Missouri Chamber applauds 100 Great Ideas for Missouri initiative

JEFFERSON CITY — Speaker-elect John Diehl has launched an initiative to gather ideas from Missourians to improve our state and government. Diehl has launched a website where constituents can post ideas. The website will be complemented with a statewide legislative tour to communities across the state.

“The Missouri Chamber believes the 100 Great Ideas for Missouri initiative is a great way to engage House members with the needs of Missourians,” said Missouri Chamber President and CEO Daniel P. Mehan. “Then best ideas for moving our state forward are not created in the offices of the Capitol, but are born in our communities. Making it easier to deliver these ideas to legislative leaders is a worthwhile effort. We will encourage our employer members to submit ideas.”

Citizens can visit the campaign’s website, 100GreatIdeasForMissouri.org, to submit their ideas. The initiative also uses Twitter (@100GreatIdeasMO) and Facebook to receive feedback.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry (www.mochamber.com) was founded in 1923 and is the largest business organization in Missouri, representing almost 3,000 employers, providing more than 425,000 jobs for Missourians.
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NEWS RELEASE: Supreme Court takes another bite out of Missouri tort reforms

With a new ruling that bypasses Missouri’s limit on punitive damages, the state’s Supreme Court continues to erode a successful 2005 reform law.

In their decision, released on Sept. 9, the Supreme Court reinstated a $1 million judgment against a used car dealer who defrauded a customer. The court’s ruling uses centuries’ old legal language to sidestep the clear, current 2005 statute limiting punitive damages at $500,000.

The decision comes two years after the Supreme Court similarly overturned Missouri’s 2005 cap on medical malpractice lawsuits.

“Less than 10 years ago, our state was a haven for frivolous lawsuits, outrageous judgments and skyrocketing litigation insurance premiums. In 2005, we fixed it. Lawsuits declined dramatically and premiums decreased. With this ruling, we’re seeing a trend where the Missouri Supreme Court is working to undo our progress and open the flood gates once again,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber President and CEO. “If we want Missouri to compete in a global economy, we can’t have a rampant litigation climate and we can’t have a judicial system that bypasses current reforms in favor of language that was written before the State of Missouri even existed. This continues to be an urgent matter that our state must address.”

This Supreme Court decision is Lewellen v. Chad Franklin, National Auto Sales. The 2012 ruling against liability lawsuit caps came in the case of Watts v. Cox Medical Centers.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry (www.mochamber.com) was founded in 1923 and is the largest business organization in Missouri, representing almost 3,000 employers, providing more than 425,000 jobs for Missourians.

NEWS RELEASE: Training funds and tax fairness legislation returned to Missouri employers

The Missouri General Assembly has voted to protect Missouri employers, returning vital training funds and protections for employers in tax court.

Lawmakers voted to override Gov. Nixon’s veto of more than 50 line items in the state budget, including $900,000 to the Missouri Works job-training program.  Missouri Works provides customized training resources and assistance to existing businesses and start-ups through a partnership with Missouri Community Colleges and other local educational agencies.

The Missouri Chamber strongly supported returning these funds to our employers,” said Missouri Chamber President and CEO Daniel P. Mehan.  “These are proven programs and vitally important to the employers that depend upon this training.”

The General Assembly also overwhelmingly supported the veto override of Senate Bill 829, legislation ending an unfair bias against many of the state’s employers.  Senate Bill 829 is sponsored by Sen. Will Krause, a Republican from Lee’s Summit. The bill was handled in the House by Rep. Denny Hoskins, a Republican from Warrensburg.

The bill would ensure that all taxpayers are presumed innocent when the Missouri Department of Revenue chooses to bring them to court in a tax dispute. Under current state law, companies with more than 500 employees and a net worth of greater than $7 million are actually presumed guilty in the state’s tax courts. All other taxpayers are presumed innocent in tax disputes.

“This bill addresses that basic issue of fairness. Current law holds that certain employers are guilty until proven innocent.  That’s just not right,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO.  “Why should we treat one class of taxpayer differently from the rest?”

