My proposed Constitutional amendment, HJR 114 and HB 2307, that assesses a five thousand fine for those found guilty patronizing prostitution were perfected on the House floor on April 6. These two pieces of legislation not only assess the criminal fine but creates “Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation Fund”. This fund will be disrupted 50/50 to the arresting law enforcement department where the crime occurred and to approved organizations that provide housing, medical, and counseling services to the victim(s). Last but not least I have co-sponsored HJR 82, Hunting and Fishing, sponsored by Representative John Black. This proposed Constitutional amendment would strengthen Missourians’ rights to hunt and fish by traditional methods currently used by hunters and anglers.
House Approves Fiscally Responsible State Operating Budget (HBs 3001-3013, 3015, 3020)
The members of the Missouri House of Representatives have given their stamp of approval to a $46.5 billion state operating budget. The state spending plan, which received support from both sides of the aisle, makes a record investment in the state’s system of education while also allocating funds to help the state’s most vulnerable citizens, pay for road improvements and repairs, invest in water and broadband infrastructure, and bolster the state’s reserve fund.
By approving the spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, lawmakers provided full funding for the state’s K-12 foundation formula. In total, House members approved nearly $10.1 billion in funding for K-12 education, which represents an increase of more than $2.6 billion in funding when compared to the previous budget. That increase is fueled primarily by an additional $2.4 billion in federal funding. The plan also works to improve teacher pay by allocating approximately $37.4 million to revive the Career Ladder program. Additionally, the House plan invests $75 million in Close the Gap grants that will help Missouri families address the learning loss that occurred as a result of the pandemic.
House members also boosted funding for the state’s institutions of higher learning. The higher education funding plan is increased by nearly $55 million when compared to the previous budget. That increase includes nearly $43 million in new funding for the state’s four-year institutions, and more than $8 million in new spending for the state’s community colleges. The House budget also works to make college more affordable for Missouri students by increasing funding for the A+ Scholarship Program by $6 million and the Access Missouri Scholarship Program by $9 million, which fully funds the program for the first time. The budget plan also includes an additional $3.5 million for the Bright Flight Scholarship program, which fully funds the program to provide full scholarships to the top 5 percent of test takers.
The budget approved by the House also makes a strong investment in the state’s transportation infrastructure. The spending plan allocates nearly $248 million in new funding from the State Road Fund, which is used for maintenance and construction for roads and bridges. That plan includes $100 million for rural roads around the state that have fallen into disrepair. Additionally, the plan allocates $75 million in federal funds for the Transportation Cost-Share Program that partners with local municipalities to fund road repairs. The state’s Amtrak service also receives funding that will allow it to resume twice-daily rail service across the state.
The House-approved spending plan also provides substantive increases to many of the programs that serves the state’s most vulnerable citizens. The budget provides for nearly $300 million for rate increases for home and community-based service providers. It also provides more than $26 million in new funding for the state’s Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), and an additional $15.1 million for the AAAs to expand meal production capacity. The House budget also increases funding for the Veterans Health and Care Fund by more than $6 million to help further support the state’s veterans’ homes. Other funding increases include $20 million for the Children’s Trust Fund for grant programs that will assist children who are victims of sexual abuse and neglect, $2.2 million for Alternatives to Abortion, and $5.8 million for autism diagnostic centers.
While the budget approved by the House provides record funding in a number of areas, the plan also represents a reduction in spending of approximately $1.1 billion when compared to the plan recommended by the governor. The House Budget Chairman chose to scale back some of the spending increases proposed by the governor in order to ensure the state has a healthy bottom line. The House budget plan leaves more than $1.8 billion in general revenue unspent.
The vice chairman of the House Budget Committee said the budget approved by the House “will be billions more than the budget before it, and there’s only so much money you can spend responsibly within a given fiscal year, and I think we’ve struck that balance.”
One House member who supported the plan said the state legislature should not be like Washington, D.C. by throwing cash at every program. He said, “The same folks who are on the floor right now telling us we need to spend every dime that we have access to right now will be the same folks who, when we hit a downturn, will tell us we’ve mismanaged these dollars. Passing a conservative budget right now is incredibly important.” He added, “We need to make sure that we’re being responsible with the dollars we have access to, the billions we have access to today.”
