Week 5: Senate Stalemate Ends as Governor Appointments Confirmed

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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.

Senate Stalemate Ends as Governor Appointments Confirmed

After four weeks of gridlock and constant politically charged debate, the Missouri Senate agreed to confirm a large slate of gubernatorial appointments on Tuesday. Before the agreement was reached on Senate confirmations, the Freedom Caucus was successful in gaining the support of Senate leadership to move forward with advancing Initiative Petition Reform to the Senate Calendar for full floor debate in the weeks ahead.

The Missouri Senate continues to work through issues that are deep-rooted between individual Republican Senators from the 2022 election in which we saw numerous contested primaries for incumbent Senators and challengers recruited by the former Senate Conservative Caucus. Although these battle lines have been drawn and the anxiety remains, the Senate is expected to tackle numerous issues in the weeks ahead including the federal reimbursement allowance tax extension (FRA); public education reforms; initiative petition reform (IP); and a ban on state funding of abortion facilities. We expect a significant amount of floor debate next week on the IP reform legislation as the current draft is likely to face stiff opposition from the Democrat Caucus members.

The Missouri House passed its first bill of the session this week as members moved their version of education reform to the Senate. The House bill would allow for a student transfer procedure for students between two public school districts. This bill passed with 87 votes, five votes over the majority needed, and appears to be the only likely option for public school reform in the near term for its legislative body. It will be very interesting to see how the House-passed education bill can meld with the upcoming Senate version to find common ground before adjournment in mid-May.

Budget Update

As predicted, once the Governor’s Executive budget was released after last week’s State of the State, the full House Budget Committee convened daily this week to receive budget presentations from the various State Departments regarding the FY2024 Supplemental budget and the FY2025 Governor recommendations. At the time of this report only a handful of the budget books are currently available online, so the committee limited the presentations to those departments and Statewide Officials.

The committee also reviewed the three Capital Improvement bills (HB 17, HB 18, HB 19). The ARPA Capital Improvement bill (HB 20) will be reviewed at a later date as some information was not yet ready to be presented. The Senate Appropriations Committee also convened this week to review the FY2025 MO Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development budget recommendations. It is expected that next week, the remaining departments will be presenting their budgets to both the House and Senate Appropriation Committees, which will lead to the House beginning to craft their recommendations.

Former Missouri U.S. Senator Jean Carnahan Passes

Former Missouri U.S. Senator Jean Carnahan, the state’s first woman to serve in the Senate and the widow of Governor Mel Carnahan, died on Tuesday. She was 90 years old. Jean Carnahan was the matriarch of one of Missouri’s best-known Democratic families. Her Son, Russ Carnahan, was a member of the U.S. House and currently heads the Missouri Democratic Party. Her daughter, Robin Carnahan, served eight years as Missouri Secretary of State and currently the administrator of the General Services Administration in Washington. Her eldest son, Randy Carnahan, perished in the plane crash that killed her husband. A private family service will be held at Carson Hill Cemetery, where she will be buried next to her husband and son. 

Governor Parson Heading to Texas this Weekend

On Sunday, Gov. Mike Parson is scheduled to join Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and 13 other Republican Governors in a briefing on the Operation Lone Star mission to secure the southern border. The briefing will take place at Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, TX, and will be led by Governor Abbott and other Texas officials. After the briefing, the Governors will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m.

2023 Property Tax Rates

On Tuesday, Missouri State Auditor, Scott Fitzpatrick, released his office’s annual review of local property tax rates. The report details property tax rates reported to the State Auditor’s Office by local government entities, including cities, counties, schools, and fire districts. In 2023, the staff reviewed 4,846 property tax rates from 2,804 taxing authorities. For the ninth consecutive year, the State Auditor’s Office found that no taxing authorities levied a tax rate exceeding the certified tax rate. A complete review of the 2023 property tax rates is available here.

Committee Activity

Sunshine Bill Exempts Minors’ Information

On Monday afternoon the House Rules – Legislative Oversight Committee gathered in executive session to consider HB 1720, sponsored by Rep. Bill Falkner (R-St. Joseph). The bill 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.” HB 1720 was voted “do pass” by the Rules Committee on a vote of 8-0.

Comprehensive Bill Includes Anti-SLAPP Legislation

On Monday afternoon the House Rules – Regulatory Oversight Committee gathered in executive session to consider HB 1886, sponsored by Rep. Rudy Veit (R-Wardsville). HCS HB 1886 was voted “do pass” by a committee vote of 9-0. The legislation is a comprehensive judicial proceedings bill and includes establishing the “Uniform Public Expression Protection Act,” known as anti-SLAPP. Such law often functions by allowing a defendant to file a motion to strike or dismiss on the grounds that the case involves protected speech on a matter of public concern. 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. Some language involving marital trusts was added in the substitute bill.

Privileged Information 

The House Judiciary Committee convened Wednesday afternoon to discuss HB 1954, sponsored by Representative Bennie Cook (R-Houston). Currently, information and data obtained by a probation or parole officer is privileged information and not receivable in any court. This bill modifies that provision to allow an exception for the receipt of this privileged information by a court for lawful criminal matters. The Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney testified in support of the bill. No opposing testimony was presented.

