Representative Jim Neely's Capitol Report
Missouri House members took action this week to reinstitute a voter ID requirement that was approved by more than 60 percent of Missourians in 2016. Lawmakers gave first-round approval to a bill that would bring clarity to the requirements that were gutted by a Missouri Supreme Court decision in January.
It was in 2016 that the legislature approved legislation to require voters to present a valid photo ID at the polling place or sign an affidavit and present some other form of identification. That same year voters also approved a constitutional amendment to authorize the voter ID law. A lower court ruling put the law on hold, and then in January 2020 the Supreme Court upheld the lower court ruling, which found the affidavit portion of the law unconstitutional.
The bill approved by lawmakers would remove the affidavit requirement and instead give voters without a valid photo ID the option to cast a provisional ballot. Individuals who cast a provisional ballot would need to sign a statement saying they will return to the polling place the same day with a valid ID in order to have their vote counted. They would also have their vote counted if their signature on the ballot matches the signature that is on file with election authorities.
Supporters say the bill is designed to protect the integrity of Missouri’s election system. They say the provisional ballot language will ensure no one is turned away at the ballot box for not having proper identification. Proponents also say the bill is crafted to be as simple and clear as possible so that everyone who is registered can vote and the elections are fair and trustworthy.
“When it comes to voter ID, we need certainty, security, protection, and finality. The people spoke on this single issue ballot in 2016, as did both chambers. The court weighed in on a technical language aspect of the statute, and that’s fine. They don’t have the final say in our republic,” said the sponsor of the bill. “The people ultimately have that final say through their elected representatives instead of unelected judges. It’s time to re-legislate and defend the views of voters and the vote of our citizens.”
The bill now awaits a final vote in the House.
Speaker Haahr Creates Committee to Discuss Missouri’s Response to Novel Coronavirus
Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr announced the creation of the Special Committee on Disease Control and Prevention. The committee will host a public forum for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to share their response to the coronavirus.
“Dr. Randall Williams has briefed my office on the state’s preventive measures and response plan to protect Missourians’ health,” Haahr said. “I believe Missourians deserve to know the steps that have been taken and the proactive approach Dr. Williams and DHSS are utilizing to combat the coronavirus in our state.”
Recently, a top federal official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. appears to be inevitable. The official’s comment comes as the pandemic continues to spread to more countries.
Haahr added, “I believe the more information Missourians have, the better equipped the state will be to mitigate the spread of the virus and also monitor for symptoms so a prompt response is possible.” Haahr said the panel is designed, “to ask the questions on Missourians’ minds regarding coronavirus and for the department to assure the public that Missouri is taking preventive measures and is ready to respond if needed.”
The committee will hold its meeting with Dr. Williams, director of DHSS, on Monday, March 2 at 1:30 p.m. in House Hearing Room 5 in the Missouri State Capitol building.
Bills Sent to the Senate
HBs 1387 & 1482 establishes the "Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act", which specifies the parameters of electronic monitoring by residents of long-term care facilities. Supporters say the bill is important to give peace of mind to nursing home residents and their families.
HB 1418 includes anyone employed by the Department of Corrections, corrections officers, and jailers in the list of persons whose home address and vehicle information is to be kept confidential by the Department of Revenue under state law. Supporters say the main purpose of this bill is to protect those who have contact with offenders. The bill will keep certain information private so that Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC) employees can fulfill their duties safely. Working for MDOC can be dangerous, and some employees may be frequently threatened. The home address and vehicle information of employees should be held confidential to prevent retaliation and to protect employees. Supporters also say tthe protection the bill provides is already extended to prosecutors and judges and should be extended to all MDOC employees.
HB 1486 exempts any entity registered with the Department of Health and Senior Services that possesses, distributes, or delivers hypodermic needles or syringes for the purpose of operating a syringe exchange program or otherwise mitigating health risks associated with unsterile injection drug use from provisions of law prohibiting the distribution, delivery, or sale of drug paraphernalia. Supporters say needle exchange programs are effective and save lives, while saving the state money on addiction and overdose treatment because the exchange programs work to get people help. However, needle exchange programs currently work in the shadows due to unclear state laws, and this bill will address that issue.
