Missouri Chamber asks Attorney General Koster to fight federal Clean Power Plan

The following letter was sent to Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster on Oct. 6, 2015:

Attorney General Koster:

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry is the state’s largest business advocacy group. Together with the Missouri Chamber Federation, an alliance of more than 65 local chambers of commerce, we represent over 40,000 Missouri employers.  As such, the Missouri Chamber is situated as the most prominent and effective voice for the state’s business community.  The Missouri Chamber asks that you join the at least fifteen other Attorneys General in an action to stay the detrimental and overreaching Clean Power Plan.

Countless studies illustrate the regulations imposed in the EPA’s Clean Power Plan are unfair and harmful to businesses. The price of energy will skyrocket, driving up costs for products and services.  The U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy estimates the proposed rule will result in a $3.2 billion reduction in our region’s GDP. The EPA itself estimates massive job losses in the electricity, coal, and natural gas sectors and a projected loss of over 27,000 jobs in our region alone. That doesn’t take into account the residual economic effects of stunted growth in these areas. Missouri’s job growth from 2004-2014 ranked just 42nd in the nation and our state GDP just 43rd during the same time period.  Frankly, the Missouri economy cannot withstand higher energy prices, more job loss, and any government mandate that curtails GDP growth further.

The impact of the Clean Power Plan and its compliance costs are far too high in comparison to the supposed benefits of the new rule. Missouri has languished far too long at the bottom of most economic indicators and the business community is afraid the cost of and compliance with the Clean Power Plan will only exacerbate the situation.

I respectfully ask that you join your fellow Attorneys General and fight the EPA’s harmful Clean Power Plan.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Sincerely,

Daniel P. Mehan
President/CEO
Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Aspen Dental Mouth Mobile visits state capitol

On September 25 the front steps of the Missouri State Capitol became host to a mobile dental health unit dedicated to helping veterans with their oral health.

The healthy mouth movement is an initiative launched by Aspen Dental in order to give free dental care and oral health education to people in need across the United States. In 2014 the movement served nearly 3000 patients and delivered more than $1 million in free dental care.

The “Mouth Mobile” parked in front of the capitol in Jefferson City to provide free care to anyone in need, particularly veterans. The Aspen Dental Mouth Mobile is fully-equipped dental office on wheels that goes directly into communities where care isn’t readily available to provide free services and to raise awareness of oral health.

The care provided in the Mouth Mobile can range from a simple cleaning and x-rays to a full root canal.

To see when the Mouth Mobile will be in your area, please check www.aspendental.com

Toyota Bodine Manufacturing and the Missouri Chamber launch video contest to show students what’s cool about manufacturing

What’s so cool about manufacturing? Students in Lincoln County are about to find out through an innovative program called “Show-Me Manufacturing” provided by Toyota-Bodine Manufacturing, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Dream It. Do It.

ShowMeManufacturing2015Show-Me Manufacturing is a video contest for students at four local middle schools: Elsberry R-2, Lincoln County, R-3, Winfield R-4, and Silex R-1. Students will create videos featuring local manufacturing facilities. The students will highlight “What’s so cool about manufacturing” and will compete for the most “likes” on YouTube. Participating schools are receiving GoPro cameras, software and coaching through funding from Toyota USA Funds. The contest runs from October through February and will conclude with an awards celebration highlighting the top videos.

“The contest is designed to get our students up close and personal with the opportunities that manufacturing careers provide,” said Dan Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO. “Today’s manufacturing facilities are not what many students and parents envision. These facilities provide high-tech, high-skills jobs with excellent benefits and compensation. This is an innovative way to help our students see the abundant opportunities these jobs provide.”

The contest was launched Oct. 2 during Manufacturing Day celebrations at Toyota Bodine Manufacturing in Troy, Mo. More than 50 students and stakeholders attended the celebration and toured the manufacturing facility.

“We are proud to be part of this program and open our facility to our next generation of workers,” said Wes Woods, general manager of Toyota Bodine Manufacturing. “We currently provide 750 jobs to workers in this region and intend to keep growing. To do that, we need to let our students and parents know what it takes to be part of our workforce and the benefits that come with these careers.”

