Week 7: Legislature Leaves Early for Chiefs Super Bowl Celebration

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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.

Legislature Leaves Early for Chiefs Super Bowl Celebration

It was an abbreviated week in Jefferson City as members of the Missouri General Assembly only held two working days for floor activity as they did not hold session on Wednesday or Thursday to allow members to attend a celebration and parade in Kansas City for the Super Bowl 58 Champion Kansas City Chiefs. The focus of the week centered on committee activity as both chambers moved bills forward on numerous topics such as public education, criminal law reforms, restrictions on ownership of farmland by foreigners, and local taxation. The Missouri Senate remained in disarray this week and did not successfully pass any legislation and have yet to pass a bill from its chamber this year. The Missouri Senate is currently facing a filibuster led by the Senate Democrat Caucus relating to a Senate Joint Resolution that would dramatically change the process for amending the state Constitution by initiative petition. The Missouri Senate is expected to return to this topic again on Monday as this issue is the top priority of the House and Senate majority caucuses.

Missouri House members passed two bills in their chamber this week including a sweeping judicial procedures bill and another that places a prohibition against local jurisdictions enforcing an eviction moratorium. The House Budget Committee continues to hold hearings with state agencies in preparation of introducing the Fiscal Year 2025 state operating budget bills. Currently, the House committee has been looking at major funding line items and all “new decision items or NDIs” presented in the Governor’s budget recommendations.

Kansas City Royals Stadium

On Tuesday, the Kansas City Royals announced at a press conference they will build the new team’s stadium in the Crossroads district. The announcement comes five months after the team’s original September 2023 deadline to choose a ballpark location. The new stadium will take the place of the former Kansas City Star printing press, which covers the block from Truman Road to 17th Street and McGee Street to Oak Street. The plan includes a baseball stadium, team offices, hotel, a residential and entertainment venue, improvements to Grand Blvd. and a bridge connecting the stadium to the planned $200 million South Loop Link Project.

Budget Update

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees continued to convene and hear from the various state departments regarding the FY2025 governor recommendations and new decision items. The FRA bill still needs to be passed by both chambers to avoid shortfalls in the Medicaid program. Although all budget bills were expected to be filed this week, at the time of this report only two have been filed. It is expected the remainder of the bills will be filed next week. Public testimony on the various budget bills will also begin next week. This timeline still allows for the House to craft their version of the budget before the Legislative Spring Break in March.

Key Upcoming Dates

  • February 19, 2024 – President’s Day – IN SESSION
  • February 27, 2024 – First day of candidate filing
  • March 1, 2024 – Last day of bill filing
  • March 18-22, 2024 – Legislative Spring Break
  • March 26, 2024 – Last day of candidate filing
  • April 1, 2024 – Easter Break – No Session
  • April 2, 2024 – General Municipal Elections
  • 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
  • September 11, 2024 – Veto Session
  • November 5, 2024 – Missouri General Elections

Committee Activity

Media Literacy, Critical Thinking & Appropriate Online Behavior

The House Elementary & Secondary Education Committee convened Wednesday morning to discuss HB 1513, sponsored by Representative Jim Murphy (R-St. Louis). The bill requires DESE to develop a two-year “media literacy and critical thinking” pilot program in five to seven school districts across the state beginning in the 2025-26 school year with the purpose of promoting student’s ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and participate in all forms of media with an emphasis on appropriate online behavior. Aligned, The St. Louis Holocaust Center & Museum, and Missouri Association of School Librarians provided supporting testimony. ArmorVine provided opposing testimony.

Special Taxing District 

The House Government Efficiency and Downsizing Committee met Wednesday morning to consider passage of HB 2058, sponsored by Representative Ben Keathley (R-Chesterfield). The bill includes three provisions. Specifically, the bill seeks to adjust the definition of video service provides to exempt streaming platforms. Additionally, the bill requires community improvement districts to be approved by a 2/3 vote before being established and also requires 2/3 approval for transportation development districts prior to the construction or funding of any project. Lastly, the bill specifies that if a political subdivision submits a tax proposal for a new or increased tax authorized under a specific statute and it does not pass, the proposal cannot be submitted again for two years following the rejection. During committee discussion substitute language was adopted to clarify language regarding the election cycle and include a provision to allow a political subdivision to resubmit to voters in the event there is a federal or state declared natural disaster. Additionally, Representative Tony Lovasco (R-O’Fallon) amended the committee substitute to include a provision from HB 1517, sponsored by Representative Jim Murphy (R-St. Louis), which requires any new tax levy voted on by the people, have clear and concise ballot language regarding any new tax levies implemented or extended and include any sunset date provisions. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by a 7-3 vote.