Securing this legislation has been a priority of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry for more than a decade.  Prior to 1999, all employers were considered guilty until proven innocent in tax court.

“The Missouri Chamber has pushed to incrementally change this provision year after year and this veto override marks the final step in that process.  The job is finally finished!” Mehan said.

In addition to the change in income tax disputes, SB 829 also requires the revenue department to prove its case in all sales tax exemption disputes.  This provision will be a benefit to both small and large employers.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry (www.mochamber.com) was founded in 1923 and is the largest business organization in Missouri, representing almost 3,000 employers, providing more than 425,000 jobs for Missourians.

Let’s get to business: Veto session should focus on job growth

The Missouri legislature is set to return this week to consider overriding a number of Gov. Jay Nixon’s vetoes.

Following the regular legislative session, which ended in May, Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed 33 bills—just two vetoes shy of the all-time high for vetoes by a Missouri governor. Among the bills vetoed by Nixon were several important business proposals that had been supported by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and endorsed by both the Missouri House of Representatives and the Missouri Senate.

“As we seek to get Missouri on a path toward greater growth, the Missouri Chamber and our state’s business community felt we had made significant progress this year—only to have our work derailed by the governor’s vetoes,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber President and CEO. “With the General Assembly reconvening this week, we have a chance to finish the job and make 2014 a year when growth and employment were the top priorities in Jefferson City.”

The Missouri Chamber will be working hard in the capital this week to secure veto overrides for a number of pro-business laws, including:

  • Tax court fairness: There is an unfair double standard in Missouri tax courts: Some business taxpayers are innocent until proven guilty, others are guilty until proven innocent. The General Assembly passed House Bill 1455, sponsored by Rep. Denny Hoskins, a Republican from Warrensburg, and Senate Bill 829 sponsored by Sen. Will Kraus, a Republican from Lee’s Summit, to finally bring equality to our tax court system—giving every tax defendant the right to arrive in court as innocent until proven guilty. The governor vetoed this change.
  • Giving businesses a heads up: The Missouri Department of Revenue currently has the power to change tax rules, not notify businesses of the change and then issue harsh penalties when businesses don’t conform to the new rules. Senate Bill 662, sponsored by Sen. Kraus, would require the Department of Revenue to notify businesses when they make a change in their interpretation of the state’s sales tax laws.  In addition, the bill would clarify corporate apportionment legislation passed last year to ensure all companies can utilize this new statute whether they manufacture products or sell services or intangibles. The governor vetoed this proposal, which can also be found in House Bill 1296, sponsored by Rep. Andrew Koenig, a Republican from Manchester.
  • Unemployment insurance reforms: The recent economic recession left Missouri’s employers with a massive unemployment debt to repay. Unemployment insurance reforms passed by the House and Senate this year were intended to help ensure future economic downturns are less costly. Senate Bill 673, sponsored by Sen. Mike Kehoe, a Republican from Jefferson City, ties the number of weeks Missourians can receive unemployment benefits to the state’s unemployment rate. This was vetoed by the governor.
  • Investing in our workforce: Governor Nixon also used his veto pen to axe funding from several critical programs aimed at growing new businesses and helping Missouri workers retrain for new jobs. The governor’s vetoes eliminated a funding increase for the Missouri Works Job Development Fund, cut all funding for the Small Business Regulatory Fairness Board, eliminated funding for the state’s Small Business & Technology Development Centers and would close seven tax assistance satellite offices across Missouri. The Missouri Chamber is asking that the funding approved by the General Assembly be restored.

As the veto session opens, the Missouri Chamber calls for business leaders and all Missourians to contact their local representative and senator and ask them to focus on business issues during the 2014 veto session.

“With all the divisive issues that are on the table, it’s always a fear common sense job growth ideas could be overshadowed by politics and grandstanding during a short veto session,” said Mehan. “We need the business community to help us encourage the General Assembly to use this time to help push our state forward, grow jobs and increase our standing in an increasingly competitive global economy.”

For more information, contact Tracy King, Missouri Chamber vice president of governmental affairs, at tking@mochamber.com, or by phone at 573-634-3511.

