AIM for Good Business Week in Review
Nathan Dampf, AIM Director of Communications, 4/15/2011
Gov. Nixon signs unemployment benefit extension while employment law changes await signature
Earlier this week, Associated Industries of Missouri delivered two e-ALERTS to our membership regarding two legislative priorities promoted by AIM and other business groups in the Show Me State. The Missouri House of Representatives gave final approval to an unemployment benefit extension compromise and employment law reforms.
“This was a great week for business,” stated AIM President Ray McCarty. “Governor Nixon has already agreed to deliver unemployment benefits to Missourians out of work. Those dollars will go to local economies and help put some dinners on the plates of those individuals having difficulty finding a job. While House Bill 163 helps those unemployed Missourians receive the assistance they need, it also helps businesses by shortening the time period that employers must provide unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 20.”
In addition to Gov. Nixon’s signature on House Bill 163, to help the unemployed, the Missouri House sent another AIM and Fix the Six priority to the governor’s desk. Senate Bill 188 revises several laws pertaining to Missouri employment law cases. This bill clarifies several problems resulting from Missouri case law that have:
- Held supervisors personally liable;
- Granted “whistleblower” protections to persons that are not true “whistleblowers”; and
- Unrealistically lowered the threshold for determining when discrimination has occurred to unreasonable levels that are inconsistent with federal human rights law.
Senate Bill 188 fixes some of the issues by:
- Protecting supervisors from personal liability to prevent venue shopping;
- Revising standards for whistleblower protections to ensure the whistleblower is trying to prevent truly illegal behavior;
- Requiring plaintiffs to prove discrimination was a “motivating factor” as opposed to a “contributing factor”; and
- Protecting public entities from punitive damages since the penalties are paid with taxpayer dollars.
“Over the years, employers have been guilty until proven innocent in our Missouri courts,” explained McCarty. “AIM thanks the General Assembly for acting now to protect Missouri employers from frivolous lawsuits that hinder our Missouri businesses from creating or retaining jobs. We ask Governor Nixon to sign the bill into law.”
Second injury fund tax increase receives House committee approval with 1% overall increase
The Missouri General Assembly has heard for years from Associated Industries, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Associated General Contractors, Associated Builders and Contractors, Missouri Grocers Association and the Missouri Retailers Association, that Missouri’s Second Injury Fund is a broken system. The Fund is paid for by every Missouri business that pays Workers’ Compensation premiums. Those dollars are then used to pay for non-work related injuries. Last week, the House Workforce Development & Workplace Safety Committee heard again from the business groups, but advanced the legislation to the House floor.
The committee voted to “do pass” House Bill 893, sponsored by Rep. Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff). New language was introduced before the committee vote. The original bill would have increased the fund’s surcharge by an amount determined by the Director of the Missouri Department of Labor to be sufficient to pay claims. The substitute approved this week would subject businesses to a one percent increase and cut off future claims against the fund.
AIM and the other business groups listed above still stressed that the business community does not want a tax increase to pay for the broken Second Injury Fund system. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, Missouri Association of Trail Attorneys, and the Missouri Merchants and Manufacturers Association have supported a surcharge increase to fund Second Injury Fund claims.
senate revises house congressional redistricting bill, house disagrees with changes
The Missouri Senate and House will discuss changes to Missouri’s congressional district lines next week in a conference committee comprised of senators and representatives. The committee has not been appointed yet, however, members are expected to be announced early next week so House Bill 193 can receive prompt approval and move to Gov. Nixon’s desk.
House passes senate bill to reform puppy mill proposition
The Missouri House of Representatives agreed to Senate reforms that would alter the Puppy Mill Proposition that passed in November. Senate Bill 113, filed by Senator Mike Parson, reforms a number of provisions contained within the Puppy Mill language that was approved by voters last November. The bill was changed to allow current dog breeders to stay in business. The language in Proposition B limited breeders to no more than 50 dogs. It was later discovered some dog breeders would be unable to maintain a business if such a limit were in place; roughly 1,300 dog breeders would have been put out of business.
The debris-free water penalties were changed. The definition of “pet” was changed from “domesticated animal” to a dog specific term as to avoid any confusion with livestock-raising. In addition to the changes, a $25 charge was put on commercial dog breeders to ensure a funding mechanism for the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s responsibility of monitoring the dog breeding industry.
house complies with federal mandate by passing show-me health insurance exchange bill
Now that a year has passed since the President Obama’s health care overhaul, several state legislatures are in the process of passing bills to comply with the state exchange mandate. House Bill 609, sponsored by Rep. Chris Molendorp, establishes the Show-Me Health Insurance Exchange program. According to the House summary, “the intent of the exchange is to reduce the number of uninsured; provide a transparent marketplace; increase competition in the health insurance market; increase portability of health insurance coverage; reduce health care costs; provide consumer education; and assist individuals with access to programs, tax credits, and cost-sharing reductions.”
The bill establishes a 17-person Board of Trustees, consisting of members from the General Assembly and Missouri’s health care community. The board will hire an executive director and conduct annual audits and reports regarding the financial condition of the exchange. The board and executive director will oversee all proposed health and dental coverage plans proposed to the exchange and create a rating system to ensure only quality plans are offered through the state exchange. Lastly, the Show-Me Health Exchange would be null and void if the federal law is struck down in the courts.