Seven pro-business priorities for the final week of session
The Missouri General Assembly lost weeks of their 2020 session this year as the state responded to the coronavirus crisis. However, with just one week remaining before session adjourns on May 15, lawmakers have several critical pro-business bills well positioned for passage.
Here are seven important proposals that the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry will be advocating for during the final week of session.
- Reforming Missouri’s legal climate: Missouri’s legal climate continues to be ranked among the worst in the nation — with the state’s outrageous punitive damages system being a leading cause for concern. In Missouri courts today, punitive damage claims are overused and abused to bully businesses into agreeing to windfall-sized payouts. Lawmakers are on the cusp of passing much needed reforms to address this problem as well as fix the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.
- Stopping opportunistic COVID-19 lawsuits: There is growing concern that in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, a flood of opportunistic lawsuits over coronavirus exposure will target businesses and substantially harm our recovery. Health care workers and manufacturers — two groups that were heroes of this crisis — are likely lawsuit targets. Lawmakers must act quickly to stop these frivolous lawsuits.
- Preparing the workforce for recovery: Lawmakers are poised to pass a bill to help create more flexibility in the state’s workforce and provide greater career mobility — both important steps as the state begins its economic recovery. The legislation makes changes to the state’s occupational licensing laws, allowing skilled professionals who are already licensed in another state to come to Missouri to enter the workforce. In addition, the legislation would enhance apprenticeships in the state by making it possible for apprentices to obtain industry licenses as part of an apprenticeship. Another important component of the bill will help people with past criminal convictions who are seeking to reenter the workforce.
- Establishing a prescription drug monitoring program: Following years of failed efforts, Missouri lawmakers could finally pass a bill to create a statewide prescription drug monitoring program, often called a PDMP. The current proposal, which is close to passage, creates a joint task force to oversee the program. Passage of this PDMP will allow medical professionals to better care for their patients and contribute to better outcomes related to the opioid epidemic in our state. Missouri is the only state without a PDMP.
- Expanding broadband: The COVID-19 crisis served as another reminder of the economic importance of having modern broadband services available across Missouri. As schools and businesses closed, students and workers were forced to rely on their local broadband infrastructure. Unfortunately, in some communities the connections were not up to the job. Missouri is ranked 42nd nationally in access to broadband internet. Lawmakers have several opportunities to improve upon this before session ends with statutory and budget proposals.
- Creating an equal playing field for local businesses: Small local businesses were hurt badly by the COVID-19 crisis. This legislation would allow collection of sales taxes on internet transactions from out-of-state sellers, evening the playing field with local businesses that are seeking to recover. Missouri is one of just two states to not adopt such changes since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision to allow states to collect such taxes. Policymakers are still weighing what to do with additional revenue. The Missouri Chamber is asking lawmakers to use revenue from the decision to help offset expected budget shortfalls due to the COVID-19 crisis.
- Ensuring gas infrastructure reliability: Lawmakers are considering legislation to allow for safe and reliable delivery of natural gas. Efforts to improve aging infrastructure ensure our state’s gas service will meet the current and future energy needs of businesses and residents.