Week 8: Senate Advances IP Reform

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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 Advances IP Reform

Another legislative week is officially in the books and the legislative outlook continues to appear unpredictable at best. This week, the Senate continued debating the highly controversial SJR 74, which seeks to modify the initiative petition process. In a turn of a events, Senate Democrats instead of the Freedom Caucus held the floor for two days criticizing the proposal, which ultimately led to the majority of Senate committees being canceled this week. After about 21 hours, the Senate was able to come up with a compromise that basically left everyone unhappy and passed the bill. Meanwhile, the House continues to work diligently through their floor calendar, sending various proposals to the Senate for their consideration.

Operation Lone Star

Governor Mike Parson announced in a press conference on Tuesday he would be deploying up to 200 Missouri National Guard members and 22 Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers to support Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star” mission at the Southern Border. He has issued Executive Order 24-03 to activate the Guard and the Governor’s Office’s discretionary emergency response fund. He will also be making a $2.3 million supplemental budget request to support border security efforts and backfill the emergency response fund expenditures.

Budget Update

House Budget Chairman Cody Smith (R-Carthage) has now filed all of the FY2024 Supplemental and FY2025 Budget bills. Something to note is the filed bills reflect both the Governor’s recommendations and updated department requests. Public testimony on the various budget bills was expected to take place this week but because of the delay on the filing of the bills, the testimony before the full Budget Committee will not take place until next week. Once public testimony has taken place, committee members will begin drafting amendments to ensure their priorities are included in the House version of the budget. A House rule requires that any item which utilizes General Revenue (GR) or what is called “General Revenue look-a-like” utilizes the balancing rule. This means, any amendment to add money to an item using GR must decrease GR elsewhere within the budget.

Committee Activity

Media Literacy in Schools

On Wednesday morning, the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee voted in executive session “do pass” on HB 1513, sponsored by Rep. Jim Murphy (R-St. Louis), a bill that establishes the “Media Literacy and Critical Thinking Act.” The vote was 15-1. The bill defines “media literacy” to include a person’s ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and participate with all forms of media, including news in print and social media content, and recognize bias and stereotypes in media, as well as Internet safety. A pilot program, established by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to include five to seven diverse schools, is to address media literacy and develop strategies for student learning in the 2025-26 and 2026-27 school years. By Jan. 1, 2028, DESE shall compile and submit a summary report to the General Assembly.

Regulations for Drones Outlined

The House Special Committee on Homeland Security gathered Monday afternoon to vote in executive session on HB 1609, sponsored by Rep. Dean Van Schoiack (R-Savannah), a bill that specifies that a person commits the offense of unlawful operation of a drone if they launch, land, or operate the drone on private property, on farms, over open-air facilities such as sports stadiums, or within certain operating limits within a private property line, without permission from the property owner. The committee voted “do pass” on HCS HB 1609 by a vote of 7-3. The House Committee Substitute added “easements” as well as public rights-of-way to the bill and allows the State Highway Patrol to fly drones above the state highway system. A portion of the bill does not prohibit the operation of a drone by “any federally certified pilot of unmanned aircraft in the normal course of business.” Other portions of the bill: Drones operated by officials associated with public and private utilities and electric cooperatives; federally certified pilots; law enforcement or public safety departments; fire departments or fire protection districts; the Federal Railroad Administration; Realtors and land surveyors; and insurance companies are exempt from the provisions of the legislation. The legislation makes the offense of unlawful use of drone a class A misdemeanor.

Post-Award Negotiations by O.A. with Vendors

On Tuesday afternoon, the House General Laws Committee voted “do pass” on HCS HB 1818 & 2345. Sponsors of the original, nearly identical bills were Rep. John Voss (R-Cape Girardeau) and Rep. Louis Riggs (R-Hannibal). The bill passed unanimously “do pass, consent,” on a 16-0 vote. The bill allows for post-award negotiations with the lowest and best responsive vendor if identified in the solicitation along with the time frame for post-award negotiations by the Office of Administration. The O.A. Commissioner may waive post-award negotiations. Certain contract provisions must be reserved for post-award negotiations after the notice of award. If the negotiations fail, the Commissioner may cancel the award and award the contract to the next lowest and best vendor.

Self-Storage Auction Notices and Catalytic Converters

The House Rules Committee – Legislative Oversight gathered Monday afternoon in executive session to vote on HCS HB 1948, 2066, 1721, 2276, and 1406, 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, and the bill deals with catalytic converters. The “do pass” vote by the committee was 8-0.