Missouri Chamber Policy Councils gearing up for 2015 session

Each legislative year the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry sends lobbyists to the capitol to work on an agenda set by the Missouri Chamber Policy Councils. The policy councils, led by member volunteers, help define our policies on issues that are critical to your business or organization. The Policy councils will be meeting soon to decide on an upcoming legislative agenda for the 2015 session. The councils are divided into different topics that affect business, including Economic Development and Small Business, Education and Workforce Development, Environmental and Energy, Health Care, Taxation and Fiscal Policy, Tourism and Transportation.

Civil Justice Council

The Missouri Chamber Civil Justice Council advocates for common-sense changes to Missouri’s business litigation environment that help ensure businesses are treated fairly in Missouri courts. The council reviews current case law and litigation trends, and makes policy recommendations to protect Missouri businesses. In recent years the council has helped shape Missouri law in the areas of tort reform, labor law, joint and several liability, rules of evidence, non-economic damage caps and more.

Economic Development and Small Business Council

The Missouri Chamber Economic Development and Small Business Council promotes sustainable economic development opportunities for Missouri employers, both large and small. The Council advocates investment and management of those key assets necessary for continued economic well-being of Missouri, such as infrastructure, education, job training, technology, and energy and financing. The Council is actively involved with economic development stakeholders within the legislature, government agencies and in the private market.

Education and Workforce Development Council

The Missouri Chamber Education and Workforce Development Council advocates for programs and policies that ensure the state has a workforce that is prepared for the future global economy. Our agenda includes initiatives that encourage Missouri students to take more rigorous classes, including math, engineering, technology and science. The Education and Workforce Development Council also ensures that business concerns are considered as education public policy is made in state government. In addition, the council encourages business participation in education matters.

Environmental and Energy Council

The Missouri Chamber Environmental and Energy Council is responsible for developing policies that promote a balance between sound management of the state’s natural resources and economic development. The council reviews proposed rules and analyzes legislation to determine effective policy. The council also discusses practical ways to ensure a positive energy future and promotes the exchange of information on economical methods of environmental control.

Health Care Council

The Missouri Chamber Health Care Council develops policy recommendations on all health care issues, including increasing access to affordable health care coverage and promoting consumer-driven health care programs. The Health Care Council monitors ongoing trends in the health care industry and promotes the development of market-driven solutions to the ongoing challenges of rising health care costs and uninsured Missourians.

Labor and Industrial Relations Council

The Labor and Industrial Relations Council advocates policy in the areas of workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, labor relations and tort reform, to name a few. Each of these areas are critical for Missouri employers, and this council has the potential to impact millions of dollars in Missouri employers’ bottom lines.

Taxation and Fiscal Policy Council

The Missouri Chamber Taxation and Fiscal Policy Council works for a tax climate that is conducive to the expansion and growth of jobs. The Taxation and Fiscal Policy Council advocates sound state and federal tax revisions, including responsible governmental spending policies. The council is involved with state agencies to guide tax rulemaking. In addition, the council monitors judicial action on tax policy.

Tourism Council

The Missouri Chamber Tourism Council promotes policy that leverages the many attributes of our state that attracts visitors and tourism revenue. Direct expenditures by travelers to Missouri exceeds $8.5 billion and the industry employs more than 293,000 Missourians, making the work of this council extremely important to the economic future of our state.

Transportation Council

Transportation is a critical factor in maintaining the future economic vitality of Missouri. One of Missouri’s strongest economic development tools is our central geographic location supported by a strong transportation infrastructure. The Missouri Chamber Transportation Council ensures that the voice of business and commerce is heard when transportation policy is being debated in Jefferson City.

To apply for one of the policy councils, please contact Tracy King, vice president of governmental affairs for the Missouri Chamber, at 573.634.3511 or tking@mochamber.com.

 

Leadership Missouri visits Sedalia to learn about agriculture

Home to the Missouri State Fair, Sedalia was the perfect place for the 2014 Leadership Missouri class to learn about agriculture’s place in the state.

