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Missouri business leaders outline legislative agenda

By   /   January 5, 2011  /   No Comments

Business leaders from around Missouri are presenting a unified agenda of six legislative priorities they are asking lawmakers to pass during this session in an effort to protect and create jobs in the state.

Led by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the proponents of the priorities outlined on Tuesday what they are calling “Fix the Six.”

“We believe the Fix the Six agenda could be the most important economic development effort lawmakers could make this year,” said Daniel Mehan, president of the business lobbying group, in a statement.

Fix the Six priorities:

  1. Employment law reform: One change would reform the Missouri Human Rights Act regarding discrimination claims to more closely reflect federal protection. Another change would cap compensatory jury awards and impose limits on punitive damages. Also, they are calling for a tightening of whistleblower protection.
  2. Workers’ compensation reform: The coalition wants legislation to reverse recent court cases and codify what they describe as the original intent of the 2005 reforms. Missouri employers may currently find it difficult to recruit and retain employees without offering to idemnify them against lawsuits from coworkers.
  3. Franchise tax cap: The corporate franchise tax impedes competition with other states, according to the coalition. Missouri is one of a few states that impose both a corporation income tax and a franchise tax.
  4. Minimum wage escalator elimination: Missouri’s minimum wage law allows an automatic inflation adjustment based on an increase in the cost of living measured by the Consumer Price Index. This could result in the state having a higher rate than the federal minimum wage, and other adjoining states.
  5. Tort reform: A specific area in Missouri’s tort system that is putting the state at a competitive disadvantage, according to the coalition, is the current law for assigning fault and business liability known as modified joint and several liability, meaning businesses can be held liable for the entire cost of litigation if found to be 51 percent or more at fault in the case, even if there are multiple business at fault for alleged damages.
  6. Unemployment insurance reform: Missouri has borrowed more than $722 million from the federal government to pay unemployment claims, according to the coalition. Employers could face a tax increase of $21 per employee if the state does not repay its loan. The coalition is calling for a provision to lengthen the terms of the bonds needed to repay these federal unemployment insurance loans.

Together, the associations represent thousands of Missouri businesses, collectively employing more than 500,000 workers around the state. In addition to the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the coalition includes the National Federation of Independent Business, Associated Industries of Missouri, the Missouri Merchants and Manufacturers Association, the Missouri Grocers Association, the Missouri Restaurant Association, Associated General Contractors of Missouri, the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association, the St. Louis Regional Business Council, and the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.

By Brian R. Hookbrhook@missouriwatchdog.org, (314) 482-7944

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Brian Hook