December Public Affairs Report
By Heath Clarkston
NOVEMBER GENERAL ELECTION UPDATE – REPUBLICAN SWEEP IN MISSOURI
On November 3rd, Missouri voters went to the polls for the general election that included Missouri’s statewide offices holders, state legislative districts and two state ballot questions.
Governor Mike Parson (R) defeated his Democratic opponent, current State Auditor Nicole Galloway, 57 to 41 percent, on November 3, a margin of victory that mirrored President Donald Trump (R) over Joe Biden (D) in Missouri.
Other current statewide officeholders, all of whom are Republicans, won their bids for four-year terms, and each gained more than 1.7 million votes.
Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe (R) defeated Alissia Canady (D), by a margin of 58 to 39 percent.
Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (R) defeated Yinka Faleti (D), 60.5 to 36 percent.
State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick (R) downed Vicki Englund (D), 59 to 38 percent.
And, Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) defeated Rich Finneran (D), 59 to 38 percent.
STATE LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS:
All 163 members of the Missouri House of Representatives and 17 of the 34 State Senate districts were up for election. The Republicans outperformed the Democrats across the state and won nearly all the contested seats. For 2021, the Republicans will hold a 24-10 majority in the Senate and a 114-49 majority in the House.
In the House, very few upsets occurred. The only incumbent to fail re-election was State Rep. Steve Helms (R-Springfield), who was defeated by Democrat challenger Betsy Fogle by 34 votes. The House Democrats had targeted eight seats and were successful in District 135 in southwest Missouri (Helms).
Missouri voters decided two statewide ballot issues November 3, approving Amendment 3 that reverses new methods of legislative redistricting that were approved by voters in 2018, and defeating Amendment 1 that would have limited all statewide officeholders to serving no more than two four-year terms. Vote margins were close on both issues.
The vote on Amendment 3, known as “Cleaner Missouri,” was 51 to 49 percent; 1,471,892 yes, and 1,413,223 no.
The vote on Amendment 1, the term limits proposal, was 48 to 52 percent; 1,373,891 yes, and 1,486,860 no.
Amendment 3, placed on the ballot by legislators in May 2020, became a highly controversial issue leading up to November 3. The approved amendment makes changes in regulating the General Assembly and modifies redistricting methods in Article III of the state’s constitution (known as “Clean Missouri” and approved by voters statewide two years ago).
The approval of Amendment 3 eliminates the position of “non-partisan state demographer” whose task would have been to draw state legislative districts. Amendment 3 also provides a total ban (currently $5) on gifts from lobbyists or lobbyist principals to a member, staff member or employee of the General Assembly, and sets a campaign contribution limit to any State Senate candidate or committee of $2,400 or less (currently $2,500 or less). Removal of the post of “non-partisan state demographer” gives all redistricting responsibility to existing commissions, renamed as the House Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission and the Senate Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission.
Defeat by voters of Amendment 1 on the November 3 ballot means the two-term restriction that currently applies only to the Missouri Governor and to the State Treasurer was not extended to the offices of Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, State Auditor, State Treasurer, or Attorney General.
HOELSCHER RE-ELECTED TO COUNTY COMMISSION
Cole County voters re-elected Jeff Hoelscher for another four years to his post as Eastern District Cole County Commissioner as he was unopposed in the general election. In addition, Harry Otto was elected as the new Western District Commissioner as he was also unopposed on the November ballot. Both Hoelscher and Otto won contested primaries last August and will be sworn into office next month.
SPECIAL SESSION UPDATE – COVID LIABILITY PROTECTION FOR BUSINESSES
Earlier this month, Governor Mike Parson (R) expanded his call on special session to include a new bill regarding COVID-19 liability. The proposed legislation provides liability protection relating to a declared state of emergency for health care providers, manufacturers, businesses, schools, churches, and nonprofit organizations, among others.
“None of these groups should be penalized for their efforts to respond to a declared state of emergency. They must be able to continue operating and serving the public without risk of unnecessary and frivolous claims,” Governor Parson said at a morning news conference.
His proposed legislation includes three main provisions regarding liability protection:
- Liability protection for health care workers who provide care as necessitated by a declared state of emergency.
- Products liability protection for any person who designs, manufactures, labels, sells, distributes, or donates products in direct response to a declared state of emergency.
- Premises liability protection for exposure claims related to a declared state of emergency.
Since he signed an Executive Order on March 13, declaring a state of emergency due to COVID-19, Governor Parson said Missouri’s hospitals and health care providers have altered practices and operations accordingly to respond and provide care to COVID-19 patients. Similarly, manufacturers, businesses, and many other Missouri entities have modified operations, provided equipment and supplies, and remained open to ensure continued access to basic goods and services for citizens.
MISSOURI LEGISLATURE RETURNS TO REGULAR SESSION ON JANUARY 6TH
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to present many challenges in the workplace, it has also created difficulties within our state government. Many state offices and legislative offices have been working remotely or short staffed as employees continue to deal with contracting the virus or quarantining due to a potential exposure. The Missouri General Assembly will begin pre-filing legislation on December 1, 2020 and the will convene their 2021 Regular Session on Wednesday, January 6th, 2021 at noon.
It is still uncertain how the legislature will work moving forward while keeping the state Capitol building accessible to the public. We do not expect the HBA of Missouri to hold a “day at the Capitol” event this year due to the current health pandemic. The HBA of Missouri will continue to coordinate their efforts among their member local associations and their government affairs consultants. We expect numerous bills to be pre-filed in the weeks ahead and we will continue to provide updates on all that may impact our industry.