Associated Industries of MO applauds extremely successful 2020 Legislative Session
May 15, 2020 - The state’s oldest business association is celebrating a successful end to the 2020 Legislative Session. Although the session was abbreviated by the extended COVID-19 recess, the Senate and House passed many bills that were priorities for the business community.
Topping the list of accomplishments was the passage of SB 591, a bill reforming the way punitive damages are sought in civil cases and reforming the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act to prevent abuse by clever attorneys.
“"We applaud the work of the Missouri legislature in passing SB 591," said Jerry M. Hunter, partner in Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Associated Industries of Missouri. "The threat of punitive damages, when such damages have no merit, often drives up the cost of cases without any benefit to the community at large, which is supposed to be the reason for such damages."
"The process for determining punitive damages, those awarded above and beyond actual damages, has warranted revision for a very long time," said Ray McCarty, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Missouri. "Punitive damages are not proper in every case and should be reserved for cases in which the defendant has intentionally caused harm. At the very least, punitive damages should not be alleged in every case. The revisions in SB 591 will allow those damages to be assessed when a judge and/or jury decides they are proper and can have a positive effect in changing behavior, which is the purpose of punitive damages," he said.
A bill allowing gas companies to replace deficient pipes before they present an explosion hazard, HB 2120, was also passed by the legislature. That bill was also supported by the business community. “Obviously, it is better to replace pipes on a schedule rather than waiting until they become an explosion hazard and we support this legislation,” said McCarty.
SB 676 and HB 1854 clarify how additional amounts due following an IRS audit of partnerships flow through to partners for state tax purposes.
Also, the Legislatures passed SCR 38, a resolution that prevented proposed hazardous waste fee increases. The business community had worked with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources toward increasing those fees with the understanding that the Department pursue efficiencies and focus their efforts on missions that are required by federal or state statute or regulations. “Rather than acting as a business would when times get tight and focusing on their core mission, the Department has continued to pursue actions based on ‘guidance’ from the EPA,” said McCarty. “Such guidance does not have the force and effect of law or regulation and has not received proper vetting by our elected officials or comment from the regulated community or the public. We will not support increasing the Department’s revenues until that changes,” he said.
“It is frankly amazing we were able to accomplish so much, given the extended recess due to the COVID-19 pandemic," said McCarty. “We thank the numerous legislators and leadership in the Senate and House for prioritizing issues that will help improve the business climate in Missouri at this critical time in our history,” he said.
Associated Industries of Missouri has served as the “Voice of Missouri Business” ® for more than 100 years. AIM is the oldest general business trade association representing Missouri employers and was influential in writing the state’s first workers’ compensation, unemployment, environmental and tax laws and continues in that role today.