The group toured  the Bothwell Lodge State Park before heading to Tyson Foods for a firsthand look at how the industry supports farmers who supply them with livestock and poultry as well as support the local economy by employing more than 1600 people at the Sedalia operation.

In addition to reviewing the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA Farm Service Agency and Rural Development staff explained their roles. The Farm Service Agency administers farm programs and farm loan programs. Under the training component of the bill, the University of Missouri has partnered with universities in Texas and Illinois to put together models to help farmers make the best choices.

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This was followed by a visit to a local family owned farm operation where the class was educated on the significance and impact of sustainable farming practices such as pasture management designed to promote land, livestock and wildlife. The hosts at Ag Power highlighted the impact of technology on today’s farming operations.

The visit concluded with a visit to the Missouri State Fair where presentations emphasizing the importance of the state fair included the history of the State Fair and the efforts to get youth interested in agriculture.

Thanks to the many sponsors and presenters who made the visit to Sedalia both fun and informative. Next, the class travels to Joplin in September to learn about education.

Special thanks to Premier Sponsor CHS Foundation.

Missouri Chamber priorities become law this week

This year, several priorities of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry became effective on Aug. 28, helping Missouri employers better compete.

“Each year, it seems like new challenges emerge that threaten our state’s businesses and their ability to grow and create jobs. If it’s not a national recession or the threat of increased federal regulations, it’s the many state issues we saw emerge recently including fraudulent unemployment claims, massive unemployment insurance debts and patent troll scams,” said Dan Mehan, Missouri Chamber President/CEO. “We thank the leaders in our General Assembly for staying current and continuing to address these problems as they arise.”

Several critical bills passed by the General Assembly will improve the state’s climate for business growth and expansion.

  • Reforming unemployment insurance: The recent economic recession left Missouri’s employers with a massive unemployment debt to repay. Unemployment insurance reforms passed this year will help reduce this debt and ensure future economic downturns are less costly. Senate Bill 510, sponsored by Sen. Kraus, will ensure employees who are fired for willfully breaking workplace rules are not rewarded with unemployment compensation.
  • Protecting business unclaimed property: Currently, Missouri ranks among the states with the worst unclaimed property laws. House Bill 1075, sponsored by Rep. Rocky Miller, a Republican from Tuscumbia, ensures Missouri won’t follow other states in padding state revenues using unclaimed property taken from businesses and individuals.
  • Stopping Patent troll scams: Missouri businesses are vulnerable to scammers who attempt to extort funds by fraudulently claiming patent infringement. Senate Bill 706, sponsored by Sen. Mike Cunningham, a Republican from Marshfield, allows businesses to successfully sue alleged patent trolls.
  • Preserving Shared-Work Program: Missouri’s Shared-Work Program allows companies to reduce the hours their permanent employees work during temporary periods of slow business. To help make up for lost wages, the employees collect partial unemployment payments. This is a vital program for the approximately 350 employers and 30,000 workers who use it each year. Senate Bill 844, sponsored by Sen. Bob Dixon, a Republican from Springfield, keeps the Missouri’s Shared-Work Program in operation.
  • Ending economic border war: For many years, economic development officials in Missouri and Kansas have been incenting businesses to move from one side of the border to the other, with no overall economic benefit for the region. Senate Bill 635, sponsored by Sen. Ryan Silvey, a Republican from Kansas City, will help reserve our development incentives true growth projects.
  • Protecting Missouri’s energy future: In order to protect against stifling federal EPA regulations, Rep. Todd Richardson, a Republican from Poplar Bluff, sponsored House Bill 1631, legislation that would give Missouri greater authority in this discussion. It enables the state to make regulatory decisions that are in the best interest of our citizens and business community.
  • Securing tort reform: Senate Bill 890, sponsored by Sen. Mike Kehoe and handled in House by Rep. Lincoln Hough will modify the 2005 changes to Missouri’s venue statute to clarify that when a foreign plaintiff brings suit against a Missouri company, venue properly lies in the county where the company’s registered agent is located even if individual company executives are named as defendants in the suit.