In addition to Toyota-Bodine, students will have the opportunity to video tape several other participating manufacturers in the area of advanced manufacturing technology.

Show-Me Manufacturing is the first program the Missouri Chamber is undertaking as the new statewide host of the Dream It. Do It. program in Missouri. Established in 2005, Dream It. Do It. is a national, grassroots effort aimed at raising the perception of manufacturing jobs and recruiting the next generation manufacturing workforce. The program is provided by the Manufacturing Institute, an affiliate of National Association of Manufacturing. Through this partnership, the Missouri Chamber will promote and facilitate activities that increase awareness of the abundant opportunities in manufacturing and technology fields.

“According to a study by Deloitte conducted by the Manufacturing Institute, students familiar with manufacturing are two times more likely to consider it as a career opportunity,” said Mehan. “That is what makes programs like these so critical.”

The same Manufacturing Institute study cited that six out of ten open skilled production positions are unfilled due to talent shortage.

“Through our partnership with the Manufacturing Institute and employers like Toyota-Bodine, the Missouri Chamber is committing to help narrow the skills gap and keep our manufacturing operations going strong,” said Mehan.

Missouri Chamber joins national effort to promote manufacturing

Missouri manufacturers take active role to engage the next generation of workers in opportunities in manufacturing

In conjunction with the celebration of Manufacturing Day 2015, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry announces a new partnership with the Manufacturing Institute to facilitate the Dream It. Do It. program in Missouri.

MO DIDI LOGOEstablished in 2005, Dream It. Do It. is a national, grassroots effort aimed at raising the perception of manufacturing jobs and recruiting the next generation manufacturing workforce. The program is provided by the Manufacturing Institute, an affiliate of National Association of Manufacturing. Through this partnership, the Missouri Chamber will promote and facilitate activities that increase awareness of the abundant opportunities in manufacturing and technology fields.

“In Missouri, there is a serious shortage of workers to fill the high tech, good paying jobs that manufacturing provides,” said Dan Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Our state’s manufacturers have the job openings, but can’t find the workers qualified to fill these positions. Through our partnership with the Manufacturing Institute, the Missouri Chamber is committing to our manufacturers to help narrow the skills gap and keep our manufacturing operations going strong.”

According to a Gallup survey of more than 1,000 Missouri employers conducted by the Missouri Chamber Foundation earlier this year, only 15 percent of Missouri business owners believe that high schools are preparing students for the workforce.

This skills deficit is especially acute in the manufacturing sector. According to a Deloitte Skills Gap study conducted by the Manufacturing Institute, 84 percent of executives agree there is a talent shortage in U.S. manufacturing and six out of ten open skilled production positions are unfilled due to talent shortage. Despite the fact that 80 percent of manufacturers are willing to pay more than the market rates, these jobs are going unfilled, the survey cited.

Workforce development is a key driver in the Missouri Chamber’s strategic plan, Missouri 2030: An Agenda to Lead. The addition of the proven Dream It. Do It. program to the Missouri Chamber’s education outreach programs is an integral part of the organization’s strategic plan.

mfgdaylogo“It will take a coordinated effort to make students more aware of manufacturing careers, and the Missouri Chamber is anxious to get to work to match up qualified workers with fulfilling, good-paying jobs,” Mehan said.

In addition to Manufacturing Day events, the Missouri Chamber is partnering with Troy manufacturing facility, Toyota-Bodine Manufacturing, to launch a video contest for students at local schools: Elsberry R-2, Lincoln County, R-3, Winfield R-4, and Silex R-1.  Students will create videos of local manufacturing facilities. The students will highlight “What’s cool about manufacturing” and will compete for the most “likes” on YouTube. Participating schools are receiving GoPro cameras, software and coaching through funding from Toyota USA funds.

Christopher Till named Director of Missouri Legislative Services

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry announces the promotion of Christopher Till as the organization’s new Director of Missouri Legislative Services.

