Sen. Barbara Anne Washington’s Legislative Column for the Week of Feb. 7, 2022

Week of Feb. 7, 2022

Redistricting Debate Stalls In Missouri Senate

The Missouri Senate spent much of the past week working to address the issue of congressional redistricting. The General Assembly is tasked with redrawing the state’s congressional boundary lines to reflect changes to the state’s population using information from the U.S. census. The districts created should be compact and contagious, represent roughly equal amounts of the state’s population, and try to keep communities of interests together as best as possible.

The proposed congressional map the Senate spent much of the week on was House Bill 2117, which is largely believed to preserve the current partisan makeup of the state’s congressional delegation. Some senators, however, disagreed with this assessment, and launched an over 30-hour filibuster in opposition to the bill. Even after the filibuster ended, continued opposition to the proposed congressional map stalled much of the Senate’s planned legislative activities. As of this writing, the Senate has not been able to move forward with any proposed congressional map. As we look for a path forward on this critical issue, know that my priority is ensuring the people of Jackson County are fairly represented by whatever map moves forward.

Senate Bill 666 Fails in Committee

On Feb. 10, the Senate’s Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee voted 3-4 to defeat Senate Bill 666. This legislation would change state law to allow someone who used physical or deadly force to be presumed to have acted in self-defense and “immune from criminal prosecution or civil action.” Not only could that person not be prosecuted, the bill would prohibit suspects from being arrested, detained or charged with a crime unless authorities can prove “by clear and convincing evidence” that suspect didn’t act in self-defense.

Senators Block Confirmation of Health Department Director

On Feb. 1, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Director Donald Kauerauf was blocked from being confirmed to his position.

Kauerauf, a 30-year veteran of the Illinois Department of Public Health with experience in emergency management, had been Missouri’s health director since Sept. 1, but needed to be confirmed by the Senate no later than Feb. 4 in order to keep the job. Kauerauf faced opposition from a number of senators who had concerns about his stances on COVID-19 vaccines as well as mask mandates. Despite Kauerauf’s repeated public statements that he was opposed to these sorts of mandates, he continued to face opposition from several senators. Ultimately, Kauerauf’s appointment was never brought up for a Senate vote, and as a result, he is now constitutionally barred from being re-appointed to the post in the future. Kauerauf has resigned, and the governor has since appointed Richard Moore to serve as acting health department director until a permanent replacement is chosen. Moore had been the department’s general counsel.

House Approves $4.6 Billion Supplemental Spending Bill

On Feb. 10, the House of Representatives voted 114-11 with an additional 25 members voting “present” to pass a nearly $4.6 billion supplemental spending bill that would distribute billions of dollars in federal pandemic relief funds to local public school districts, as well as fully fund Missouri’s Medicaid program for the rest of the FY 2022 fiscal year.

House Bill 3014 authorizes significantly less spending authority than the $5.27 billion the governor had initially requested, primarily by not appropriating as much federal funds. While the governor requested establishing a $15-an-hour base wage for state workers through the bill, the House’s proposal only included a $12-an-hour wage floor for most departments. Both plans, however, include a 5.5% pay bump for all state workers. The bill now advances to the Senate. Lawmakers must allocate about $2 billion in federal funding that is set to expire in late March or the state will lose the money.

House Advances Plan to Limit Initiative Petitions

The Missouri House of Representatives voted 98-53 in favor of a proposed constitutional amendment that would likely make it harder to use the initiative petition process to propose and enact laws and constitutional amendments independently of the General Assembly. House Joint Resolution 79 increases the number of signatures from registered voters required for an initiative petition to qualify for the ballot. Under the proposed constitutional amendment, proposals that make it to the ballot would also need approval from at least two-thirds of voters to pass, instead of the current simple majority. House Joint Resolution 79 now advances to the Senate. If it clears the General Assembly, the proposed constitutional amendment would still need to receive approval from the voters before becoming law.

House Panel Advances Proposal to Alter Medicaid Expansion

The House Budget Committee voted on Feb. 7 to advance a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at preventing the state from funding voter-approved Medicaid expansion. House Joint Resolution 117 would empower the Legislature to block services to the expanded population by withholding funding, and now goes to the full House of Representatives for further debate. If the proposal clears both chambers of the Legislature, it would go on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot for voter ratification.