The chairman of the House Budget Committee told his colleagues, “This budget, while it is the state’s largest in history, uses a lot of the federal money we’ve been sent to prioritize things like education and various infrastructures like water infrastructure and broadband infrastructure. We’ve spent a long time trying to plan and make sure that money is invested as wisely as it can be.”
The budget bills approved by the House now move to the Senate for consideration. The two chambers have until Friday, May 6 to come to a final agreement on the state operating budget.
Some of the items of note in the budget include:
House Approves Legislation to Require Holocaust Education Week (HB 2000)
Members of the House gave overwhelming bipartisan approval to a piece of legislation that would ensure Missouri students receive appropriate instruction about the Holocaust. The bill would designate the second week in April as "Holocaust Education Week."
Supporters of the measure say recent studies have shown an alarming decline in awareness of the Holocaust. Studies have also found that a substantial majority of Missourians favor instruction on the history of the Holocaust. Supporters say it is becoming more urgent to increase education and awareness about the horrific events that resulted in the genocide of nearly 6 million European Jews.
HB 2000 requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop a curriculum framework of instruction for studying the Holocaust. The Department will then make the framework available to school districts beginning in the 2023-24 school year. The second week in April will officially be Holocaust Education Week, but the bill gives school districts the flexibility to provide age-appropriate Holocaust education instruction during any week.
The sponsor of the bill said, “With this legislation we’re simply establishing a week for the schools to teach about the Holocaust. When it comes to teaching the Holocaust there are many different ways for it to be taught. It does not necessarily just need to be taught in history. There are many other forms of teaching that can be used. It can be used in music even. It can be used in art.” He added, “We’re not just mandating it for history, but broadly across all educational materials.”
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Other Bills Sent to the Senate
HB 2012 would make it a felony offense to use or donate fetal tissue from an abortion for any purpose other than to diagnose anomalies, determine paternity, or for law enforcement purposes. The bill also makes it a felony offense to hoard aborted human remains. The bill would enact the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which mandates that a child born alive during or after an abortion or attempted abortion will have the same rights, privileges, and immunities as any other person, citizen, and resident of Missouri, including any other live-born child. Another provision in the bill aims to protect the lives of the unborn by making it a felony offense to traffic abortion-inducing drugs. The measure would make it a class B felony if a person or entity knowingly imports, exports, distributes, delivers, manufactures, produces, prescribes, administers, or dispenses, or attempts to do so, any medicine, drug, or other means or substance to be used to induce an abortion on another person in violation of state or federal law. The provision makes it clear the woman using the drug cannot be prosecuted for trafficking. Other provisions in the bill would ensure taxpayer funds do not go to abortion providers or their affiliates and clarify that federal laws cannot affect the decisions made by the state to prevent funds from going to abortion providers. The bill also contains language to ensure victims of domestic or sexual assault cannot be sued by their perpetrators, or the perpetrator’s family members, for violating provisions of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. The bill’s sponsor said, “This is about what Missourians want us to be about – protecting the integrity and value of life, and making sure that those with evil intentions don’t prevail.”
HB 2127 adds damaging or making a "teller machine" inoperable to the offense of property damage in the first degree. This offense would be a class D felony, and a class C felony if committed for the purpose of executing any scheme or artifice to defraud or obtain any property that exceeds $750 or the damage to the teller machine exceeds $750. The offense would be a class B felony if the damage committed was to obtain the personal financial credentials of another person. The bill also describes the offense of tampering with a teller machine. Supporters say the bill includes penalty provisions that would be a deterrent to organized crime groups that come into the state of Missouri to destroy the ATM machines. The bill’s sponsor said that “over the last couple of years the ATM smash and grabs have increased by 1,400 percent. We had just two of them in 2019 and we had 28 in 2021. Without these penalty enhancements I am afraid that these activities will continue.”
HB 2387 specifies that as long as the federal soybean producers assessment remains at 0.5%, the state assessment must correspond to the state credit of the total assessment paid to the commodity merchandising council. If the federal assessment is reduced or ceases, the state assessment will be equal to 0.5% of the net market price of soybeans grown within the state. Supporters say the assessment levied on soybean producers was voted on by the producers and is used for research and promotion of soybean products. This bill would ensure that the assessment continues if the federal portion of the assessment is repealed. The bill’s sponsor said his goal is to “keep the checkoff on soybeans the same if it were to go away at the federal level so we can continue to expand export markets and vital research to the soybean economy.”
