Corporate apportionment bill sent to the governor

For corporations that operate in multiple states, tax season can be a challenging time as they must decide how to report income across various state tax filings.

A bill passed by the Missouri General Assembly would help these companies, giving them more options as they file tax returns. The bill is Senate Bill 19, sponsored by Sen. Will Kraus, a Republican from Lee’s Summit. The bill received bipartisan support in the House on April 21, passing 153-4, as it was sent to Gov. Jay Nixon for consideration.

The idea started in 2012, when the Missouri Chamber’s tax council generated a proposal for a new state law that would give corporations an alternate formula to consider when filing their tax returns. The idea received widespread support from Missouri lawmakers and became law in 2013.

But since then, the Missouri Department of Revenue has greatly limited the kinds of corporations that can access the new option contained in the 2013 law.

Last year, the General Assembly passed language to ensure all companies can utilize this new statute—whether they manufacture items, offer services or sell intangible products. But that proposal—contained in several bills—was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon.

This year, the legislature sent Gov. Nixon a bill containing only the corporate tax language. Lawmakers and bill supporters hope this will convince the governor to sign the bill this year.

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

Bill heard to create career and technical high school certificate

Recognizing the need for consistent and higher standards in the tech field, Sen. Gary Romine and Rep. Kathy Swan have filed bill that would require the State Board of Education, in consultation with the Career and Technical Education Advisory Council, to establish minimum graduation requirements for a career and technical education high school certificate.

If the bills were to pass and become law, students entering high school in the 2016-2017 school year and beyond would be eligible to receive a CTE certificate. A CTE certificate will have the same benefits for students that are given by any other high school diploma.

Missouri employers have been looking for certification from prospective employees that will demonstrate they are capable of manufacturing construction trades, IT and healthcare. A CTE certificate must be based on requirements designed to provide students with technical skills and core academic skills. A CTE certificate must demonstrate that the student is ready for a career in a technical field.

Romine is the sponsor of SB 172, which has been passed by the senate and was voted do pass in the House Select Education Committee on April 23. Swan’s bill, HB 380, has faced similar support and passed in the House and was heard in the Senate on April 22.

If either bills become law, curriculum, programs of study, and course offerings must be determined by the local school district based on the needs and interests of the district’s students. The State Board of Education must work in cooperation with individual school districts with the goal of students having access to a minimum offering of six vocational areas of study.

For any questions about this legislation, please contact Brian Bunten, general counsel for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, at bbunten@mochamber.com or by phone at 573-634-3511.

Senate hold hearing for bill aiming to reform Missouri discrimination laws

House Bill 1019 would require fired employees to prove their termination was motivated by discrimination. The new standard would replace Missouri’s existing standard, which only requires employees to show discrimination contributed to their dismissal.

On April 21 the Senate Judiciary and Civil-Criminal Jurisprudence committee heard the bill and the Missouri Chamber testified on its behalf.

“This bill would provide a fair playing field for both employers and workers and help bring Missouri in line with federal law,” said Jay Atkins, a registered lobbyist representing the Missouri Chamber.

House Bill 1019 is sponsored by Rep. Kevin Austin, a Republican from Springfield. During House floor debate on the bill, opponents attacked this effort to change Missouri’s discrimination laws. However, Rep. Austin reminded House members that the bill simply follows successful federal law.

Unfortunately, the state’s existing statute has opened the door to retaliatory lawsuits that aren’t always based on merit. If passed, into law House Bill 1019 would help stop these frivolous lawsuits while ensuring employees retain the ability to sue in cases of discrimination.

“This bill does nothing to prevent legitimate claims,” Rep. Austin said.

Lawmakers have spent a lot of time this legislative session discussing Missouri’s discrimination statutes. The media has framed the issue by framing advocacy groups on one side or the other. Atkins points out that the ultimate goal of all stakeholders is not divided.

 “We all agree that discrimination is wrong and has no place in society, especially the workplace. We all agree that we need statutes that protect ALL employees and employers as well.  Where we disagree is how to get there,” Atkins said. “The Missouri Chamber’s longstanding position is that we need to strengthen our law so that legitimately discriminated people are protected and frivolous claims are limited. We will continue to work toward that and will consider other changes as well and our door is open to anyone who wants to work with us to achieve a compromise.”

For more information about this bill, contact Atkins at jatkins@mochamber.com.

General Assembly sends bill to restore malpractice lawsuit caps to the governor

Three years after a Missouri Supreme Court decision put Missouri’s medical community at risk, the General Assembly has completed work on a bill that would protect health care providers from unlimited lawsuit payouts.

Currently in Missouri, there are no caps on the amount of money plaintiffs can receive in medical malpractice lawsuit cases. Having an uncapped malpractice litigation environment leads to higher medical malpractice insurance costs for all physicians, making Missouri a less appealing place to practice medicine. This situation has existed since 2012, when the state’s Supreme Court released a decision that eliminated Missouri’s previous medical lawsuit caps.

But with the passage of Senate Bill 239, a bill that received bipartisan support, Missouri is close to restoring balance in the state’s malpractice litigation system.

“Physician practices, like all businesses, look at cost when they choose where to do business. Right now, Missouri’s medical litigation climate is driving up insurance expenses and that’s making it harder for communities in our state to attract the doctors we need,” said Daniel P. Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “This is more than a business issue. This is an issue where our legislature is trying to ensure we have the health care we need for the residents of our state. On behalf of the business community, I’d like to thank the leaders in the Missouri House and Senate for passing this bill. Now it’s up to Governor Jay Nixon to sign this bill and ensure Missouri is a place where doctors want to practice.”