Supreme Court Hears Challenge to Gun Nullification Law

On Feb. 7, the Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging a 2021 law that declares federal gun laws unenforceable in Missouri. The arguments primarily focused on procedural questions, with little discussion of the case’s merits. The court will issue its ruling at a later date.

In 2021, the General Assembly passed House Bill 85. Later that year, St. Louis City, St. Louis County and Jackson County filed a lawsuit claiming HB 85 violates the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which prohibits individual states from invalidating federal laws. An attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice appeared before the state high court to argue in support of striking down the new law, saying it has chilled cooperation between state and federal law enforcement officials in criminal investigations. In addition to purporting to nullify federal gun laws, HB 85 allows Missouri police departments to be sued for assisting federal authorities.

Judge Mostly Upholds Ballot Language on Education Proposal

On Feb. 2, a Cole County judge largely upheld the ballot language the secretary of state wrote for a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit diverting taxpayer funding to private schools through vouchers or tax credits. The judge, however, did rewrite a portion of the secretary of state’s language pertaining to a provision requiring the state to implement a uniform process for evaluating and accrediting public schools.

Supporters of the proposed amendment sued the secretary of state in October, claiming his ballot language provided a “distorted characterization” of what it would do and was “calculated to prejudice voters against the measure.” The backers are seeking to put the measure on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot via the initiative petition process, which allows voters to propose and enact legislation independently of the General Assembly.

One section of the proposed amendment states its intent is to preserve revenue available for public schools by largely prohibiting efforts to subsidize private schools with public funds, subject to a list of five narrow exceptions. The General Assembly last year enacted a law creating a voucher program for students to attend private K-12 schools. The proposed amendment would render that law unconstitutional.

The amendment’s second section would require the Missouri State Board of Education to establish uniform regulations on public schools and appears intended to ensure basic accountability for charter schools, which currently operate free of many regulations that apply to traditional public schools. At present, charter schools are only allowed to operate in St. Louis and Kansas City, but proponents have been lobbying lawmakers in recent years to expand them statewide.

The case is expected to be appealed. Supporters have until early May to collect the roughly 172,000 signatures from registered Missouri voters necessary to qualify for the ballot.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Two Laws Restricting Referendums

On Feb. 8, the Missouri Supreme Court struck down two state laws the secretary of state used to effectively prevent Missouri voters from having the final say on legislation enacted in 2019 that restricted most abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy.

In 2019, the General Assembly passed House Bill 126, which sought tighter restrictions on abortion. Opponents of the bill quickly filed a referendum petition, which forces a statewide vote on legislation passed by lawmakers and signed by the governor. The petition’s backers faced a 90-day deadline to collect the roughly 100,000 signatures from registered voters needed to put HB 126 on the ballot, but this effort was delayed as it faced legal challenges. Even after the secretary of state was ordered by the courts to certify the petition, he waited the full 51 days given to him by state law to complete the job. This gave petition backers just two weeks to collect the necessary signatures by the deadline.

To prevent a similar situation from happening in the future, petition supporters challenged the constitutionality of the law allowing the secretary of state to delay the certification process and a related statute prohibiting petitions from being circulated prior to that time. The high court’s 5-2 decision sided with a lower court’s holding that those statutes interfere with the state constitutional right to referendum.

Supreme Court Orders Disclosure of Medical Marijuana Information

The Missouri Supreme Court unanimously ruled the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) must disclose information submitted by successful applicants for medical marijuana licenses in an administrative challenge brought by an applicant who was denied a license.

Since Missourians voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2018, DHSS has faced accusations that an inconsistent scoring process allowed the department to grant licenses to certain recipients while denying them to others, leading to hundreds of appeals. One unsuccessful applicant sought other applicants’ information as part of its appeal, but the department argued it couldn’t disclose it because of a constitutional provision requiring such information to be kept confidential. However, the Supreme Court ruled the constitution expressly allows such information to be disclosed during the license denial appeals process and that DHSS must disclose the information in other pending appeals.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Special License Plate

During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 189, which I was proud to sponsor. This legislation creates a special license plate for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Anyone interested in supporting this Kansas City gem can apply for the license plate by following these steps:

  1. Make a $10 donation to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
    • Donations can be made directly to the museum or by sending the museum a check upon submitting your application. Be sure to get a receipt for your contribution.
  2. Complete the 1716 form to apply for the specialty license plate. This form can be found at mo.gov/motor-vehicle/plates/personalized-specialty.html.
    • When completing the form, select “other” and fill in that you are applying for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum plate.
  3. Send your application, along with your $10 museum donation (or the receipt for your donation), and your $15 standard plate application fee to the museum at 1616 E 18th St., KCMO, 64108.

