Missouri legislators seek to block “patent trolling”

You receive a letter in the mail from a patent attorney that claims to have a patent on a regular business activity, such as scanning a document into a computer.  The letter claims that the writer of the letter holds a patent on that activity and you may be sued for patent infringement.  Or, if you prefer, the writer of the letter may accept a licensing fee and not pursue further legal action.  What do you do? Many businesses are facing this very dilemma.  Clever patent attorneys have filed for patents on everyday normal office procedures and are sending letters to businesses demanding compensation.  Some businesses pay the fees to avoid potential legal issues. “This is nothing short of extortion,” said Ray McCarty, president of Associated Industries of Missouri. Legislation is making its way through Congress to resolve the issue, but many states are beginning to address the issue at a local level through bills such as HB 1374, filed

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Employers deserve credit for early repayment of UI debt

Governor Jay Nixon announced this week that a debt to the federal government for unemployment benefits would be repaid about a year earlier than expected.  The governor’s statement is based on a projection by the Missouri Department of Labor using data from the U.S. Department of Labor.  AIM president Ray McCarty credits employers for this great new development. The federal debt resulted from high unemployment during the recent deep recession.  During periods of high unemployment, more people receive unemployment benefits at the same time employers are paying lower taxes into the unemployment fund because the taxes are based on a percentage of payroll.  In Missouri and many other states unemployment benefits were paid to workers through loans from the federal government.  These loans are repaid by employers through mandatory higher federal unemployment taxes. Employers were scheduled to pay $126 per employee earning at least $7,000 per year for the 2014 federal unemployment taxes that will be due in January 2015.  Because employers paid dramatically higher

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Taxpayer protection bills heard in Senate Ways and Means Committee

Two bills designed to protect taxpayers from changing interpretations by Missouri sales and use tax collectors were heard in Senate committee this week. SB 584 would clarify the intent of the legislature in applying sales tax to fees paid in or to places of entertainment, recreation and amusement. “The Missouri Department of Revenue has changed their interpretation of the statute several times regarding when sales taxes are to be collected in this industry, causing financial hardship for operators of businesses and creating confusion,” said Ray McCarty, president of Associated Industries of Missouri. “We are looking forward to the legislature clarifying this for the tax collectors and for the business community once and for all.” SB 662 was also heard.  The bill was filed by the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Will Kraus, and requires the Department of Revenue to notify affected taxpayers when they change interpretations of tax law.  Associated Industries also supports this bill that will allow taxpayers to voluntarily comply with changing tax interpretations, rather than

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Tax cut bills and other business friendly legislation moves forward in Missouri House

A Missouri House of Representatives committee this week sent two important tax cutting proposals a step closer to floor debate. The House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday voted “Do Pass” on House Bill 1253 and House Bill 1295. The two bills now move on to the powerful House Rules Committee where they will be heard early in the week, setting both bills up for debate later in the coming week, or in the second full week of February. House Bill 1253, sponsored by Rep. T.J. Berry (R-Kearney) would reduce Missouri’s corporation income rate beginning in the 2014 tax year if net individual and corporation income tax revenues are at least FY 2012 levels. Over five years of growth, the corporation income tax rate would be cut in half. The bill also provides a 10%-50% business income deduction over the same period and subject to the same conditions as the corporation income tax rate cut. FOR BOTH CUTS, if the employer

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Insurance and tort reform bills receive hearings

On January 28, the Senate Small Business, Insurance and Industry Committee held a hearing on SB 617 sponsored by Sen. Rupp (R).  This bill establishes rights of insurer to present reservation of rights to insured without breaching insurance contract, to defend against loss prior to garnishment, and to refuse to enter contracts to limit recovery.  The sponsor explained reservation of rights and how settlements can be higher than the coverage which can cause higher premiums. He noted that the bill puts Missouri in line with 48 other states. Testifying in support was the Missouri Insurance Coalition, Associated Industries of Missouri, various insurance companies and the Missouri Organization of Defense Lawyers.  Supporters noted there is a need for tort reform in Missouri and this issue is a major part of tort reform. They said large unreasonable judgments against insurance companies are paid by policyholders and damages should be capped at the policy limits unless there is evidence of bad faith. They noted there needs to be

