AIM for Good Business Week in Review
Nathan Dampf, AIM Director of Communications, 5/6/2011
END OF WEEK RESURRECTS ANTI-BUSINESS ISSUE BY JOINING IT TO BUSINESS PRIORITY
In the middle of the week, employers had a brief chance for celebration, but by Thursday, businesses were left wondering whether Missouri’s business community would have to take the “bad and ugly” to get the “good.” On Tuesday, the Missouri House of Representatives gave their final stamp of approval to an AIM and Fix the Six Priority, passing Senate Bill 8 to reform the occupational disease and co-employee liability laws as they both relate to Missouri Workers’ Compensation law.
The bill was sent back to the Senate to see if the upper chamber agreed to the House changes, but businesses weren’t so lucky. The two houses could not agree and have now sent the bill to a conference committee where Senators and Representatives will have to hammer out the differences.
One problem: Discussion has now shifted to adding a provision debated in neither chamber – one that would burden Missouri employers with a surcharge increase (a.k.a. tax increase) to pay for Missouri’s Second Injury Fund. The provision would also move any conditions covered by Second Injury law into Missouri’s existing Workers’ Compensation law. If an employee suffers from obesity or hypertension and also suffers a leg injury from a fall at work, a workers compensation judge would rule a judgment based on the compounded effect of the employees obesity plus his or her leg injury. Including lifestyle illnesses like obesity or smoking-related diseases in the workers’ compensation law would inflate Missouri Work Comp premiums.
Currently, Missouri employers pay a three percent surcharge on their Workers’ Compensation premiums. The funds raised through the surcharge go to Missouri injured workers who have a pre-existing health condition that may or may NOT be work related.
In a statement Wednesday, AIM President Ray McCarty commented, “Any reforms that move existing Second Injury Fund claims under Workers’ Compensation and increase the Second Injury Fund surcharge would result in a triple-tax on Missouri employers. As a membership association, AIM has a responsibility to voice the concerns and thoughts of business. After surveying our membership, we feel we’re doing just that.”
In the survey that AIM hosted last week, AIM members were overwhelming opposed to any cost increase to pay for the Second Injury Fund. Members voted 95 percent in favor of eliminating Missouri’s SIF entirely with no surcharge increase.
AIM will continue to fight the tax increase and ensure that it does not hinder the truly necessary workers’ compensation reforms that fix issues raised by the Robinson v. Hooker lawsuit and an occupational disease lawsuit. Senate Bill 8 has been promoted by AIM throughout the session. We will continue to do so, but legislators should not add detrimental language to a business bill, hoping that we will drink the poison because its flavored with something employers want.
SENATE DELAYS VOTE ON AIM ENVIRONMENTAL PRIORITY
In late April, the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy & Environment Committee voted out House Bill 89. The bill originally extended the Department of Natural Resources (MoDNR) Water and Hazardous Waste fees. MoDNR has had some issues with penalizing small violators in order to increase revenues. The state department has typically been viewed as a state agency that encourages and helps businesses with compliance while the federal Environmental Protection Agency is the disciplinarian. With revenues falling, MoDNR has increased revenues by hitting small businesses and farmers with penalties. Many in the General Assembly disagreed with this approach and allowed the fees to expire last year.
Missouri’s DNR has since acquired a new Director in Sarah Parker-Pauley. Ms. Parker-Pauley has commented to AIM, and certain state senators, that she believes in the importance of re-instituting the philosophy of a compliance agency that helps businesses understand what is required and how the department can help.
The bill, recently approved and debated on the Senate floor, contains:
§ Mandates for state department transparency to the public;
§ DHSS real-time bacterial water quality testing;
§ Extension of battery, hazardous waste, and water fees;
§ Underground storage tank operator training program reforms;
§ Prohibition of use of manufacturers’ expiration date on motor fuel measuring devices;
§ Clean Water Commission permits, appeals and fee reforms; and more.
The water and hazardous waste fee programs at the state level are AIM priorities. AIM will work within the final week of session to pass this needed legislation.
SENATE AND HOUSE OVERRIDE GOVERNOR NIXON’S VETO OF CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING COMPROMISE
Governor Nixon vetoed the General Assembly’s congressional redistricting bill earlier this week. House Bill 193 went through rigorous compromise in a committee comprised of Senators and House members and in the end was approved, but after Nixon’s veto, the House was left needing four Democrat votes to override Nixon’s veto. Those four votes came from Kansas City and St. Louis Democrats. The override was successful on Wednesday night. View the compromise by CLICKING HERE.