Regional Planning Commission Funding

The House Rural Community Development Committee convened Monday afternoon to discuss HB 2069, sponsored by Representative Don Mayhew (R-Crocker). 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, beginning July 1, 2026, the bill requires the maximum grant amount to be adjusted with the consumer price index. During bill presentation, the sponsor stated these funds allow regional planning commissions to help small towns apply for grants, with a particular focus on transportation opportunities, and that the current approved amount has not been increased since 1966. Missouri Association of Council of Governments, Missouri Association of Counties, and Missouri Municipal League provided supporting testimony. ArmorVine provided opposing testimony stating these planning commissions can sometimes work against the people.

Background Checks

The Senate Government Accountability Committee convened Thursday morning to discuss SB 875, sponsored by Senator Jason Bean (R-Holcomb). The bill would allow state agency boards and commission to continue to receive nationwide criminal history background checks of applicants seeking professional licensure within the state of Missouri. Additionally, these background checks would return criminal history information from not only Missouri but from every other state, territory and from tribal and military authorities. The sponsor testified the current Missouri statute, which was enacted to allow for these background checks, no longer meets the criteria set forth by the FBI. The Missouri State Highway Patrol and Missouri Division of Professional Registration provided supporting testimony. No opposing testimony was presented to the committee.

IP Reform 

The Senate Local Government and Elections Committee convened Monday afternoon to hear twelve bills relating to the initiative petition process. Specifically, SJR 48, SJR 74, SJR 49, SJR 79, SJR 51, SJR 77, SJR 83, SJR 61, SJR 73, SJR 56, and SJR 59, sponsored by Senators Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg), Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R-Arnold), Andrew Koenig (R-Manchester), Ben Brown (R-Washington), Bill Eigel (R-St. Charles), Jill Carter (R-Granby), Bill Eigel (R-St. Charles), Mike Moon (R-Ash Grove), Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon), Mike Cierpiot (R-Lee’s Summit), and Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville). The proposed resolutions vary from limiting proposed constitutional amendments to a single subject, prohibiting various petition subjects, to requiring both a statewide majority of the votes plus a majority in five of the eight congressional districts, to requiring the Secretary of State to provide voters in each Congressional district with a review period to provide comments on all initiative petitions proposing amendments to the Constitution, to prohibiting any foreign involvement in the initiative petition process and requiring anyone proposing an initiative petition to be a U.S. Citizen. Testimony in support was provided on a variety of the resolutions by Right to Life, Campaign for Life, Missouri First, ArmorVine, Missouri Farm Bureau, Soybean Association and the American Action Fund. Testimony in opposition was provided on a variety of the bills by dozens of private citizens, Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, Jobs with Justice Voter Action, Missouri NEA, ACLU, Missouri Association of Realtors, Empower Missouri, Missouri Budget Project, League of Women Voters, Paraquad, Sierra Club, Coalition for the Environment, and the Missouri Parks Association.

The committee re-convened Tuesday morning to consider passage of SJR 74, sponsored by Senator Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R-Arnold). During committee discussion, substitute language was adopted which adds SJR 48, SJR 59, SJR 61 and SJR 83 to the bill title and requires the concurrent majority be based on a majority statewide plus a majority of state House districts. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 5-2 vote.

The House Committee on Elections and Elected Officials also convened on Tuesday to discuss three bills relating to initiative petitions. These are companion bills to the Senate bills highlighted above. Specifically, HJR 76, HJR 86, and HJR 119, sponsored by Representatives Brad Hudson (R-Cape Fair), John Black (R-Marshfield) and Dave Hinman (R-O’Fallon) seek to end the simple majority rule and replaces it with concurrent majority requirements, require a public forum be conducted by the Secretary of State for initiative petitions, and requires those proposing initiative petitions to be U.S. Citizens. Committee discussion and testimony mirrored that from the Senate hearing.

Upcoming Hearings

House-Special Committee on Homeland Security
02/05/2024 12:00 PM
Committee Hearing, HR 5

HB1609 Van Schoiack – Establishes the “Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act” and modifies provisions relating to the use of unmanned aircraft

Senate-Local Government and Elections
02/05/2024 2:00 PM
Committee Hearing, SCR 2

SB774 Gannon – Modifies the candidate filing period for certain local elections

House-Rules-Legislative Oversight
02/05/2024 2:15 PM
Committee Hearing, HR 4

Executive Session:
HB2111 Christofanelli – Modifies powers of the state auditor

House-Elections and Elected Officials
02/06/2024 12:00 PM or upon adjournment
Committee Hearing, HR 6

HJR67 Billington – Modifies the percentage of required signatures to bring an initiative petition to the ballot

House-General Laws
02/06/2024 2:00 PM or upon adjournment
Committee Hearing, HR 7

HB1993 Gallick – Establishes provisions relating to civil liability for publishing or distributing material harmful to minors on the internet

House-Emerging Issues
02/07/2024 4:00 PM
Committee Hearing, HR 6

Executive Session:
HB1948 Diehl – Modifies requirements of notice for sale by an operator of a self-service storage facility for the sale of personal property of an occupant in default

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