HB 2485 defines and redefines certain terms including "advanced recycling", "advanced recycling facility", "depolymerization", "gasification", "mechanical processing", "mill scale and slag", "post-use polymer", "pyrolysis", "recovered feedstock", "recycled content", "recycled plastics", "solid waste", and "solvolysis". The bill specifies that an advanced recycling facility, is not subject to the solid waste processing facility operating permit requirements and no permit is required for the use of advanced recycling at an advanced recycling facility, as long as the feedstocks received by such facility are source-separated or diverted or recovered from municipal or other waste streams prior to acceptance at the advanced recycling facility. Supporters say the bill will allow the removal of plastic waste, styrofoam, plastic wrappers, etc. from landfills to become recyclable products. It removes regulatory burdens to enhance technological advancements and economic investment opportunities in the state.
HB 2627 designates the month of February as "Black History Month" in Missouri. The bill also designates the month of November as "Native American Heritage Month" in Missouri. The bill’s sponsor said, “I was going through the list of state holidays in late January and I realized that Black History Month in February and Native American Heritage Month in November were not on that list. This bill would change that and add those two months to that designation.”
HB 1662 prohibits any deed recorded after August 28, 2022, from containing a reference to a specific portion of a restrictive covenant that relates to the race, color, religion, or national origin of any person. The recorder of deeds can refuse to record the deed. Additionally, an owner of real property subject to a restrictive covenant that relates to the race, color, religion, or national origin of any person can release it by filing a certificate of release of prohibited covenants with the recorder of deeds either prior to recording a deed of conveyance of such property or upon discovering that the prohibited covenant exists. Supporters say the bill would allow owners to have a covenant with restrictive language removed and it could bar the recorder from recording such a covenant in a new deed.
HB 2462 designates April 16 each year as "Missouri Donate Life Day”. Supporters note there are currently over 100,000 people in the United States waiting on the organ transplant list, with around 2,000 in Missouri. Raising awareness of the importance of organ donation and encouraging people to sign-up for organ donation is important and will save lives. The bill also creates several other health-related state observances including: the second Wednesday in May as "Celiac Awareness Day", the third full week of September of each year as "Sickle Cell Awareness Week", the month of June as "Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month", the first full week in May as “Tardive Dyskinesia Awareness Week”, the month of September each year as “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Awareness Month”, the month of July as “Uterine Fibroid Awareness Month”, the month of October as “Substance Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month”, September 15th each year as "Caregiver Appreciation Day", October 1 each year as "Biliary Atresia Awareness Day", April 16 each year as "Missouri Donate Life Day", and the month of May and May 10 of each year as "Lupus Awareness Month" and "Lupus Awareness Day".
HB 2400 provides that both a client and a registered professional employer organization (PEO) shall each be deemed an employer for purposes of sponsoring retirement and welfare benefits plans for covered employees. A fully insured welfare benefit plan sponsored by a registered PEO for the benefit of its covered employees shall be treated for the purposes of state law as a single employer welfare benefit plan. Supporters say professional employer organizations have existed in the state for 25 years and that they allow small businesses to take advantage of better pricing. This language will put into statute the current best business practices and allow the PEO to offer business solutions and benefits to small businesses in the state.
HB 2416 establishes that it is not a violation of law for a motor vehicle dealer to do the following away from the dealer's place of business: (1) Deliver a motor vehicle to a customer for a test drive; (2) Deliver documents for a customer to sign; (3) Deliver documents to or obtain documents from a customer; or (4) Deliver a motor vehicle to a customer. Supporters say that during the pandemic, this was the only way to conduct business and the customers really liked it, so the law is being changed to match reality.
HB 2151 authorizes the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to manage child day care services instead of the Children's Division within the Department of Social Services. This bill also authorizes DESE to grant and manage licenses to operate child care facilities instead of the Department of Health and Senior Services. Supporters say the bill codifies changes the agencies have already implemented. By creating the Office of Childhood, the state has a more efficient approach to early childhood education and can better spend state funds on programs to benefit the children of Missouri.
