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Business Priorities Still Alive – Two Weeks Remain in 2012 Legislative Session

With two weeks remaining in the 2012 Legislative Session, important business priorities remain unresolved.

Two bills that would address issues with worker’s compensation (preventing employees from suing each other in workplace accident situations, and continuing to provide coverage for occupational diseases within the worker’s compensation system) are pending in the Missouri Senate.  HB 1403 addresses both of these issues while HB 1540 would only fix the co-employee lawsuit issue.  HB 1403 was approved by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and Fiscal Oversight, but the Chairman, Senator Chuck Purgason, did not immediately report the bill to the full Senate (as is usually the case).  Purgason, and other senators, have wanted to have a thorough revision of the tax credit structure in Missouri for several years.  While Governor Jay Nixon has sent a letter stating he wants to work with employers to address these issues, his proposal for addressing occupational diseases from exposure to toxic substances is extremely unreasonable and would be harmful to employers.  The Governor’s proposal that he would be willing to sign: more than $162,813 paid annually to the employee for life, guaranteed for at least 300 weeks (a total of at least $939,306) plus continuing benefits for an employee’s spouse or children, and the payments would not be suspended if the employee is able to work (as is the case with other permanent total disability claims).  That position is not unexpected when you realize that trial attorneys, a group that strongly supports Governor Nixon, are making lots of money suing employers and would continue to make a lot of money under Governor Nixon’s proposal.  You may recall Governor Nixon vetoed legislation earlier this session that would have addressed both worker’s compensation issues because the amount that would be paid for occupational diseases was not enough, in his opinion.  The bill that only prohibits lawsuits against fellow employees in work comp accidents has been scheduled for hearing in the Senate on Tuesday.

HB 2099, legislation that would require employees claiming “whistle blower” protection to have alerted authorities to an act of the employer that is truly illegal, in violation of a regulation or in violation of public policy, has been scheduled for hearing on Tuesday also.  Governor Nixon previously vetoed these provisions when presented in a larger bill that aligned Missouri’s discrimination laws with federal laws in effect today.  The Governor, and many media reports, have inaccurately portrayed that legislation as “rolling back” discrimination laws to the 1960’s, but in fact, that legislation would have simply aligned Missouri’s human rights law with today’s federal human rights laws – the standard used in most states.  The whistle blower bill does NOT contain these changes to the discrimination laws, but the Governor has not yet indicated whether he will sign or veto the whistle blower bill.

The Missouri House this week passed HB 1639, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Nolte, that would reduce the tax liability of EVERY Missouri business by 50% over five years, if income tax revenues continue to grow.  It is our sincere belief (and that of former presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan) that reducing the income tax burden on all businesses will cause an increase in income tax revenues as those former tax payments are used by job creators to hire and promote employees.  The bill also contains amnesty provisions, enhanced procedures for collection of taxes and refunds to taxpayers, and clarifications of the 2007 law that exempted manufacturing inputs from sales taxes.  The Missouri Senate briefly debated similar legislation but that legislation has been tabled in the Senate, at least temporarily.

Members of Associated Industries of Missouri are invited to attend our weekly legislative update webinar on Monday mornings at 10:00 a.m.  These webinars, over the next two weeks will provide you with up-to-date information on the status of these and other bills of interest to employers.  If you are a member and would like to register for the legislative webinar, please contact the AIM office at 573-634-2246.  If you are a Missouri employer that is not yet a member of AIM, we believe you would benefit from membership in the state’s oldest general business association – please contact us today.

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