Changes to Regional Planning Commissions’ Funding

On Tuesday afternoon, the House General Laws Committee considered HB 1986, sponsored by Rep. Terry Thompson (R-Lexington). The bill would increase annual state funds for the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council and for the Mid-America Regional Council from the current $65,000 to a maximum of $130,000. Other regional planning commissions’ funding would increase from $25,000 to a maximum of $50,000. Future adjustments would be based on the consumer price index. The bill also removes the regional planning commissions of Show-Me, Missouri Valley, Ozark Gateway, ABCD, and Lakes Country, and the bill adds Harry S. Truman, Mo-Kan, Pioneer Trails, and Southwest Missouri. Testimony in support of the bill was presented by the Missouri Association of Councils of Government, the Missouri Association of Counties, and Arnie Dienoff. There was no testimony in opposition.

Land Banks, Delinquent Taxes in the Spotlight

On Tuesday morning, the House Local Government Committee voted in executive session on 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. The committee adopted a House Committee Substitute for the bill that is identical to SB 750, sponsored by Sen. Lincoln Hough (R-Springfield), legislation that has passed out of Senate committee. The substitute bill maintains public notices published in newspapers. Rep. Donna Baringer (D-St. Louis) questioned if the bill also allows for public notices on Internet web sites. The committee voted “do pass” on HCS HB 2065 by a vote of 11-1. 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.

General Assembly Vacancies

The House Elections and Elected Officials convened Tuesday afternoon to discuss HB 2136, sponsored by Representative John Voss (R-Cape Girardeau). Currently, when a vacancy occurs in the General Assembly, the Governor must issue a writ of election “without delay.” The bill removes “without delay” and specifies that in odd-numbered years, the Governor shall issue the writ within seven days of notification of a vacancy and in an even-numbered years the Governor shall have discretion to issue the writ. A private citizen provided supporting testimony. No opposing testimony was presented. The Secretary of State provided informational testimony regarding the process of filing vacancies and nomination of candidates for special elections.

Residency Requirements 

The House Local Government Committee met Tuesday morning to discuss HB 2237, sponsored by Representative Donnie Brown (R-New Madrid). The bill allows Mayors of small communities that have less than 2,000 residents within the city, to appoint people that owns real property or a business in the city, even if they reside outside the city limits, to boards and commissions. Additionally, the bill includes requirements for the appointment to a board that manages a municipal utility. During bill presentation, the sponsor stated he will be offering a committee substitute to prohibit an employee of a utility from being appointed to the board. The MO Public Utility Alliance, MO Municipal League, and the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis supported the bill. A state public advocate opposed the bill.

Newspapers’ Legal Publication Requirements

The House Special Committee on Government Accountability gathered Monday afternoon to vote in executive session on 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. The committee voted “do pass” on the bill by a vote of 11-0. 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.

Public Notices for ‘Master Agreement’ Services

On Tuesday afternoon, the House General Laws Committee heard HB 2314, sponsored by Rep. Donnie Brown (R-New Madrid). The bill authorizes the Division of Facilities Management, Design, and Construction within the Office of Administration to establish “master agreements” for architecture, engineering, or land surveying services on an as-needed basis for indefinite projects over a year or two. The agreements, not exceeding $100,000 per project, are established through a qualification-based selection process. Testifying in support of the bill were the American Council of Engineering Companies, the Office of Administration, and the American Institute of Architects – Missouri. Arnie Dienoff testified in opposition. Doug Crews of Missouri Press Association testified for information only after speaking with the bill’s sponsor and the committee chairman, seeking to amend the bill to require newspaper public notices to advertise the “master agreements.” After the committee hearing, Rep. Brown said he would add the notice requirements as an amendment to the legislation.

High School Sports Issues and MSHSAA

On Wednesday afternoon, the House Emerging Issues Committee gathered to hear HB 2378, sponsored by Rep. Bennie Cook (R-Houston). The bill deals with the Missouri State High School Activities Association and its decision-making. The bill would prohibit a statewide activities association such as MSHSAA that facilitates interscholastic activities for secondary school students who attend public or private schools from serving as the appellate body that handles appeals of decisions made by the same activities association. The bill designates the State Board of Education as the authority to handle such appeals. Within 48 hours of receiving an appeal, the SBE shall meet to consider the appeal, and within 24 hours of such meeting, the SBE shall decide on the appeal. Rep. Cook said the bill emerged after two Houston High School volleyball players participated in a club game, then were prohibited from playing in the state tournament, a decision which later was reversed. “We need something in place to be more proactive on these issues,” Rep. Cook said. A committee member said people have lost faith in some MSHSAA rulings, and there does need to be something done. There was some concern expressed that the State Board of Education would not be the proper organization to consider appeals. The only testimony on the bill was for information only by the Missouri Council of School Administrators which said of 1,500 such incidents last year that were decided by MSHSAA, about 70 of them went before the MSHSAA appeals committee, and only one or two landed in court.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Prohibitions

