Week 6: Somewhat Quiet Week in Jefferson City

In Legislative News, Legislative Reports, Legislative Resources, Missouri Press News On
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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.

Somewhat Quiet Week in Jefferson City

A warmer week in February resulted in numerous House committee hearings and the full House passing four bills (so far, that’s five House bills passed this session). The bills sent Thursday to the Senate focus on childcare tax credits, electric vehicle charging stations, the Sunshine Law, and the Regulatory Sandbox Act. The Senate continued to move slowly, as Senate committee hearings were held, and the full Senate discussed a statutory provision to not allow funding for Planned Parenthood due to concerns raised about abortion services.

On Tuesday, Israeli Consul General Maor Elbaz-Starinsky spoke to a joint session of the House and Senate, and his speech was interrupted by Palestinian supporters causing loud distractions in the upper gallery of the House chamber. On Wednesday morning, Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Russell delivered the annual State of the Judiciary Address to a joint session of the General Assembly, noting that Missouri now has a majority of women judges on its seven-member Supreme Court.

Budget Update

The House Budget Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee convened this week to continue to discuss and ask questions of the various departments. In the House Budget Committee much of the discussion and questions have been focused on any increases in the use of General Revenue. Governor Mike Parson has recommended nearly a $53 billion FY2025 budget spending plan, with an estimated $15 billion coming from General Revenue. Many legislators are concerned that this spending plan will reduce the nearly $3.2 billion surplus to $1.5 billion. Chairman Cody Smith (R-Carthage) has stated publicly that ongoing programs need to remain within the consensus revenue estimate without relying on surplus funding. Currently, revenues are stable at about $13.1 billion annually but growth is expected to be negligible. As a result, the next step in series of tax cuts passed during the fall 2022 special session, will not be triggered.

Committee Activity

Statute of Limitations

The House Insurance Policy convened Wednesday morning to discuss HB 1964, sponsored by Representative Alex Riley (R-Springfield). The bill amends the law by requiring an injured party to act within two years of an injury instead of 5 years for personal and bodily injury. The sponsor stated only three other states have a statute of limitations longer than three years. Healthcare Services Group, Missouri Organization of Defense Lawyers, Missouri Hospital Association, Missouri Insurance Coalition, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Associated Industries of Missouri, Missouri Association of Insurance Agents, Missouri Canoe and Floaters Association, Missouri Farm Bureau, NFIB, GPD Insurance Agency and American Tort Reform Association provided supporting testimony. A Springfield attorney and Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys provided opposing testimony.

Unmanned Aircraft

The House Special Committee on Homeland Security convened Monday afternoon to discuss HB 1609, sponsored by Representative Dean Van Schoiack (R-Savannah). The bill establishes the “Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act” which establishes the offense of unlawful use of an unmanned aircraft. Specifically, the bill prohibits a state agency, county, or municipal law enforcement agency from using a drone or other unmanned aircraft to gather evidence or other information pertaining to criminal conduct, except to the extent authorized in a warrant. Additionally, the bill prohibits a person, entity, or state agency from using an unmanned aircraft to launch, land, or operate an unmanned aircraft on private property without permission from the property owner. During bill presentation, the sponsor informed committee members of the tort history of property rights, specifically, the tort of aerial trespass. He went on to read a portion of private individual’s submitted testimonies. No supporting or opposing testimony was presented. The St. Charles County Ambulance District provided informational testimony and stated the Ambulance District currently uses drones to help search for missing persons and highlighted procedures on how the District currently utilizes drones.

Self-Storage Auction Notices and Catalytic Converters

The House Emerging Issues Committee gathered Wednesday afternoon to consider in executive session House Bill 1948, sponsored by Rep. Dane Diehl (R-Butler). 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.

During executive session, House Bills 2066, 1721, 2276, and 1406, dealing with catalytic converters, were added to HB 1948 in a House Committee Substitute. The committee voted “do pass” on HCS HB 1948, 2066, 1721, 2276, and 1406 by a vote of 14-0.

HB 1948 allows the storage facility operator to advertise the auction 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 in the House Committee Substitute was in HB 2066, sponsored by Rep. Don Mayhew (R-Crocker),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. These records must be kept in order of transaction date for a minimum of four years. At least monthly, a purchaser, collector, or dealer in junk or scrap metal must submit these records to the Department of Revenue on a standardized form created and made available by the DOR. 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.

