Time’s running out on pro-business legislation
With few days remaining in the 2017 Legislative Session, work on numerous important pro-business proposals remains paused as lawmakers finish work on the state budget and debate other issues.
One recent victory is the final passage of Senate Bill 182. This bill will give contractors a choice whether or not they enter into project labor agreements. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Bob Onder, a Republican from Lake Saint Louis. Another recently approved bill is House Bill 339, which will help stop trial attorney games in Missouri. That bill was sponsored by Rep. Bruce DeGroot, a Republican from Chesterfield.
In addition, Gov. Greitens recently signed a new law allowing ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft to expand across Missouri.
These successes join the state’s new right-to-work law and reforms to Missouri’s expert witness standards as the most important pro-business legislation to pass this year.
However, several more vitally important bills are close to passing. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry urges state lawmakers to pass these bills before session ends on May 12.
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.
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 was last taken up by the full Senate on April 10. It needs a vote in the Senate before it can go to the governor’s desk.
Ensuring a consistent minimum wage
Missouri lawmakers are working to reverse the impact of a Supreme Court ruling that is forcing 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. However, despite the urgency needed on this matter, it hasn’t moved since April 10.
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 been waiting for action in the Senate since mid-March.
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 passed a fiscal review in late April and now 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. The language was also amended onto House Bill 93, sponsored by Rep. Jeanie Lauer, a Republican from Blue Springs. Both bills await debate on the Senate floor.
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 in 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 has been waiting for debate in the Senate since mid-April. Sen. Mike Kehoe, a Republican from Jefferson City, is sponsoring Senate Bill 189.
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. Different versions of the bill have been passed by the House and Senate. Negotiators from each chamber still need to meet and settle on a final version of the bill before it can be finally approved.
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 against 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.
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.