The House General Laws Committee gathered Tuesday afternoon in executive session to consider HB 2619, sponsored by Rep. Cody Smith (R-Carthage). The committee voted “do pass” on HCS HB 2619, 2365, 2448 & 2569 by a vote of 12-4. The bill prohibits funds from any State department be used for intradepartmental programs, staffing, or initiatives related to “diversity, equity, and inclusion” or similar initiatives that promote preferential treatment based on certain characteristics, concepts such as oppression as the sole cause of disparities, collective guilt ideologies, intersectional or divisive identity activism, and the limiting of freedom of conscience, thought, or speech. HB 2619 also specifies that State departments are not prohibited from following Federal and State employment and antidiscrimination laws or complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The bill prohibits State departments from mandating, requiring, or incentivizing private sector employers to implement “diversity, equity, and inclusion” programs or initiatives as a condition for receiving a state contract.

AI-Generated Media Prohibited in Politics

On Tuesday afternoon the House Special Committee on Innovation and Technology met to vote in executive session on HCS HB 2628 & 2603, sponsored by Rep. Ben Baker (R-Neosho) and Rep. Mitch Boggs (R-LaRussell). The HCS was voted “do pass” by a vote of 8-0. The legislation is to push back against false political advertising produced by artificial intelligence (AI). The HCS lowers penalties in the bill from felonies to misdemeanors for makers of deepfake videos that are brought to court. The committee chairman, Rep. Chad Perkins (R-Bowling Green) said the changes in the bill “Is what broadcasters wanted and they are comfortable with it.” 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. Language in HB 2603 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.

Fingerprints for Criminal Background Checks

On Thursday morning, the Senate Governmental Accountability Committee gathered to vote in executive session on SB 875, sponsored by Sen. Jason Bean (R-Holcomb). The committee voted “do pass” on SCS SB 875 by a vote of 5-0. The bill provides that various state departments, agencies, boards, and commissions, as provided in the bill, shall (some “may,” according to the Senate Committee Substitute which did not change the intent of the bill) require applicants to submit fingerprints to the Missouri State Highway Patrol for the purpose of conducting a state and federal fingerprint-based criminal history background check. The fingerprints and any required fees shall be sent to the Highway Patrol and shall be forwarded to the FBI to conduct a federal background check. The Highway Patrol shall notify the department, agency, board, or commission of any criminal history record discovered regarding the person.

Division of Geology Confidential Information

On Thursday morning, the Senate Governmental Accountability Committee gathered to hear SB 1351, sponsored by Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer (R-Parkville). Under SB 1351, any individually identifiable user information (name, mailing address, other contact information) obtained by the Division of Geology and Land Survey shall remain confidential and shall not be released to the public or disclosed in response to any Sunshine Law request. Any division employee disclosing such information shall be subject to disciplinary action and would be guilty of a class A misdemeanor. Sen. Luetkemeyer said the legislation is to “protect the water rights of Missouri’s farmers.” Sometimes environmental interest groups will “harass farmers” for using large amounts of water, he said. It was mentioned that “water usage information” would still be available, but not the names and addresses of the users. Sen. Doug Beck (D-St. Louis) noted there are out-of-state entities interested in trying to divert water from Missouri, and their personal information would be closed, along with information of groups, corporations, and LLCs. It was mentioned there are bills in the House and Senate dealing with water diversion. Testimony in favor of SB 1351 was presented by the Missouri Soybean Association, the Missouri Farm Bureau, the Missouri Corn Growers Association, all saying farmers have a right to keep their personal information closed if they are major water users. The Department of Natural Resources still can release county-wide information about water use, according to the Soybean Association’s witness. Also testifying in favor of the bill was the Associated Industries of Missouri. Testimony in opposition to SB 1351 was presented by Amorvine LLC, saying,” We don’t want anyone hidden in this process with secrecy. The public has a right to know, and who the players are.”

Floor Activity

Closing Initiative Petition Signatures Among Changes

On Thursday morning, the House brought to the floor HCS HB 1749, sponsored by Rep. Mike Haffner (R-Pleasant Hill). The bill would affect the initiative and referendum petition process used to amend the Missouri Constitution by voters, making several changes to the process of collecting signatures and enabling topics to reach the statewide ballot. The legislation was third read and passed by a vote of 104-41. HCS HB 1749 now moves to the Senate. During House floor debate on Tuesday morning, an amendment by Rep. Michael O’Donnell (R-St. Louis) was approved by voice vote “to protect the privacy of signatures” by closing the initiative petition signature sheets collected by the Secretary of State, while some legislators argued that reporters and the public should have access to signature pages to confirm signatures and have oversight of the process. Three other floor amendments, offered by Democrats on Tuesday, failed. The bill requires petition circulators to be U.S. citizens and residents of Missouri for at least 30 days, and they may not be paid based on the number of signatures they collect. Only Missouri registered voters can challenge the official ballot title or fiscal note for a Constitutional amendment, initiative petition, or referendum measure. The bill also requires that if a court orders a change that substantially alters the content of the official ballot title of a petition, all signatures gathered before the change occurred shall be invalidated. The bill requires “dark ink” to be used when petitions are signed. The bill repeals the requirement that the Joint Committee on Legislative Research hold a hearing to take public comment on a proposed measure within 30 days of the Secretary of State issuing certification that the petition contains enough valid signatures.