HB 2120 establishes the "Personal Privacy Protection Act", prohibiting public agencies from disclosing or requiring the disclosure of personal information, as defined in the bill. The bill prohibits public agencies from: (1) Requiring any individual to provide the public agency with personal information or otherwise compel the release of such personal information; (2) Requiring any entity exempt from federal income taxation under Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code to provide a public agency with personal information or otherwise compel the release of personal information; (3) Releasing, publicizing, or otherwise publicly disclosing personal information in possession of the public agency; or (4) Requiring any current or prospective contractor or grantee with the public agency to provide the public agency with a list of entities exempt from federal income taxation under Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code to which it has provided financial or nonfinancial support. Supporters say the bill protects associational privacy from both intentional and inadvertent breach by government, furthering the protection and security of non-profits and their donors. This bill provides for privacy protection for citizens that wish to support causes they believe in without fear of having their personal information made publicly available, and potentially opening them to retribution or discrimination.
HJR 116 would, upon voter approval, establish a "Missouri Department of the National Guard” charged with providing the state militia, upholding the Constitutional rights and liberties of Missourians, and other defense and security mechanisms as may be required. Supporters say most states have a Department of Defense or something similar. The measure allows for a more streamlined process for the chain of command. It would remove some of the bureaucracy and allow the Adjutant General to communicate directly with the Governor which will help with information management and response times for the National Guard.
HJR 131 would, upon voter approval, clarify that only citizens of the United States are eligible to vote. The resolution requires that voters cast a single vote for each office or issue. The resolution also requires the use of paper ballots and voting records which are preserved for use in any election audit. Supporters say that the resolution clarifies that only United States citizens may vote in Missouri elections and also enacts the current practice that requires a single vote for each candidate or issue and a plurality vote winner rule for political party primary elections.
HB 1597 authorizes the conveyance of certain state property. The bill authorizes the Governor to sell, transfer, grant, convey, remise, release, and forever quitclaim all interest of the state of Missouri in land located in the City of Kirksville in Adair County to the Kirksville R-III School District. An additional land transfer from the state regarding land located in City of Kirksville to Truman State University is also authorized. An additional land transfer in Iron County from the Department of Natural Resources to the State Highways and Transportation Department is included. The bill also authorizes the Department of Natural Resources to comply with any final judgment in a court of highest jurisdiction to sell an interest in specified property in Oregon County that is currently subject to a federal easement.
HB 1472 modifies the statute related to the offense of money laundering. It adds a definition for "cryptocurrency" which is a digital currency in which transactions are verified and records are maintained by a decentralized system using cryptography. The bill replaces the definitions of "currency" with one for "monetary instruments" and it adds definitions for "financial transaction" and "transaction". Supporters say that the bill provides a great tool for law enforcement to combat crime. They say updating the definition of currency to include cryptocurrency and adding blockchain transactions will provide further means to track and trace the movement of funds.
HB 2587 establishes the "Regulatory Sandbox Act", which creates the "Regulatory Relief Office" within the Department of Economic Development. The Regulatory Relief Office will administer the provisions of the bill with the purpose of identifying 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 offering to consumers. Supporters say that for too many entrepreneurs and innovators the states' regulatory burdens crush them before they even get off the ground. This would be a tool to mitigate some of the damage the regulations impose on startups. This bill is intended to spur innovation.
HB 2289 reduces the time period of regular publication from three years to one year, and increases the time period 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 satisfies these conditions to qualify. Supporters say that this bill will provide relief and stability to local newspapers. Current requirements under the law are outdated and lead to undue legal roadblocks. The publishing time frame change proposed by this bill allows newspapers to maintain their legal status. The bill will ensure smaller newspapers are able to stay in print and provide for these communities.
HB 1682 prohibits any county, municipality, or political subdivision from imposing or enforcing a moratorium on eviction proceedings unless specifically authorized by state law. The bill also prohibits any political subdivision from requiring a residential property owner to have a home inspection of such property conducted regarding the sale of the property. Additionally, the bill specifies that no deed restrictions, covenants, or similar binding agreements running with the land can prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the display of sale signs on the property of a homeowner or nearby street corner.
