Missouri Business Headlines

Override success—Fixes coming for workplace regulations, unemployment benefits

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Thanks to supermajority support, the Missouri General Assembly has overridden vetoes of two important business bills. With this success, the state’s employer community can look forward to more consist workforce regulations and added stability within the state’s unemployment benefits system.

The override vote on House Bill 722 addresses a concerning trend in Missouri where a growing number of municipalities are seeking to pass city-wide business regulations. Both Kansas City and St. Louis have sought to punish their local employers by mandating higher wages inside their city limits. Missouri municipalities have also discussed passing paid leave ordinances and bans on plastic bags. The passage of House Bill 722, sponsored by Rep. Dan Shaul, a Republican from Imperial, will ensure these issues are handled at the state level. The House voted 114-46 in to override the veto, the Senate voted 23-9.

“I think all parties are ready to come to the table and discuss what level of business regulation is appropriate in our state. I know the business community is eager to address this issue,” said Daniel P. Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “But these discussions need to happen in the state legislature, where lawmakers can adopt a statewide policy that applies to all businesses. When cities pass business ordinances on their own, they create a patchwork of confusing regulations that ultimately make our state less attractive for business investment. On behalf of the business community, I’d like to thank the legislature for addressing this important issue.”

The General Assembly also successfully overrode the governor’s veto of House Bill 150. This new law will address Missouri’s often-insolvent Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund. The law ties Missouri’s jobless benefits to the state’s unemployment rate, providing more weeks of unemployment payments during a recession and fewer weeks of benefits when jobs are plentiful. The bill also requires increased payments from employers to help the state’s Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund reach a balance that is capable of paying for benefits without going into debt—as it repeatedly has during recent recessions. House Bill 150 was sponsored by Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Shell Knob. Only a Senate vote was needed to override the veto on this bill; the vote was 24-8.

“Our state’s unemployment benefits system has been in trouble for years. It’s a major accomplishment to finally pass a comprehensive plan that both protects Missouri families during times of high unemployment and stops our unemployment fund from taking on debt,” said Mehan. “With our state currently in a period of economic recovery, this was an issue that could have easily been overlooked. Our legislators showed great leadership in reforming our unemployment benefits system this year.”

The disappointment of the veto session

Missouri will not become a right-to-work state in 2015 following a failed attempt to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of this important bill to protect workers and spur economic growth.

Right-to-work legislation says that workers cannot be required to join a union and pay dues as a condition of employment. The language was contained in House Bill 116, sponsored by Rep. Eric Burlison, a Republican from Springfield. This year, Rep. Burlison’s bill became the first right-to-work proposal to pass the Missouri General Assembly. Today, the bill died when lawmakers were not able to garner enough support to override Gov. Nixon’s veto. The final vote, 96-63, failed to reach a two-thirds majority required to override a veto.

“It’s incredibly disappointing to see our General Assembly — which is heavily comprised of lawmakers who were elected on pro-business platforms — continue to fall short when it comes to making Missouri a right-to-work state,” said Daniel P. Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “As a state that doesn’t support right-to-work protections, Missouri will continue to be overlooked for job creation and business expansion opportunities. If we are going to change our economy and create jobs for the future, we need to start with passing right-to-work. This issue is not going away.”

The majority of Missouri employers support making our state Right-to-Work according to a Gallup survey released in 2015 of more than 1,000 CEOs and top management. Support for this policy was especially pronounced in industry sectors such as transportation, utilities and communications, where 67 percent supported making Missouri a right-to-work state. The survey was part of the Missouri Chamber’s 15-year strategic economic plan, Missouri 2030: An Agenda to Lead. Across the nation, 25 states have already passed right-to-work protections.

“Despite the rhetoric you hear from opponents, right-to-work is not a new idea. It’s not extreme. It’s also far from rare. In 2015, right-to-work is a basic protection offered in half of the states across the country,” said Mehan. “If we don’t extend this basic protection to Missourians soon, our state will continue to fall off the map for job creation.”

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