Land Banks, Delinquent Taxes in the Spotlight

On Tuesday morning, the House Local Government Committee heard HB 2065, sponsored by Rep. Bill Owen (R-Springfield), a bill that modifies provisions relating to the collection of delinquent taxes and the establishment of land banks in cities and counties, except for the City of St. Louis and Jackson County that currently have land banks. Rep. Owen said he is preparing a substitute bill that is identical to SB 750, sponsored by Sen. Lincoln Hough (R-Springfield), that has passed out of Senate committee. The substitute bill maintains public notices published in newspapers. The bill seeks to provide a tool to municipalities and counties by using a land bank system to help fight the growing number of vacant or abandoned properties. Communities are allowed to purchase properties that have ongoing delinquent taxes and sell them to get the properties back onto the tax rolls. Supporting testimony was presented by the City Manager of Springfield; the Missouri Association of Realtors, 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; two St. Louis area attorneys; St. Louis County; the Missouri Municipal League; the Municipal League of Metropolitan St. Louis; and Empower Missouri, saying there are more than 370,000 vacant housing units in the state. Testimony in opposition to HB 2065 was offered by the Show-Me Institute, suggesting amend the state’s land trust law to avoid expanding land banks, some of which have resulted in problems, including favoritism and corruption. Arnie Dienoff also testified against the bill.

Newspapers’ Legal Publication Requirements

The House Special Committee on Government Accountability gathered Monday afternoon to consider HB 2301, sponsored by Rep. Peggy McGaugh (R-Carrollton), a bill that changes the length of time for successor newspapers and newly established newspapers to be considered legal newspapers to publish public notices in their communities. Testimony in favor of the bill was presented by Mark Maassen of the Missouri Press Association. There was no testimony in opposition to the bill. Currently, to qualify as a newspaper to publish public notices, a newspaper must have been published regularly for a period of three years; or must be the successor newspaper to a non-active newspaper that restarts publication no later than 30 days after the termination of the prior newspaper. HB 2301 reduces the time of regular publication from three years to one year and increases the time from 30 days to 90 days within which a successor newspaper must begin publication. The bill also allows a newspaper that has been purchased or newly established by another newspaper that already satisfies these conditions to qualify. Rep. McGaugh told the committee it is important to have legal newspapers to publish public notices. She is making a request with the committee to approve the bill “consent” to avoid House amendments. Maassen provided the committee an example of why an extension to 90 days for successor newspapers is needed, and he said 13 of the 17 states he had surveyed have fewer than three years requirements for new newspapers before they are eligible to publish public notices. He also mentioned the MPA website, mopublicnotices.com, placing public notices on the Internet.

AI Generated Media Prohibited in Politics

On Tuesday afternoon the House Special Committee on Innovation and Technology met to hear details about HB 2628. The legislation is to push back against false political advertising produced by artificial intelligence (AI). The bill defines “deceptive and fraudulent deepfake,” synthetic media that depicts a candidate or political party with the intent to injure the reputation of the candidate or party or otherwise deceive voters. The prohibited media would appear to a reasonable person to depict a real individual saying or doing something that did not actually occur. The provisions shall not apply if the audio or visual media includes a disclosure stating: “This _______ has been manipulated or generated by artificial intelligence.” The legislation lists what terms should fill the blank for image, video, or audio. Penalties are listed for a person who violates the bill’s provisions. The legislation does not apply to a radio or television broadcasting station, including a cable or satellite television operator, or an internet website or regularly published newspaper, magazine, or other periodical of general circulation that carries news and commentary of general interest if the media is acknowledging to the public that there are questions about the authenticity of the deceptive audio or visual media. Testifying in favor of the bill was the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition, suggesting that in the months ahead this problem is going to get worse during the 2024 U.S. presidential election. Also supporting the bill was the League of Women Voters of Missouri, saying deepfake technology poses a threat and accurate information for voters is vital before they cast their votes. Testimony opposing the bill was offered by Armorvine LLC, saying the bill is an affront to the First Amendment. A committee member then posed the question, Is AI entitled to Free Speech? No response was given.

Initiative Petition Reform

The House Elections and Elected Officials Committee convened Tuesday afternoon to consider passage of HJR 72, sponsored by Representative Ed Lewis (R-Moberly). Upon voter approval, the resolution requires a majority vote beyond the 50 plus one simple majority currently required to adopt an amendment to the Missouri state constitution. During committee discussion, substitute language was adopted to expand the title to include HJR 86 and HJR 119. Once modified, the committee passed the bill by an 11-4 vote.

New Filing Period for Local Candidates Seeking Election

The Senate Local Government and Elections Committee met Monday afternoon to vote in executive session on 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 bill was voted “do pass” by a vote of 4-0. 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.

Business Development 

The Senate Economic Development and Tax Policy Committee met Monday afternoon to discuss 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. Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 894 was voted do pass by a vote of 5-1. The substitute consists of rolling SB 894 and SB 825 together and included provisions in regard to environment as requested by Senator Doug Beck (D-St. Louis).