As of April 9, 2021, anyone age 5 and up are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Please contact your local pharmacy or health care provider for information on how best to receive one of the available vaccines. For more information about the vaccine in Missouri, please visit covidvaccine.mo.gov.

University Health is now providing Pfizer, Moderna and J & J booster shots for COVID-19. The CDC approved a booster shot for any adult who received their first two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago, or for any adult who received a single dose of the J & J vaccine at least two months ago. If you are eligible, you can schedule an appointment by calling 816-404-CARE or walk in to University Health (2211 Charlotte St., KCMO 64108) or University Health Lakewood Medical Center (7900 Lee’s Summit Road, KCMO 64139). The COVID-19 vaccine is available to children 5-12 at these two locations as well. Established patients may make an appointment with their child’s provider at the Med/Ped’s clinic at UHTMC or the Family Medicine Clinic at UHLMC. Additional vaccine information, including free transportation info, is available at www.universityhealthkc.org/covid-19/covid-19-vaccine/.

The Jackson County Health Department also has numerous vaccine and testing clinics available. For more information, please visit jacohd.org.

The Center for COVID Recovery is open to treat patients who experience long-term effects from the virus. For more information, visit universityhealthkc.org/covid-19/center-for-covid-recovery; please share this information with anyone who continues to struggle after a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

Thank you for your vote of confidence to serve the people of the 9th District in the Missouri Senate. In an effort to keep you up-to-date with my legislation or other proposed measures, please feel free to visit my website at senate.mo.gov/Washington. I appreciate your active interest in your community and encourage your participation in the legislative process. Should you need assistance with state matters, please feel free to contact my office at (573) 751-3158.

Senator Washington’s Sponsored Legislation for 2022

Bill Number Description Status
Senate Bill 717 Authorizes a tax credit for urban farms located in a food desert Hearing with Senate Economic Development Committee Cancelled
Senate Bill 718 Designates the third week of September as “Historically Black College and University Week” in Missouri Hearing Conducted by the Senate Progress and Development Committee
Senate Bill 719 Authorizes a tax credit for the purchase of certain homes Second Read and Referred to Senate Ways and Means Committee
Senate Bill 793 Creates provisions relating to expungement for certain marijuana offenses Second Read and Referred to Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee
Senate Bill 794 Modifies provisions relating to medical marijuana program participants in family court matters Second Read and Referred to Senate Seniors, Families, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee
Senate Bill 795 Modifies provisions relating to law enforcement officer use of force Second Read and Referred to Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee
Senate Bill 854 Modifies provisions relating to reporting requirements of law enforcement agencies Second Read and Referred to Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee
Senate Bill 855 Establishes the “Cronkite New Voices Act” to protect the freedom of press in school-sponsored media Second Read and Referred to Senate Education Committee
Senate Bill 856 Modifies provisions relating to the expungement of records Second Read and Referred to Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee
Senate Bill 896 Modifies provisions relating to probation and parole for certain offenders Second Read and Referred to Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee
Senate Bill 897 Authorizes a sales tax exemption for feminine hygiene products Second Read and Referred to Senate Ways and Means Committee
Senate Bill 898 Allows a museum property tax levy to be used for certain museums Second Read and Referred to Senate Local Government and Elections Committee
Senate Bill 994 Creates new provisions prohibiting discrimination based on hairstyles First read in the Senate
Senate Bill 995 Modifies provisions relating to parole eligibility First read in the Senate
Senate Bill 1094 Modifies provisions relating to wrongful convictions First read in the Senate
Senate Bill 1130 Modifies provisions relating to earned compliance credits for probation First read in the Senate
Senate Joint Resolution 42 Places limits on increases of the assessment of certain properties Second Read and Referred to Senate Ways and Means Committee
Senate Joint Resolution 43 Places limits on increases of the assessment of certain properties Second Read and Referred to Senate Ways and Means Committee

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