Missouri Business Headlines

Last month warning — Watch these 10 pro-business efforts

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It’s time to start watching the clock in Jefferson City.

The 2017 Legislative Session ends one month from today — 6 p.m. on May 12. While it may seem premature to start a countdown, the General Assembly’s multi-step approach to lawmaking means that bills that aren’t close to the finish line today need to step up the pace if they have any hope.

If the session were to end right now, the Missouri business community could mark it a qualified success due to the passage of a long-awaited right-to-work law and much needed reforms to the state’s expert witness standards. Just as important, the General Assembly has thus far avoided passing legislation that would damage the state’s economy.

Yet, there is still time and momentum to achieve much more. Here are 10 proposals to watch during the final month.

Ending venue shopping

Missouri courts are notoriously hostile toward businesses. The state’s legal climate regularly ranks among the worst in the nation. Out-of-state trial attorneys seek to capitalize on this status by having potentially lucrative cases moved to Missouri. This ties up the state’s courts and delays progress on resolving Missouri disputes. House Bill 460, by Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer, a Republican from Shell Knob, would end this practice. It’s passed the House and has been approved by a Senate committee. It still needs a vote from the full Senate to go to the governor’s desk.

Compensating injuries

Strengthening Missouri’s collateral source rule is the goal of House Bill 95, sponsored by Rep. Joe Don McGaugh, a Republican from Carrollton. The legislation clarifies that in a lawsuit an injured person can recover only the actual cost he or she incurred for a medical treatment. The existing rule says that courts can’t consider whether plaintiffs have already been compensated by other sources, such as insurance or workers compensation. The House passed it in early February and it’s been voted out of a Senate committee as well. It’s still awaiting debate by the full Senate.

Ending the delivery tax

Prior to 2015, sales tax had never been assessed on delivery fees. But a court ruling that year gave the state the go-ahead to begin taxing deliveries. To fix this problem, Sen. Will Kraus, a Republican from Lee’s Summit, sponsored Senate Bill 16. The legislation prohibits the Department of Revenue from assessing sales tax on delivery fees. The bill unanimously passed the Senate in February and passed a House committee in early April. It awaits debate in the House.

Getting a diploma

Earning a high school diploma is an important prerequisite for many jobs. However, roughly 500,000 adult Missourians don’t have diplomas, making it difficult for them to get jobs and leading to a high rate of reliance on public assistance. To address this, the Missouri General Assembly is considering bills to establish four adult high schools in the state. These would give many Missourians a second chance at attaining a high school diploma. Rep. Travis Fitzwater, a Republican from Holts Summit, sponsored this legislation in House Bill 680, which has passed the House. The language was also amended onto House Bill 93, sponsored by Rep. Jeanie Lauer, a Republican from Blue Springs. Her bill is awaiting debate on the Senate floor.

Stabilizing UI

In 2015, the Missouri General Assembly passed an important law that tied jobless benefits to the state’s unemployment rate—providing more weeks of benefits during periods of high unemployment and fewer when unemployment is low. The law was intended to help the state avoid having to borrow money from the federal government during future recessions—a practice that has cost employers millions of dollars in interest payments and over a billion dollars in federal penalties after past recessions. The 2015 law was struck down the the Missouri Supreme Court due to the timing of a veto override vote. Bills have been filed to reinstate the law. The one furthest along in the process is House Bill 288 by Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Shell Knob. It awaits debate in the Senate. Sen. Mike Kehoe, a Republican from Jefferson City, is sponsoring Senate Bill 189.

Ensuring a consistent minimum wage

Missouri lawmakers are working to reverse the impact of a Supreme Court ruling that will force some St. Louis City employers to raise their minimum wage to meet a locally-set threshold. Rep. Dan Shaul and Rep. Jason Chipman filed House Bill 1193 and House Bill 1194, which would preempt and nullify all local laws establishing minimum wage rates higher than Missouri’s state minimum wage. The proposal was passed by the House and a Senate committee and still needs a vote on the Senate floor.

Preventing prescription drug abuse

Missouri is the only state that does not have a prescription drug monitoring program, often called a PDMP. Such a program would be designed to help prevent pill shopping and reduce prescription drug abuse in the state. Rep. Holly Rehder, a Republican from Sikeston, has proposed House Bill 90 to bring a PDMP to Missouri. The bill is awaiting debate in the Senate.

Fixing the Templemire decision

The 2014 Templemire decision by the Missouri Supreme Court decision has opened the door to additional lawsuits. The court created a “contributing factor” standard that made it easier for injured workers to claim that their past use of workers’ compensation benefits caused their employers to discriminate agains them. Under Senate Bill 113, the courts would instead use the “motivating factor” to weigh these cases. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Dave Schatz, a Republican from Sullivan. The bill has been passed by the Senate and a House committee. It awaits debate on the House floor.

Stopping frivolous litigation

Missouri is considered one of the easiest states in the nation in which to bring frivolous discrimination lawsuits. Senate Bill 43 would restore balance to this system. Under Senate Bill 43 an employee can bring a discrimination claim if that employee’s protected class is the motivating factor for the adverse action. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Gary Romine, a Republican from Farmington. It has passed the Senate and a House committee. It needs approval from the full House of Representatives.

Expanding virtual education options

Missouri lawmakers are exploring ways to use online learning to ensure all K-12 students have access to high-quality, diverse course options. Members in both the House and the Senate have  filed bills to change Missouri law and allow the expansion of virtual education in the state. Rep. Bryan Spencer, a Republican from Wentzville, has sponsored House Bill 138, and Sen. Romine has filed Senate Bill 327. House Bill 138 is closest to becoming law. It has already passed the House and a Senate committee approved it on April 11. It awaits debate on the Senate floor.

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