Sunshine Exemption for State Park Campers

The Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee met Tuesday morning for a public hearing on SB 1019, sponsored by Sen. Justin Brown (R-Rolla). SB 1019 authorizes a public governmental body to close records, meetings, and votes 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. Testifying in support of the bill were the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the Missouri Parks and Recreation Association, Conservation Federation of Missouri, and the Missouri Parks Association. TJ Graven of the DNR said the purpose of the bill is to protect a park guest’s privacy in case someone seeks the guest’s home address to do harm or damage to the guest. Later, Graven said state park guests cannot reserve a site for more than 15 days per month.

Condensed County Financial Statement

On Monday afternoon, the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee met to hear SB 1362, sponsored by Sen. Sandy Crawford (R-Buffalo), a bill that requires a condensed county financial statement to be published on or before June 30 each year in local newspapers in all counties of the first, second, third, or fourth classification. The bill language includes publication of the name and current gross annual salary of each elected or appointed county official. The county clerk or other county officer preparing the financial statement shall provide an electronic copy of the data used to create the financial statement without charge to the newspaper requesting the data. Another portion of the bill deals with political subdivisions that fail to submit their required annual financial statements to the State Auditor currently are fined $500 a day. SB 1362 allows for a reduction or elimination of the fine under certain circumstances. A political subdivision could be disincorporated for failure to submit the financial statement. Language of the bill, supported by the Missouri Press Association, was passed by the General Assembly in HB 1606 and signed into law by the Governor in 2022, but the Missouri Supreme Court tossed the bill in late 2023 due to multiple subjects in the legislation. Testifying in support of SB 1362 was Mark Maassen of MPA, the Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Authorities, the Camden County Auditor and the Missouri Association of County Auditors, and the Missouri Municipal League. There was no testimony in opposition.

County Officials Legislation Includes Online Auctions

On Monday afternoon, the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee gathered to consider SB 1363, sponsored by Sen. Sandy Crawford (R-Buffalo). SB 1363 is a lengthy bill dealing with county officials, and 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 notices listing delinquent property to be published for three consecutive weeks before the auction.

On Tuesday morning, the House Local Government Committee heard an identical bill, HB 2588, sponsored by Rep. Rodger Reedy (R-Windsor), allowing county collectors’ auctions via the Internet, but continuing to require newspaper notices for three consecutive weeks. The language of both bills was passed by the General Assembly in HB 1606 and signed into law by the Governor in 2022, but the Missouri Supreme Court tossed the bill in late 2023 due to multiple subjects in the legislation.

Testimony in favor of the two bills was offered by the Missouri Association of County Auditors, the Camden County Auditor, the Missouri Association of Public Administrators, Arnie Dienoff, and the Missouri County Collectors Association. No opposing testimony was presented.

Floor Activity

Comprehensive Bill Includes Anti-SLAPP Legislation

On Tuesday morning the House met in session and brought forward HCS HB 1886, sponsored by Rep. Rudy Veit (R-Wardsville), for perfection. HCS HB 1886 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. A floor amendment was added to the bill clarifying guardianship proceedings and the roles of court staff within those proceedings. The bill was perfected and printed by a voice vote. Another House vote is required to send the bill to the Senate.

Upcoming Hearings

House-Special Committee on Homeland Security
02/19/2024 12:00 PM
Committee Hearing, HR 5
Executive Session:
HB1609 Van Schoiack – Establishes the “Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act” and modifies provisions relating to the use of unmanned aircraft

House-Special Committee on Government Accountability
02/19/2024 1:30 PM
Committee Hearing, HR 7
Executive Session:
HB2301 McGaugh – Changes the law regarding advertisements and orders of publication in newspapers

House-Rules-Legislative Oversight
02/19/2024 2:30 PM
Committee Hearing, HR 4
Executive Session:
HB1948 Diehl – Modifies practices and standards in regards to certain commercial practices

House-Local Government
02/20/2024 8:00 AM
Committee Hearing, HR 7
Executive Session:
HB2065 Owen – Modifies provisions relating to the collection of delinquent property taxes

Senate-Appropriations
02/20/2024 8:30 AM
Committee Hearing, SCR 2
Secretary of State
Department of Public Safety

Senate-Agriculture, Food Production, and Outdoor Resources
02/20/2024 9:15 AM
Committee Hearing, SCR 1
Executive Session:
SB1019 Brown – Authorizes the closure of certain park records

House-General Laws
02/20/2024 2:00 PM
Committee Hearing, HR 7
Executive Session:
HB1818 Voss – Allows the office of administration to conduct post-award negotiations with vendors
HB2345 Riggs – Allows the office of administration to conduct post-award negotiations with vendors

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