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Associated Industries outlines legislative priorities for 2014 session

Broad-based income tax reduction, supporting the payment of unemployment claims only to those that are truly unemployed through no fault of their own, and working for greater transparency in the cost and quality of healthcare services, will be some of the legislation supported by Associated Industries of Missouri during the 2014 session of the Missouri General Assembly.

“Again this session, Associated Industries of Missouri will push for legislation that will improve the economic health of the state by improving the business climate in Missouri,” said Ray McCarty, president of Associated Industries of Missouri.

Broad-Based Business Income Tax Reduction

Again this session, AIM will be working to pass a significant tax cut for ALL Missouri employers.  Building on the success of AIM’s Broad Based Tax Relief bill of 2013 that was vetoed by Governor Nixon, AIM will include the best of that plan and drop support for other parts of the bill the Governor found objectionable.

“To the extent the governor is willing to work with us on a business tax burden plan, we welcome that opportunity,” said McCarty.  “We will aggressively pursue a reduction of the tax burden on Missouri employers – not just new businesses coming here from elsewhere, but our existing Missouri employers that form the backbone of the Missouri economy.”

Employment-At-Will Doctrine

Plaintiff’s attorneys often sue supervisors and employees in their individual capacity so they may bring employment lawsuits in the most favorable venue for plaintiffs.  AIM will work to eliminate the ability to sue supervisors for the purpose of venue shopping.  AIM also will work to re-establish the federal standard of proof in discrimination cases in Missouri: the discrimination must be a motivating factor in the dismissal.  The law should also protect legitimate whistle blowers who alert authorities to illegal activity performed by their employer or who refuse to engage in illegal activity at the request of their employer.  However, current law has resulted in some settlements for former employees claiming whistle blower protection when no violation of the law was contemplated by the employer.  Damage caps should also be imposed on claims to mirror the caps imposed on similar claims in federal cases.

Unemployment

AIM supports restricting the payment of unemployment claims to those that are truly unemployed through “no fault of their own” by changing the definition of “misconduct” in a way that allows Missouri’s unemployment system to be more reasonable and in compliance with federal unemployment law.  “We continually hear from employers that feel the unemployment system in Missouri is being abused and we heard numerous true stories in the hearings last year about the shortcomings of the current law in preventing unemployment payments to those that do not deserve such payments,” said McCarty.

Healthcare Cost and Quality Transparency

AIM will work to enact a law requiring health care providers to disclose cost and quality data for healthcare services.  “This will give consumers the information they need to make better informed choices and also allow consumers to see what they are getting for their money, whether paid by the consumer directly or indirectly through insurance,” said McCarty.

Legal Reforms

AIM supports reinstating non-economic damage limits in medical malpractice cases and defend other statutory punitive damage caps.

Missouri employers also want to eliminate the concept of “joint and several liability.”  Current law allows judgments to be collected from any party that is at least 51% at fault.  We want to make sure a party’s liability for payment of a judgment is directly related to the percentage of fault.

AIM will also work to establish a reasonable time limit for bringing suit against manufacturers for manufacturing defects in Missouri, similar to limits in other states.

Workforce Training

Support on-the-job training funding to help pay the salary of trainees during the period of time the trainee is learning a new job skill accompanied by another employee or trainer.

Manufacturing Jobs Act

Expand Missouri’s Automotive Manufacturing Jobs Act to all manufacturing areas.  The state should establish incentives that reward significant capital investments and help Missouri manufacturing facilities retain jobs.

Workers’ Compensation:

AIM was formed in 1919 to help pass the first workers’ compensation law in Missouri. A statutory change in the 2013 legislative session clarified that occupational diseases were covered under the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Law, as they have been for many years.  However, that statutory change also provided claimants with certain toxic exposure diseases higher guaranteed payments.  AIM will aggressively defend against further erosion of the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Law.

Sales/Use Tax Refund Reform

AIM supports a statute authorizing the Missouri Department of Revenue to hold sales/use tax refund claims in abeyance, pending the outcome of identical or very similar cases, to prevent unnecessary legal expenses for taxpayers when an issue arises that affects many taxpayers.  Sales and use tax refunds should also be paid in a timely manner by reducing unnecessary or redundant documentation requirements.

Property Tax Appeals

AIM supports legislation that clarifies that certified appraisals are not required for property tax appeals before Boards of Equalization.

Minimum Wage Indexing

Missouri’s minimum wage law allows an automatic inflation adjustment that could result in a higher minimum wage in Missouri than the federal minimum wage.  As the minimum wage increases, the ability of employers to continue to employ workers is damaged, particularly affecting entry level workers. Missouri employers want to ensure the minimum wage in Missouri does not exceed the federal minimum wage.

Medicaid Transformation

Missouri employers currently pay higher insurance premiums and healthcare costs due to the provision of healthcare services to those that do not pay for such services.  This “cost shift” will grow significantly worse due to cuts in disproportionate care payments under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) law currently set to begin in 2015 and the growing uncompensated care burden of hospitals.  Therefore, AIM:

  1. Supports reducing these costs for Missouri employers through the reduction of uncompensated health care services and costs to Missouri’s health care system by encouraging the Missouri Legislature to accept and use additional federal money available to Missouri for Medicaid expansion under the provisions of the ACA law;

  2. Encourages Missouri legislators to use this opportunity to transform Medicaid into a more efficient system, providing more choice and competition for the individuals and companies participating in the Missouri Medicaid Program; and,

  3. Encourages Missouri’s legislators and governor to implement Medicaid expansion with as    minimal impact as possible on state general revenue.

Environmental Law

The federal government must work with states to form an implementation plan for provisions of the Clean Air Act that will regulate the use of coal as a fuel in electricity generation plants.  In Missouri, 82% of electricity is generated using coal.  AIM will continue its work to mitigate the harmful effects of overreaching federal regulations that will prohibit or render cost prohibitive the use of energy sources that generate affordable and reliable electricity in existing and new power plants.

“Clearly, there’s a lot on our plate for the next four and a half months,” said McCarty. “But we believe our work to improve the business climate for Missouri employers is essential for continued economic growth.”

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