Senate Bill 239 would place a $400,000 cap on noneconomic damage awards in medical malpractice cases. For catastrophic and wrongful death cases, the cap would be $700,000. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Dan Brown, a Republican from Rolla, and was handled in the House by Rep. Eric Burlison, a Republican from Springfield.

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.

 

Bill to protect Missouri’s unemployment insurance fund sent to Gov. Nixon for signature

JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri House gave final approval to legislation that will protect Missouri’s unemployment insurance system from future economic downturns that has repeatedly thrown Missouri’s fund into insolvency over the last decade. Today’s vote sends the bill to Gov. Jay Nixon for his approval. House Bill 150, sponsored by Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob), would tie the number of weeks jobless Missourians can receive unemployment benefits to the unemployment rate.

“Following the last recession, Missouri’s unemployment insurance system became insolvent and had to borrow money from the federal government to cover claims and employers paid millions in interest alone on the borrowed funds,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber President/CEO. “In fact, Missouri is the only state that has had to borrow funds from the federal government to provide benefits to unemployed workers during the last five economic downturns. We need to take steps to keep the fund from chronic insolvency. This bill does that.”

Both Georgia and Florida have passed legislation that ties unemployment benefit weeks to the unemployment rate.

Under this bill, unemployed Missourians would be eligible for:

  • 20 weeks of benefits if the Missouri average unemployment rate is nine percent or higher;
  • 19 weeks of benefits if the Missouri average unemployment rate is between 8.5 percent and 9 percent;
  • 18 weeks of benefits if the Missouri average unemployment rate is 8 percent up to and including 8.5 percent;
  • 17 weeks if the Missouri average unemployment rate is between 7 .5 percent and 8 percent;
  • 16 weeks of benefits if the Missouri average unemployment rate is 7 percent up to and including 7.5 percent;
  • 15 weeks of benefits if the Missouri average unemployment rate is between 6.5 percent and 7 percent;
  • 14 weeks of benefits if the Missouri average unemployment rate is 6 percent up to and including 6.5 percent;
  • 13 weeks of unemployment benefits if the Missouri average unemployment rate is below 6 percent.

The Missouri Chamber is the lead advocate of this legislation and has testified multiple times on its behalf when previous versions have been heard in past legislative sessions.

“We owe it to our employees to protect the fund for those that become unemployed through no fault of their own,” said Mehan. “And we also owe it to employers, who fully fund our unemployment insurance system, to establish systemic reforms that will better protect the fund so that we don’t have this problem arise the next time the economy dips.”

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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Bill creating consistent workplace standards across the state moves through House committee

In recent years, county and city officials have passed ordinances that make Missouri a confusing patchwork of laws and regulations. This patchwork makes it difficult to market Missouri as a whole and also makes it difficult for employers that operate in multiple communities in the state.

For example, the cities of Jersey City, New York City, Portland (OR), San Francisco and Seattle all require private employers to offer paid sick leave to employees. Additionally, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, San Francisco, San Jose, and most recently Seattle and Chicago, will have minimum wages that surpass the state and federal wage.

The Missouri Chamber has vowed to advocate for legislation that would protect Missouri from these mandates, specifically targeting ordinances that mandate leave beyond the FMLA, increased minimum wage and whether or not an employee can inquire about an applicant’s criminal history.

Columbia, Missouri is the latest jurisdiction to implement new changes such as “ban the box” by prohibiting private employers from making criminal inquiries on an employment application.  The law, which took effect on December 1, 2014, only allows employers to ask about an applicant’s criminal history after the applicant has received a conditional offer of employment.

Rowden feels decisions about wages, sick leave and ban the box need to take place at the state level so there are consistent policies statewide, rather than each municipality having different policies.

“We appreciate Rep. Rowden sponsoring this bill as it’s an important piece of the Missouri Chamber’s policy agenda,” Tracy King, vice president of governmental affairs for the Missouri Chamber, testified in favor of the bill. “This is important to our members because without this legislation every city in the state can impose their own regulations on employers. This creates a nightmare of bureaucracy and really undermines the ability of Missouri to be known as a business friendly state and to compete for jobs.”

13 other states have enacted similar legislation as this is becoming a nationwide problem. For more information on this legislation, please contact Ms. King at tking@mochamber.com or by phone at 573-634-3511.

Bill to address gender pay equality moves forward with Chamber-backed revisions

A Missouri Senate committee has voted in favor of creating state-backed guidelines to address gender pay equality. The vote comes following a collaborative discussion between the bill’s sponsor and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Senate Bill 144 is sponsored by Sen. Paul LeVota, a Democrat from Independence. The bill instructs the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to establish best practice guidelines for gender pay equality. The voluntary guidelines would help public and private employers move toward equal pay for men and women.

Before the Senate Committee on Small Business, Insurance and Industry voted on the bill, the committee presented a substitute bill with revisions meant to protect employers. The revisions say that the state cannot force businesses to adopt the guidelines without approval from the Missouri General Assembly. They also clarify that the guidelines cannot be used as grounds to sue an employer. The Missouri Chamber requested these changes and Sen. LeVota supported adding them to the bill.

“I wanted to make sure there was clear language and it wasn’t punitive to the employers,” said Sen. LeVota, as the committee considered the revisions to his bill.
The committee then voted 5-1 in support of the proposal, sending it to the Senate floor for further debate.

“The Missouri Chamber supports gender pay equality and I’d like to thank Sen. LeVota for his collaboration on this bill,” said Tracy King, Missouri Chamber vice president of governmental affairs. “The Missouri Chamber will continue to closely watch this proposal to ensure the spirit of the proposal isn’t changed in a way that could place employers at greater risk.”

For more information about this bill, contact King at tking@mochamber.com or by phone at 573-634-3511.