Local Government Committee met to consider HB 1720, sponsored by Rep. Bill Falkner (R-St. Joseph). The original legislation would have enacted four new exemptions to the Missouri Sunshine Law, primarily closing records containing a person’s individually identifiable information. Rep. Falkner, however, said he was deleting much of the bill and only adding one new exemption to protect information about minors. An amendment he distributed to committee members would close “any portion of a record that contains individually identifiable information of any minor who registers for a recreational or social activity or event sponsored by a public governmental body.” Testifying in favor of the bill were the Missouri Municipal League, the Municipal League of Metropolitan St. Louis, and A.C. Dienoff, who said information of public offices should be open. Jean Maneke, attorney for the Missouri Press Association, testified for information only and said closing information on minors who are foster children makes it difficult to find the guardians in charge of those children. The original version of HB 1720 would have closed records containing a person’s email address and telephone number, closed public records that can identify constituents of legislators (excluding lobbyists), and closed records retained in the office of legislators regarding proposed legislation (unless the information is offered in a public meeting). The bill is expected to be amended with Rep. Falkner’s amendment regarding minors during an upcoming executive session of the committee.

Omnibus Judicial Proceedings

The House Judiciary Committee convened Wednesday afternoon to consider passage of HB 1886, sponsored by Representative Rudy Veit (R-Wardsville). The bill prohibits any city, town, or village that is incorporated in accordance with the laws of this state from imposing or enforcing a moratorium on eviction proceedings unless specifically authorized by state law. Additionally, HB 1886 does the following:

  • expands the circumstances under which an LLC may be dissolved;
  • establishes an alternative dispute resolution process;
  • changes the definitions of “adult” and “child” as they relate to actions under Chapter 455, RSMo.;
  • establishes the “Missouri Electronic Wills and Electronic Estate Planning Documents Act” which specifies that an electronic will is considered a will for all purposes of the law of this state and that any written estate planning document may be executed electronically;
  • specifies that certain estate planning documents that were executed during the period between April 6, 2020, and December 31, 2021, during which a state of emergency existed due to COVID-19;
  • adds a person acting as a parent of a minor entering adult guardianship or conservatorship to the list of those persons who must be appointed as guardians or conservators of minors;
  • establishes court clerk processes for emergency or full orders regarding a minor entering adult guardianship or conservatorship;
  • establishes the “Uniform Interstate Depositions and Discovery Act” and the “Uniform Public Expression Protection Act”.
  • and establishes procedures for such special motions to dismiss.

The provisions of this bill apply to the will of a decedent who dies on or after August 28, 2024, and to each other written estate planning document signed or remotely witnessed on or after August 28, 2024. The bill also excludes persons acting as parents, as well as grandparents, from the requirement that persons seeking guardianship complete a background screening at their own expense. During committee discussion, substitute language was adopted to remove the eviction moratorium language. Additionally, the committee substitute included juror fee and qualified spousal trust language. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by an 11-1 vote.

County Committee Meeting Location

The House Committee on Local Government convened Tuesday morning to discuss HB 1909, sponsored by Representative Tim Taylor (R-Bunceton). The bill repeals the requirement that county committees hold their meetings within the seat of the county in advance of primary elections. The sponsor stated technology has evolved to the point where meetings do not have to take place in person and would simply like to update the statute to allow for greater flexibility. No supporting or opposing testimony was presented to the committee.

Regional Planning Commissions Funding

The House Committee on Local Government convened Tuesday morning to discuss HB 2074, sponsored by Representative Dale Wright (R-Farmington). Currently, state funding for the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council and the Mid-America Regional Council shall not exceed $65,000 and for other planning commissions the amount shall not exceed $25,000. The bill would change the sums from $65,000 to $130,000 and from $25,000 to $50,000. Additionally, the bill requires the maximum grant amount to adjusted with the consumer price index beginning July 1, 2026. The Southeast Missouri Regional Planning Commission, Missouri Association of Council Governments, Missouri Municipal League and Municipal League for Metro St. Louis provided supporting testimony stating regional planning commissions help to author and implement each region’s comprehensive economic development strategies, help to implement local transportation planning activities and help coordinate with SEMA. No opposing testimony was presented to the committee.

