Governor Nixon Signs Several Bills Today, Including Work Comp, Sales Tax Refunds, Buy Missouri, Hazardous Waste Regulations

July 10, 2012 – Governor Jay Nixon has signed several bills today, including several priority bills of interest to Associated Industries of Missouri (AIM) members.

The Governor signed HB 1540, an AIM-supported bill that will prevent employees from suing each other in most worker’s compensation cases.  AIM led the charge to correct a flaw in the law that had been used by plaintiff’s attorneys to sue co-employees in regular work situations – injuries that should have been covered under worker’s compensation insurance as the exclusive remedy.

HB 1504 contains an AIM provision that will allow purchasers to file sales tax refunds with the Missouri Department of Revenue (DOR) directly when a vendor refuses to participate in the refund process, or if the vendor voluntarily signs a release allowing the taxpayer to seek the refund directly from the DOR. The bill also limits penalties and interest that may be charged on city license taxes to the amount that is allowed for sales tax and states that the timeline for bringing suits for delinquent license taxes is the same as in the sales tax law.  HB 1504 was signed into law today.

HB 1402 clarifies a sales tax exemption for trucks licensed for 54,000 pounds or more, the trailers pulled by such trucks and the repair parts, materials and equipment purchased for use on such trucks from sales and use taxes.  Another provision of the bill keeps municipalities from enacting ordinances that prohibit commercial traffic on public streets and roads in the municipality. The bill also allows some billboard replacements that are not allowed under current law.  Governor Nixon signed the bill today.

HB 1251 is AIM-supported language that we passed by working with REGFORM.  The bill says hazardous waste regulations at the state level may not be stricter or require action sooner than federal law except in certain circumstances.  The bill also contains a provision drafted by one of AIM’s members that allows permit applicants more time to prepare for challenges of permits.  The Governor signed this bill today, as well as .HB 1647, a bill that addresses the hazardous waste regulations.

The Governor also signed HB 1231, a bill that gives Missouri bricks and forest products preference when the state is purchasing such items.

There may be more bills signed and we will update the blog when we learn of them.  Any bills not vetoed by Saturday, July 14, will become law without the Governor’s signature.  CLICK HERE FOR A COMPLETE LIST SHOWING THE GOVERNOR’S ACTION ON BILLS.

Busy Week in Missouri’s Capitol With 3 Weeks Left

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, a bill that would address two issues in worker’s compensation and reform the Second Injury Fund.  The bill may be used as a vehicle for compromise legislation we are developing now on all three issues.  Associated Industries of Missouri is joining other business advocacy groups in a united effort to negotiate a compromise with trial attorneys, organized labor and Governor Jay Nixon’s office.  “Employees and employers benefit from the no-fault worker’s compensation system,” said Ray McCarty, president of Associated Industries of Missouri.  “Beginning in 1919, Associated Industries engaged labor and trial attorneys in negotiations that led to passage of Missouri’s first worker’s compensation law in 1925.  Recently, the worker’s compensation system in Missouri has been turned on its ear by lawsuits,” McCarty continued.

Occupational diseases have always been covered by worker’s compensation insurance – that is until trial attorneys got involved.  These trial attorneys victimized employers with multimillion dollar lawsuits in civil court by claiming the 2005 revision of the worker’s compensation law was not meant to cover occupational diseases.  Trial attorneys have also been filing lawsuits against fellow employees on behalf of employees injured in workplace accidents.  At the same time, the trial attorneys have expanded coverage of lifestyle conditions and non-work related injuries that cause more to be paid from the state’s bankrupt Second Injury Fund.  The Missouri legislature passed bills earlier this session that would have corrected two of these issues (co-employee liability and occupational diseases) and Governor Nixon promptly vetoed the legislation.

The bill was also heard and approved by the Senate Committee on Small Business and Insurance, after removing the Second Injury Fund provisions.  The bill is on the Senate calendar, awaiting full Senate debate.

Governor Nixon also vetoed employer supported legislation that would have updated Missouri’s law to comply with federal standards currently in place for workplace discrimination claims.  The House this week passed a bill that addresses one part of this legislation: a law that would provide protection for whistleblowers that are notifying authorities of actual wrongdoing by their employer.  Associated Industries of Missouri continues to work hard to pass this legislation and hope Governor Nixon will sign the bill if we are successful in getting it to his desk.  Amendments added in the House would apply the new whistleblower protections to all employers except state and local government.

Both the House and Senate will soon begin wo work on bills that originated in the other chamber.  The 2012 regular legislative session ends at 6:00 p.m. on May 18.

Second Worker’s Comp Bill with Second Injury Fund Fix Clears Missouri House

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 coverage and employers with expensive legal bills when these cases are moved into the civil court system.

The bill also would reform Missouri’s failing Second Injury Fund by making sure the original injuries are work related, eliminating permanent partial disability cases that allow workers to be more than 100% “disabled” and still able to work, and denying benefits to incarcerated individuals and other common sense reforms.  The bill would also increase the surcharge cap to pay down some of the pending claims against the fund.  Employers may have to pay 9% interest on these claims, so all the business representatives endorsed a temporary increase in the surcharge to 4.5% next year and up to an additional 1.5%, if the latter increase is endorsed by a three-fourths vote of the Governor, Attorney General, President Pro Tem of the Senate, and Speaker of the House. The surcharge cap would return to 3% in 2020.

Governor Jay Nixon vetoed legislation earlier this year that would have fixed the two problems in worker’s compensation.  The bill now heads to the Missouri Senate for further deliberation.  Associated Industries of Missouri will continue to work on arriving at a compromise that will improve the situation for employers and secure either a signature by the Governor, or allow us to obtain the necessary votes to override a veto.