Harmful Material to Minors

The House General Laws Committee convened Tuesday afternoon to discuss several bills regarding providing harmful material to minors. Specifically, HB 1993, HB 1426, HB 1855 and HB 2157, sponsored by Representatives Sherri Gallick (R-Belton), Mike McGirl (R-Potosi), Brad Banderman (R-St. Clair) and Josh Hurlbert (R-Smithville). The bills are similar and require commercial websites with more than 33 1/3% of material that is deemed harmful to children, to verify that those accessing the site are 18 years of age or older. Additionally, the bills impose a civil penalty for damages if a minor is harmed. The sponsors noted the bill exempts internet providers, news websites, news sources, radio broadcasts and journalists and includes a privacy clause so third party vendors do not retain any identifying information. Former State Representative Vicki Hartzler, Missouri Catholic Conference and American Principles Project provided supporting testimony stating protection children is essential and viewing pornographic material can have long-term negative impacts. NetChoice, PROMO, Abortion Action Missouri, TechNet, ACLU provided opposing testimony stating these bills come perilously close to enacting a registry and limit access to public information.

Powers of the State Auditor

The House Rules-Legislative Oversight Committee convened Monday morning to consider passage of 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 committee voted the bill do pass by a vote of 7-2.

Initiative Petition Reform

The House Elections and Elected Officials Committee convened Tuesday afternoon to discuss two bills regarding the initiative petition process. HJR 67, sponsored by Representative Hardy Billington (R-Poplar Bluff) requires signatures from 8% of legal voters in all congressional districts to place a ballot initiative rather than the current 8% from 2/3 of the congressional districts. Missouri Farm Bureau provided supporting testimony. National Council of Jewish Women, Freedom Principal Missouri, Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America, ACLU, Missouri Parks Association, Abortion Action Missouri, League of Women Voters of Missouri, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Sierra Club-Missouri Chapter, Missouri NEA, Jobs with Justice Voter Action, Empower Missouri, Advocates of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri and dozens of private citizens provided opposing testimony.

The committee then turned its attention to HJR 93, sponsored by Representative Bill Falkner (R-St. Joseph).  The resolution would allow constitutional amendments, once certified by the Secretary of State, to be submitted to the General Assembly for vetting. If an amendment is submitted to the General Assembly, it would require a simple majority of votes cast for approval and if it is not submitted to the General Assembly with would require 55% majority of votes cast for approval. Missouri Farm Bureau provided supporting testimony. National Council of Jewish Women, Freedom Principle Missouri, Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America, NAACP St. Louis County, ACLU, Missouri Parks Association, Abortion Action Missouri, League of Women Voters of Missouri, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Sierra Club-Missouri Chapter, Missouri NEA, Jobs with Justice Voter Action, Empower Missouri, Advocates of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri and dozens of private citizens provided opposing testimony stating this would delay the initiative petition process and could shorten the timeframe the Secretary of State has to certify amendments. The Secretary of State provided informational testimony regarding the timeline of the initiative petition process.

New Filing Period for Local Candidates Seeking Election

The Senate Local Government and Elections Committee met Monday afternoon to hear SB 774, sponsored by Sen. Elaine Gannon (R-DeSoto), a bill that changes the closing date for candidates who file in local elections of political subdivisions and special districts. The new filing period would start on the 16th Tuesday prior to the election until the 13th Tuesday prior to the election, unless the 13th Tuesday prior falls on a holiday, then the closing of filing would be on the next day that is not a holiday. Testifying in support of SB 774 were the City of St. Peters, the Missouri Municipal League, the Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Authorities, the Municipal League of Metropolitan St. Louis, and the League of Women Voters of Missouri. There was no testimony in opposition to the bill.

Business Development 

The Senate Economic Development and Tax Policy Committee met Monday afternoon to discuss SB 825 and SB 894, sponsored by Senators Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg) and Travis Fitzwater (R-Fulton). The bills are identical and establish 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. The MO Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Opportunity Solution Project, Cicero Action, City Council of Greater, KC, Bio-STL, Nixa MO, Greater KC Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Corporation of KC supported the bill. The Sierra Club opposed the bill.

