Override bust: Lawmakers fail to address Missouri’s legal climate problem
It’s beginning to look like Missouri will end the year right where we started — with one of the worst legal climates in the nation.
In failing to pass two important bills into law this week, the Missouri General Assembly will end the year having invested a significant amount of work into legal climate reform with no results to show for it. As a result, the state’s business community can expect Missouri to remain near the bottom of national legal climate rankings. The American Tort Reform Association currently calls our state a “Judicial Hellhole” and the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform rank’s our legal climate at 42 in the nation.
“These rankings instantly jump out to any company considering investing or expanding in Missouri. Top job creators are well aware of the risks of operating in a state where the courtrooms are so strongly tilted against employers,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO. “The failure to override this veto highlights a bizarre situation in our legislature. We have a supermajority of lawmakers who campaign on pro-business platforms. Yet, when they are in Jefferson City, they collectively fail to address our legal climate problem — arguably the biggest business issue in our state today. This concern isn’t going away. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry will be working make legal climate reform an important part of the November election.”
The two vetoed bills the Missouri Chamber had asked lawmakers to override were Senate Bill 591 and Senate Bill 847.
Senate Bill 591 would have required that people who testify as expert witnesses actually have expert knowledge of the topic. It was sponsored by Sen. Mike Parson, a Republican from Bolivar. Senate Bill 847 would have clarified that in injury lawsuits, plaintiffs can only recover the costs of the actual medical expenses they incurred. It was sponsored by Sen. Ed Emery, a Republican from Lamar.
Both bills passed the General Assembly this year but were vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon. During veto session, the Senate did its part to override Senate Bill 847, but the bill died due to inaction in the House. Senate Bill 591 was not brought up for an attempted override.
“In many ways, the root of our legal climate problem is the governor’s office, which has annually vetoed business-led efforts to bring greater fairness to Missouri courtrooms,” said Mehan. “Missouri needs a governor who will work with us to enact comprehensive, meaningful changes to our legal system — finally bringing Missouri in line with the successful legal policies that are practiced in fast-growing states. That’s one reason why the Missouri Chamber PAC has endorsed tort reform-proponent Eric Greitens for governor. We need action on this issue and Greitens will deliver.”