HB 2697 provides that a person commits the offense of organized retail theft if they commit a series of thefts of retail merchandise on the premise of a merchant or through the use of the internet with the intent to return the merchandise to the merchant for value or resell, trade, or barter the merchandise for value in any manner. The offense of organized retail theft is a class C felony if the aggregate value of the property or services, as determined under the bill, involved in all thefts committed during a 120-day period is between $5,000 and $10,000 and a class B felony if such aggregate value is over $10,000.
HB 2607 specifies that a non-floating facility for the purpose of licensing excursion gambling boats be within 1,000 feet from the closest edge of the main channel of the Missouri or Mississippi River. The bill states that the water beneath or inside the structure may be in tanks in addition to rigid or semi-rigid storage containers or structures. Supporters say the bill protects the continued construction of the casino in Caruthersville that has already commenced but is now threatened by a lawsuit. The building of the casino in the area permissible under the bill is safer and allows the casino to not be subject to flooding.
HB 1562 specifies that the region of southeast Missouri that includes the counties of St. Louis, Jefferson, Franklin, Crawford, Dent, Shannon, Oregon, Ste. Genevieve, Washington, St. Francois, Madison, Iron, Perry, Wayne, Reynolds, Bollinger, Scott, Mississippi, Stoddard, Ripley, Butler, Carter, New Madrid, Pemiscot, and Dunklin shall be designated the "Stars and Stripes Historic Region of Missouri". Supporters say that the Stars and Stripes newspaper was established in Bloomfield, Missouri, and this bill would raise awareness to the historical importance of this newspaper and the surrounding area.
HB 2143 authorizes county commissions to use a part of the principal of a cemetery trust fund for the support and maintenance of the cemetery when the net income of the trust fund is insufficient for those purposes. Supporters say that under current law, county commissions may only use the interest accrued on the principal of cemetery trust funds for maintaining and supporting their cemeteries. For those smaller or rural counties that do not have a large amount in trust funds, this interest is not enough to provide for basic maintenance required. The language of the bill allows for the continued necessary maintenance of cemeteries from the principal amount of the funds when interest is not sufficient.
HB 2032 gives the juvenile court exclusive original jurisdiction in proceedings involving a child who has been a victim of sex trafficking or sexual exploitation. Additionally, the bill specifies that a person will not be certified as an adult or adjudicated as a delinquent for the offense of prostitution if the person was under the age of 18 when the offense was committed. The bill specifies that, when a child is located by law enforcement and there is reasonable cause to suspect the child may be a victim of sex trafficking, the officer must immediately make a report to the Children's Division in the Department of Social Services. The bill also creates the "Statewide Council on Sex Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Children", which will analyze data relating to sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of children and will collect feedback from stakeholders, practitioners, and leadership throughout the state.
HB 1954 establishes "Bentley's Law", which requires a person convicted of an offense of driving while intoxicated where the death of a parent or parents results to pay child maintenance to the child's or children's surviving parent or legal guardian until the child turns 18 or, if the child is 18 and enrolls in college, until completion of a degree or until the child reaches the age of 21, whichever occurs first. Supporters say the purpose of the bill is to punish people who drive drunk and ensure they are responsible for the children they leave parentless.
HB 1684 establishes the "Missouri Nuclear Clean Power Act", which allows clean base load electric generating plants or facilities rated at 200 megawatts or more that utilize renewable sources to produce energy not in commercial operation as of August 28, 2022, to charge for costs associated with construction work in progress before the facility is operational. Supporters say only two states have a complete ban on charging ratepayers for construction work in progress. They say that, without the bill, building new base load generation is cost prohibitive.
HB 2088 establishes the "Earning Safe Reentry Through Work Act of 2021". Under the bill, offenders may earn a credit that is equal to a one-day reduction in a sentence for maintaining eligible employment. Supporters say the bill will help with the current workforce shortage and would incentivize inmates to learn valuable job skills. Studies show that inmate participation in job programs greatly reduces recidivism. The early release of inmates is also cost effective and reduces the burden on the parole system.
Please let me know If you have other concerns and suggestions. If you would like to schedule a specific time to meet locally, please call my office at 573-751-1487, or email my office at email@example.com.