House Bill 1886 Dies, Then Returns to Committee

On Thursday morning, the House voted to return HCS HB 1886 to the House Judiciary Committee on a voice vote after the bill had been defeated earlier in the week. On Monday afternoon, the House voted to third read and pass HCS HB 1886, sponsored by Rep. Rudy Veit (R-Wardsville), but the bill died on a vote of 58-85. Floor discussion prior to the vote centered on excluding grandparents from a required background check when seeking guardianship of a child with a developmental disability, alternative dispute resolution process, dissolution of LLCs, motions to dismiss an issue of public concern (anti-SLAPP), and gun safety regarding the shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs parade rally on Feb. 14. Rep. Veit said Thursday that by returning it to the committee the bill can be amended to make changes or remove some concerns that had been expressed. HCS 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. Some language involving marital trusts had been added in the substitute bill, along with an amendment clarifying guardianship proceedings and the roles of court staff within those proceedings.

Allowing Committee Meetings in Locations Other Than the County Seat

On Wednesday morning, the House met to third read and pass HB 1909, sponsored by Rep. Tim Taylor (R-Bunceton). HB 1909 repeals the requirement that during primary election years, county central political party committees must hold their meetings in the county seat. Meetings could be conducted electronically or in another location, Rep. Taylor said. The House voted 144-2 to move the bill to the Senate.

Ballot Measurers 

The Senate dedicated Monday and Tuesday to debating SJR 74, sponsored by Senator Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R-Arnold). Currently, constitutional amendments must win a simple majority of voters statewide. As originally filed, the resolution, upon voter approval, would require amendments to receive a majority vote in at least five of the state’s eight congressional districts. During the bill’s progression through the committee process, the bill was amended to prohibit any constitutional amendments that would permit lobbyists gifts, provides exclusive authority to the General Assembly to enact laws enforcing provisions in the Constitution relating to initiative petitions proposing constitutional amendments, and prohibits foreign activity in the initiative petition process. During previous debate, the sponsor offered a floor substitute to further amended the bill to also ban initiative petitions on certain topics, including raising taxes on food, cutting funding for law enforcement, raising taxes on real estate, allowing lobbyist gifts to politicians and cutting money to protect the country’s borders. Senate Democrats held the floor Monday and Tuesday highlighting that voting is already restricted to U.S. citizens and criticized the proposal. After a total of about 20 hours, the sponsor offered a new substitute removing all of the previously proposed changes and limiting the resolution to voter thresholds and the resolution now only requires all such proposed constitutional amendments and new constitutions to receive a majority of the votes cast statewide as well as a majority of the votes cast in at least a majority of the Congressional districts, such approved amendments to take effect at the end of 31 days after the election. After brief debate, the Senate provided its first of two necessary approval votes and the substitute was adopted by an 18-12 vote.

Upcoming Hearings

Senate-Local Government and Elections
02/26/2024 2:00 PM
Committee Hearing, SCR 2
Executive Session:
|SB1362 Crawford – Modifies provisions relating to financial statements of certain local governments
SB1363 Crawford – Modifies provisions relating to county officials

House-Rules-Administrative Oversight
02/26/2024 2:00 PM
Committee Hearing, HR 4
Executive Session:
HJR86 Black – Make numerous changes to the initiative petition process and to the process of approving constitutional amendments

House-Appropriations-General Administration
02/27/2024 8:15 AM
Committee Hearing, Joint Committee Room (Room 216)
Discussion with the Treasurer’s Office regarding unclaimed property oversight.

House-Local Government
02/27/2024 9:00 AM
Committee Hearing, HR 7
HB2571 McGaugh – Modifies provisions relating to financial statements of certain local governments

House-Consent and House Procedure
02/27/2024 6:00 PM
Committee Hearing, HR 5
Executive Session:
HB1818 Voss – Allows the office of administration to conduct post-award negotiations with vendors

Senate-Progress and Development
02/28/2024 12:00 PM
Committee Hearing, SCR 1
SB1099 Washington – Establishes the “Cronkite New Voices Act” to protect the freedom of press in school-sponsored media

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