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AIM member GM starts hiring at Wentzville

Associated Industries of Missouri member General Motors has begun to increase its workforce at its plant in Wentzville. AIM is proud that GM is able to use the Manufacturing Jobs Act authored by AIM during the 2010 special legislative session to help create these new jobs. Union officials quoted in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article say GM is hiring 35 to 50 workers a week for the next several months. The jobs pay $15.78 an hour for entry level positions, which rises to more than $19 an hour after four years. Some of the jobs are being filled by GM workers from other locations, but most of the jobs are new hires. The plant currently makes the Chevy Express and GMC Savanna full-sized vans. Later this year, the plant will begin manufacturing two newly redesigned pickup trucks, the Chevrolet Colorado and the GMC Canyon. The plant currently has 2,100 employees, that’s up from 1400 employees in 2011. It was at

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NAM: New study shows international software piracy hampering manufacturers in the U.S.

In a press release, the National Association of Manufacturers (1/30) released a study by Bill Kerr, associate professor at Harvard Business School, and Chad Moutray, Chief Economist for NAM, which found that unfair competition fueled by stolen software is a major drain on the manufacturing sector. Estimated losses between 2002 and 2012 totaled about $240 billion in manufacturing revenue, $70 billion in GDP and 42,220 manufacturing jobs. NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons said, “The startling losses manufacturers have suffered in the last decade due to intellectual property (IP) theft should jumpstart action by our policymakers and law enforcement officials.” Timmons also said, “It’s absolutely clear that the effects of IP theft overseas are significantly felt here at home, threatening jobs, investment and growth.”

Clean Line Energy announces agreements with Missouri manufacturing companies

Missouri Department of Economic Development Director Mike Downing Thursday announced agreements between AIM members Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC and Missouri-based manufacturers ABB, General Cable and Hubbell Power Systems, Inc. to build power lines and transformers for wind-powered energy transmission across northern Missouri. The three Missouri businesses employ about 1,000 people. The announcement came during a morning news conference at the ABB plant near Jefferson City. The Grain Belt Express Clean Line transmission line project is an approximately 750-mile overhead, direct current transmission line that will deliver up to 3,500 megawatts of renewable power from western Kansas to communities and businesses in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and states farther east. The project represents an approximate $500 million investment in Missouri, and Clean Line is committed to sourcing products and services from manufacturers and contractors in the state. Clean Line designated ABB in 2013 as the preferred supplier to manufacture alternating current transformers for the Grain Belt Express transmission collector system,

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Senate Committee passes tax cut bill, but corporations not included

Thursday morning, the Senate Ways and Means Committee approved a substitute tax cut plan that would reduce Missouri income taxes for individual taxpayers and employer taxpayers that are not C corporations. The bill would cut personal income taxes by 1% over 10 years of growth in state revenues, if such revenues are at least $100 million more than the highest amount collected in the previous three fiscal years (same “trigger” that was in tax bill last session). The bill also provides a 50% business income deduction for flow through entities, sole proprietors, partnerships, etc., but does not include tax relief for regular C corporations. The business income deduction would also be subject to the growth “triggers”. “AIM is pleased a tax bill is moving in this early in the legislative session and appreciates the benefits for some employers,” said Ray McCarty, president of Associated Industries of Missouri. “We will continue to work with legislators to include equivalent tax relief for

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NAM: Industrial production rose In December

The Wall Street Journal (1/17, Portlock, Subscription Publication) reported industrial production increased 0.3 percent in December, according to the Federal Reserve. That marks the fifth consecutive month industrial production has risen. The AP (1/17, Boak) reported automakers increased their production 1.8 percent in December. Production rose 10.4 percent year over year. The production “of appliances, furniture, carpeting, food and clothing” increased last month. The Los Angeles Times (1/17, Lee) noted that for some sectors, such as autos, utilization is above their multidecade averages. That means manufacturers maybe preparing to increase their hiring or investment for factories and equipment. Reuters (1/17, Mutikani), Bloomberg News (1/17, Jamrisko) and other media sources also covered the story.