April 27 – The legislature has just three weeks to resolve differences and pass several important issues. And while the clock continues to “tick”, progress was made on several fronts this week. The Missouri Senate passed their version of the 2013 state budget, following lengthy filibusters and unusual recesses that allowed senators to rewrite certain parts of the budget (click here for more details). The budget has been reported to the Missouri House. The House could simply pass the Senate versions of the bills, although I don’t believe this has happened in recent memory. More likely, the House and Senate will appoint “conference committees” to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget bills. Some items that were funded exactly the same in both budgets are normally excluded from future changes, although these items may be changed by special motions made in both chambers. The budget must be approved by May 11. The Missouri House this week passed HB 1403,
Ameren Missouri Continues to Plan for Missouri’s Energy Future ST. LOUIS (April 19, 2012) — Today, Ameren Missouri, a utility company of Ameren Corporation (NYSE: AEE), announced it has entered into an agreement with Westinghouse Electric Company, a proven, global leader in nuclear energy and small modular reactor technology development, to exclusively support Westinghouse’s application for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Small Modular Reactors (SMR) investment funds of up to $452 million. The investment funding, announced by the DOE on March 22, will support first-of-its-kind engineering, design certifications and operating licenses for up to two SMR designs over five years. The objectives of the DOE program are to support efforts for the United States to become the global leader in the design, engineering, manufacturing and sale of American-made SMRs around the world, as well as expand our nation’s options for nuclear power. Westinghouse expects to submit the investment fund application by mid-May. A final decision on awarding the investment funds is
April 12 – Well, as you can tell by the headline, it has been a very busy 24 hours! Our tax cut bill, HB 1639, sponsored by Representative Jerry Nolte, advanced from the House Rules Committee this morning and will be eligible for debate by the full House as soon as next week. The bill would cut the taxes of every Missouri employer by 50% over five years. Our standalone whistle-blower bill that will protect employees that are alerting authorities to truly illegal acts by their employer, HB 2099, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Elmer, has advanced from committee and will be sent to the House Rules Committee. Also, a committee substitute for SB 592, with the same language addressing whistle-blowers only, was distributed to committee members of the House Workforce Development Committee today and a vote on that language is expected on Monday. You will recall Governor Jay Nixon has twice previously vetoed language that would have aligned Missouri’s standard
April 11 – AIM President Ray McCarty testified before a House Committee yesterday in favor of two bills that would reform protections for employees claiming “whistle blower” protection under Missouri’s employment law. While many committee members expressed agreement with at least some components of HB 2099, a bill that reforms only the “whistle blower” statutes, vigorous discussion ensued when the committee opened testimony on SB 592, a broader bill that aligns Missouri’s discrimination laws with federal discrimination laws on the books today. AIM and other business groups have endorsed both changes, but testified in support of the narrower bill in an attempt to reform at least the whistle blower provisions. McCarty stressed to committee members AIM’s support of the narrower bill on whistle blower, but also explained and answered many questions regarding the discrimination provisions in SB 592. Governor Jay Nixon vetoed HB 1219 last month. That bill addressed both discrimination and whistle blower reforms. It is unclear whether the
April 11 – The Missouri House today passed an AIM-supported bill to the Senate that will address two important issues in worker’s compensation and implement reforms for the Second Injury Fund. CLICK HERE FOR THE RECORDED VOTE (Note: Page 1 is the vote on the “emergency clause” and Page 2 is the vote on the passage of the bill). The bill, HB 1403, sponsored by Representative Dave Schatz, would prevent co-workers from suing each other in workplace accidents and continue to provide coverage for occupational diseases under the worker’s compensation system. Recent court decisions have threatened to exclude occupational diseases from worker’s compensation coverage. “Occupational diseases” include repetitive motion diseases and other conditions that develop over time, as contrasted with “workplace injuries” that are the result of a single event in the workplace. While worker’s compensation has always covered occupational diseases, recently the courts have held that these diseases are not covered under the worker’s compensation system, leaving employees without
April 5 – The Missouri Senate briefly took up SB 661, AIM’s Broad-Based Tax Relief Act of 2012, for debate yesterday afternoon. The current version of SB 661 is NOT what Associated Industries of Missouri originally asked Senator Schmitt to file, because it only provides a 25% tax cut for small businesses while giving larger corporations a 50% tax cut. It is our understanding Senator Schmitt was trying to keep discussion moving on the bill. Senator Joe Keaveny (Democrat – 4) questioned how the tax cut would be funded. Senator Jason Crowell (Republican – 27) said he preferred to restore the federal income tax deduction that was taken away in 1993 rather than provide a tax cut for businesses, although he said he wanted to check with his accountant to see the real impact on small businesses. The answer is that small businesses, such as S Corporations, LLC’s, LLP’s, etc., all benefit from the bill. The House version of the
April 3 – The Missouri House today gave initial approval to a second worker’s compensation reform bill that would accomplish three things: 1. Cover occupational diseases under the worker’s compensation system; 2. Prevent employees from suing each other in most workplace accident situations; and, 3. Responsibly reform the Second Injury Fund. The bill faces one additional vote in the Missouri House before it may be sent to the Missouri Senate. Associated Industries of Missouri is continuing to seek a path to passage of a bill the Governor may sign into law, but it is proving increasingly difficult. Plaintiffs’ attorneys have used part of their fat paychecks from suing employers to make political contributions to members of both political parties, including Governor Jay Nixon. We will keep you posted of any developments.
March 29 – The Missouri Senate voted to override Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of SB 572, the AIM-supported bill that would again allow coverage of occupational diseases under the worker’s compensation system and prevent employees from suing each other in workplace accidents (under normal circumstances). The vote on the bill was 24-9, with most Republican senators supporting the override. All Democrats and Republican Senator Luann Ridgeway voted against overriding the Governor’s veto. The bill would have allowed workers to obtain quick medical treatment for occupational diseases under the state’s no-fault worker’s compensation system, a process that was allowed until recent court decisions holding that occupational diseases are no longer covered under the worker’s compensation system. Plaintiff’s attorneys oppose the bill because they are currently able to obtain large settlements for their clients (and fat paychecks themselves) when they are able to prove an employer is at fault in an occupational disease case. Plaintiff’s attorneys do not want to lost this “cash cow”