HB 1868 requires the State Board of Education, in consultation with the Career and Technical Advisory Council, to develop a statewide plan establishing the minimum requirements for a Career and Technical Education (CTE) Certificate. The statewide plan will match workforce needs with appropriate educational resources. Supporters say this is a necessary aspect of the career and technical education certificates plan to provide viability and relevance. Supporters also say this is a great opportunity for emphasis on career technical education, and development of a plan will provide a floor and ceiling to work within.
HB 1873 creates the offense of vehicle hijacking, which is committed when an individual knowingly uses or threatens the use of physical force upon another individual to seize or attempt to seize possession or control of a vehicle. This offense is punished as a class B felony unless one of the aggravating circumstances listed in the bill was present during the commission of the offense, in which case it is punished as a class A felony. Supporters say creating this offense will allow prosecutors to charge offenders with a specific offense rather than having to rely on the broader robbery or stealing statutes.
HB 1696 authorizes the conveyance of specified state property and provides the legal description for each property. Supporters say the bill will allow development of an existing industrial park that has operated for 25 years. A reversion clause currently prevents the sale or transfer of the property by Farmington for economic development.
HB 1787 lowers the minimum age requirement to 21 years for holding various county offices and special district board memberships. The bill also requires a person appointed to elective public office not be delinquent in the payment of state income tax, personal property tax, municipal tax or real property tax. Supporters say the bill makes the requirement for office 21 years of age or older and requires elected and appointed officials to file an affidavit of tax compliance.
HB 1694 requires the Department of Natural Resources to create and make available on its website an interactive map of hazardous waste sites in the state. The maps must link to certain information. Before January 1, 2021, each hazardous waste site must post an informational sign at each entrance to the site. Supporters say it is important for people to be aware of what types of hazardous waste sites are in their communities. Even if the site doesn't pose a health risk, it is still important to ensure that the information is available to citizens who live near the sites.
HB 1421 states that the hotel may use a safe or safe deposit boxes located behind the registration desk. Currently, lodging establishments are not liable for the loss of certain specified items, such as money or jewelry, unless the guest asked that the item be placed in a safe and the lodging establishment refused or omitted to do so. The bill also specifies that any lodging establishment that publishes current rates electronically on a public Internet platform does not have to post a written copy of the rates charged for each guest room. Supporters say this is an antiquated law that needs to be updated to current practices, both in posting rates and in new security box systems that hotels are utilizing instead of the old large single safe.
HB 1559 defines "private schools" as any non-public school or school operated by a religious organization and specifies that private schools shall not be required to increase their minimum wage annually as required by current law. Supporters say private schools are effected by the state mandatory minimum wage increases, and that the exemption for public entities should also apply to private schools.
HB 1289 removes an exemption from registration on the Sexual Offender Registry when a registrant is no longer required to register and his or her name must be removed from the registry under the provisions under state law. Supporters say this is a clarification/fix-it bill that needs to take care of necessary changes to the tiered registry system. The changes will help judges and offenders know who should be removed from the registry, and it will help cases move more quickly and help with plea agreements.
HB 1293 modifies a provision relating to sexual offenders who are Tier I sexual offenders. Currently, Tier I sexual offenses include child molestation in the second degree under state statute, as it existed prior to January 1, 2017, if the punishment is less than one year. This bill changes the provision to include the offense if the offense is a misdemeanor. Supporters say this is a technical fix for the sexual offender registry. A category of offenders was inadvertently left off the list and, because of that, they ended up on Tier III of the registry, which requires being on the registry for life.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have. As your Representative, I am here to assist you however, I can. I can be reached by email at Jim.Neely@house.mo.gov or by phone at 573-751-0246.