On May 15, the 2020 Missouri regular legislative session ended as 51 bills reached final passage of the more than 2,260 bills filed. The 2020 session was unique as it included a five-week break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the mid-session break created a major flurry of activity during the final three weeks.

The 2020 session was ultimately a success as the legislature ensured timely passage of the state’s Fiscal Year 2021 operating budget and several bills of the leadership’s priorities. The Republican supermajority successfully passed sweeping reforms to civil justice litigation (Senate Bill 591) and property tax assessments (Senate Bill 676), which were both listed as priorities at the beginning of the year.

The Lathrop GPM team secured several victories for its clients during this abbreviated session while facing difficult challenges due to limited accessibility to the state capitol building and limited participation by the public in the legislative process. Due to the strengths of the personal and professional relationships with our elected leaders, the LGPM Consulting team found ways to gain access and ensure its clients’ messages were delivered in a timely and effective manner.

Some major victories in 2020 include:
• Passage of a statutory fix in House Bill 1854 to allow non-charter counties the ability to enact a burn order under certain conditions. The statutory language provides an exemption for commercial grade fireworks that are not “rockets or missiles,” and the order can only be allowed upon permission from the state fire marshal who must follow the U.S. Drought Monitor to ensure drought conditions are occurring in said county.
• Passage of statutory modifications to existing law on definitions of All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), Recreational Off-Road Vehicles, and Utility Vehicles, while defeating a proposed expansion of the franchise law by the Powersport Dealers Association.
• Passage of authorizing statutes for the Missouri Secretary of State’s office to implement an on-line electronic notary system.
• Passage of modifications to state laws authorizing loan originators to be licensed under the National Mortgage Licensing System and Registry to ensure Missouri lenders comply. Also included in the legislation is a provision that allows for a waiver for loan underwriters and servicers from the current “brick and mortar” requirement to which they must have an office in the state.
• Assistance in the passage of several bills to offer broadband services to customers and push back against constant mandates on renewable standards that would sharply increase costs.
• Passage of modifications to Missouri’s current laws on abandoned vehicles that have caused a backlog and inability for towing companies and automobile salvage companies to gain a salvage title.
• Success in defeating numerous pieces of legislation that attempted to make it more difficult to obtain consumer information for purposes of performing background checks and credit checks, including the nondisclosure of misdemeanor offenses/traffic violations and attempts to curtail the use of credit scores in hiring decisions.
• Assistance in the ultimate defeat of several attempts by the Missouri Cable Telecommunications Association to modify Missouri’s cable franchise law. The MCTA has been aggressively pushing to eliminate the payment of cable franchise fees to municipalities and garner even more advantages over its customers through the use of public rights-of-way.
• Passage of sweeping reforms to the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act and procedures related to punitive damage claims.
• Successfully passing exemptions that ensure the state licensing board can continue to hold licensees to the highest standards by not being forced to license felons with past convictions for drug offenses.
• Successfully turning back a hazardous waste fee increase (with passage of Senate Concurrent Resolution 38), proposed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and its Hazardous Waste Management Commission, that would have placed a larger financial burden on Missouri’s businesses and potentially lead to more overregulation by the agency.

In addition to all the legislation that passed, Lathrop GPM Consulting worked tirelessly to kill numerous bills that would have had a negative impact on its clients. As in most years, the bills that do not pass are much more important that those that do!

In the months ahead, LGPM Consulting will be tracking the state’s budget and preparing for a potential special legislative session if the Governor chooses to make the call. It has been rumored the legislature may be called back into a special session in September to run concurrently with its annual veto session that begins on September 16. One likely item to be discussed would be liability protections for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic as fears are growing that mass class-action lawsuits may be forthcoming against employers for their employees who contracted the virus while working during the Governor’s State of Emergency Declaration.

Whenever you have any questions relating to the Missouri legislature or the executive branch, please feel free to reach out to anyone in the LGPM Consulting office in Jefferson City.