Powers of the State Auditor

The House Committee on Government Efficiency and Downsizing convened Wednesday 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. State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick, and Amazing Traditions, LLC testified in support of the bill. No opposing testimony was presented to the committee.

Election Modifications

The House Committee on Elections and Elected Officials convened Tuesday afternoon to discuss HB 2140, sponsored by Representative Peggy McGaugh (R-Carrolton). The bill modifies several provisions regarding elections. Specifically, the bill moves the filing date for school board candidates to the sixteenth Tuesday prior to the election. Additionally, the bill allows for the use of email for notice of elections, closes the list of absentee voters and requires the intrastate and interstate voters to vote at the local election authority’s office. Finally, the bill would keep electioneering at least 25 feet from polling locations and establishes the offense of tampering with an election official. Missouri School Board Association, Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, St. Louis County Election Board, Secure Democracy, Anti-Defamation League-Heartland, League of Women Voters of Missouri, Sierra Club Missouri Chapter, City of St. Peters, Missouri NEA, Missouri Municipal League, Jackson County Election Board, Advocates of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, Freedom Principal Missouri, numerous private citizens and a state advocate provided supporting testimony. Armovine provided opposing testimony. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and a private citizen provided informational testimony.

Governing Body Meeting Requirements

The House Committee on Government Efficiency and Downsizing convened Wednesday morning to discuss HB 2206, sponsored by Representative Richard West (R-Wentzville). By July 1, 2025, the bill requires political subdivisions to adopt a meeting speaker policy to allow for public comments and prohibits a political subdivision from banning or removing individuals from a meeting. During committee discussions, committee members expressed concerns with the State dictating to local governments, however stated there are current issues that need to be addressed. Two public citizens supported the bill. The MO Municipal League opposed the bill stating public comment periods are standard practice at meetings of city councils and boards of aldermen. However, some cities hold open work sessions prior to regular meetings in order for members to discuss matters, in public view, but without public comment just as Missouri General Assembly committees do. They concluded their remarks but stating the bill is too broad and bad public policy.

Land Banks

The Senate Committee on Emerging Issues convened Tuesday afternoon to discuss SB 750, sponsored by Senator Lincoln Hough (R-Springfield). As communities are faced with growing numbers of vacant or abandoned properties, the bill seeks to provide a tool to municipalities by utilizing a land bank system. Specifically, after a qualified period of ongoing delinquent taxes, communities are allowed to purchase those properties and sell them in order to get the properties back onto the tax rolls. During bill presentation, the sponsor stated the language is still a work in progress and he continues to work with stakeholders. The Missouri Association of Realtors, Missouri Municipal League, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, Restore SFG Board, Urban Land Institute of Springfield, the Blue House Project, the Affordable Housing Coalition, City of Springfield, Municipal League of Metro St. Louis, Empower Missouri, St. Louis County, and St. Louis Realtors provided supporting testimony stating this legislation is an important tool that not only would help remove unsafe structures, but would also help and assist with the current housing crisis in communities. Armorvine, and a state public advocate opposed the bill, stating this could potentially allow for municipalities to simply take over properties to further ongoing infrastructure projects. The Missouri Press Association provided informational testimony stating online notification would not satisfy the current court rules requiring physical publication of notification.

Upcoming Hearings

House-Rural Community Development
01/22/2024 12:00 PM
Committee Hearing, HR 1
HB2069 Mayhew – Modifies provisions relating to state funds for regional planning commissions

Senate-Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence
01/22/2024 2:00 PM
Committee Hearing, SCR 1
SB861 Williams – Modifies provisions relating to expungement

House-Local Government
01/23/2024 8:00 AM
Committee Hearing, HR 7
Executive Session:
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
HB2074 Wright – Increases matching state funds available for various regional planning commissions

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