Floor Activity

Sunshine Bill Exempts Minors’ Information

On Thursday morning HCS HB 1720 was brought to the House floor. House members third read and passed the bill on a vote of 141-5. 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.” During floor discussion on Tuesday morning, Rep. Falkner added an amendment 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. Rep. Joe Adams (D-St. Louis) urged House members to vote in support of the bill as it “protects our young citizens from being exploited.” The bill now moves to the Senate.

Regulatory Sandbox Act

On Thursday morning, the House brought to the floor HCS HB 1960, sponsored by Rep. Alex Riley (R-Springfield), a bill to establish the “Regulatory Sandbox Act” which creates the Regulatory Relief Office within the Department of Economic Development. The House third read and passed HCS HB 1960 by a vote of 131-16. The Regulatory Relief Office shall administer provisions of the bill to identify state laws or regulations that could potentially be waived or suspended for participating businesses during a 24-month period in which the participating business demonstrates an innovative product for consumers. A floor amendment, offered on Monday afternoon by Rep. Deb Lavender (D-Manchester), adds environmental protections to ensure EPA and DNR regulations are followed, and the amendment was adopted by a vote of 85-69. On Thursday morning, Rep. Riley said the amendment is not a “poison pill” to harm agriculture or other industries, and that he had visited with various agricultural groups to make sure the amendment would not hurt or weaken agriculture. HCS HB 1960 establishes the General Regulatory Sandbox Program Advisory Committee to oversee the admission or denial of applicants to the Sandbox Program. Included in the bill are transparency issues addressed regarding the identity of residents and businesses that make suggestions on the website, most meetings of the Advisory Committee shall be considered as public meetings under the Sunshine Law, applications for Sandbox Program participants shall be open except for proprietary or confidential trade secrets, and incident reports shall be publicly available on the regulatory sandbox web page, among other provisions. The bill now moves to the Senate.

Upcoming Hearings

House-Special Committee on Government Accountability
02/12/2024 12:00 PM
Committee Hearing, HR 7
HB2301 McGaugh – Changes the law regarding advertisements and orders of publication in newspapers

Senate-Local Government and Elections
02/12/2024 2:00 PM
Committee Hearing, SCR 2
SB1362 Crawford – Modifies provisions relating to financial statements of certain local governments
SB1363 Crawford – Modifies provisions relating to county officials
Executive Session:
SB774 Gannon – Modifies the candidate filing period for certain local elections

House-Rules-Legislative Oversight
02/12/2024 2:30 PM
Committee Hearing, HR 4
Executive Session:
HB1749 Haffner – Modifies provisions for initiative petitions and referendums
HB2140 McGaugh – Modifies provisions relating to elections

House-Local Government
02/13/2024 8:00 AM
Committee Hearing, HR 7
HB2065 Owen – Modifies provisions relating to the collection of delinquent property taxes
HB2588 Reedy – Modifies provisions relating to county officials

02/13/2024 8:30 AM
Committee Hearing, SCR 2
Secretary of State
Attorney General
Department of Natural Resources

Senate-Agriculture, Food Production, and Outdoor Resources
02/13/2024 9:00 AM
Committee Hearing, SCR 1
SB1019 Brown – Authorizes the closure of certain park records

House-Elections and Elected Officials
02/13/2024 12:00 PM or upon adjournment
Committee Hearing, HR 6
Executive Session:
HJR67 Billington – Modifies the percentage of required signatures to bring an initiative petition to the ballot
HJR72 Lewis – Modifies provisions for initiative petitions
HJR86 Black – Modifies requirements for votes required to pass measures referred to the people           |
HJR119 Hinman – Modifies provisions for initiative petitions proposing constitutional amendments

House-Special Committee on Innovation and Technology
02/13/2024 2:00 PM
Committee Hearing, Joint Committee Room (Room 117)
HB2628 Baker – Creates the offense of distribution of synthetic media relating to elections or candidates for public office

House-Elementary and Secondary Education
02/14/2024 8:00 AM
Committee Hearing, HR 7
HB1513 Murphy – Establishes the “Media Literacy and Critical Thinking Act”

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