In this role, Till is responsible for monitoring all legislative action at the Capitol in Jefferson City and inputting this data in a comprehensive website, www.govwatch.net. More than 100 subscribers from public, private, and trade organizations utilize this service for online, up-to-the-minute coverage of Missouri legislative action as it’s taken on bills that impact their businesses. 

Prior to becoming director, Till has served as assistant director of MLS since 2013 and worked previously for the House of Representatives. He resides in Jefferson City with his wife and two daughters.  

Override success—Fixes coming for workplace regulations, unemployment benefits

Thanks to supermajority support, the Missouri General Assembly has overridden vetoes of two important business bills. With this success, the state’s employer community can look forward to more consist workforce regulations and added stability within the state’s unemployment benefits system.

The override vote on House Bill 722 addresses a concerning trend in Missouri where a growing number of municipalities are seeking to pass city-wide business regulations. Both Kansas City and St. Louis have sought to punish their local employers by mandating higher wages inside their city limits. Missouri municipalities have also discussed passing paid leave ordinances and bans on plastic bags. The passage of House Bill 722, sponsored by Rep. Dan Shaul, a Republican from Imperial, will ensure these issues are handled at the state level. The House voted 114-46 in to override the veto, the Senate voted 23-9.

“I think all parties are ready to come to the table and discuss what level of business regulation is appropriate in our state. I know the business community is eager to address this issue,” said Daniel P. Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “But these discussions need to happen in the state legislature, where lawmakers can adopt a statewide policy that applies to all businesses. When cities pass business ordinances on their own, they create a patchwork of confusing regulations that ultimately make our state less attractive for business investment. On behalf of the business community, I’d like to thank the legislature for addressing this important issue.”

The General Assembly also successfully overrode the governor’s veto of House Bill 150. This new law will address Missouri’s often-insolvent Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund. The law ties Missouri’s jobless benefits to the state’s unemployment rate, providing more weeks of unemployment payments during a recession and fewer weeks of benefits when jobs are plentiful. The bill also requires increased payments from employers to help the state’s Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund reach a balance that is capable of paying for benefits without going into debt—as it repeatedly has during recent recessions. House Bill 150 was sponsored by Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Shell Knob. Only a Senate vote was needed to override the veto on this bill; the vote was 24-8.

“Our state’s unemployment benefits system has been in trouble for years. It’s a major accomplishment to finally pass a comprehensive plan that both protects Missouri families during times of high unemployment and stops our unemployment fund from taking on debt,” said Mehan. “With our state currently in a period of economic recovery, this was an issue that could have easily been overlooked. Our legislators showed great leadership in reforming our unemployment benefits system this year.”

The disappointment of the veto session

Missouri will not become a right-to-work state in 2015 following a failed attempt to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of this important bill to protect workers and spur economic growth.

Right-to-work legislation says that workers cannot be required to join a union and pay dues as a condition of employment. The language was contained in House Bill 116, sponsored by Rep. Eric Burlison, a Republican from Springfield. This year, Rep. Burlison’s bill became the first right-to-work proposal to pass the Missouri General Assembly. Today, the bill died when lawmakers were not able to garner enough support to override Gov. Nixon’s veto. The final vote, 96-63, failed to reach a two-thirds majority required to override a veto.

“It’s incredibly disappointing to see our General Assembly — which is heavily comprised of lawmakers who were elected on pro-business platforms — continue to fall short when it comes to making Missouri a right-to-work state,” said Daniel P. Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “As a state that doesn’t support right-to-work protections, Missouri will continue to be overlooked for job creation and business expansion opportunities. If we are going to change our economy and create jobs for the future, we need to start with passing right-to-work. This issue is not going away.”

The majority of Missouri employers support making our state Right-to-Work according to a Gallup survey released in 2015 of more than 1,000 CEOs and top management. Support for this policy was especially pronounced in industry sectors such as transportation, utilities and communications, where 67 percent supported making Missouri a right-to-work state. The survey was part of the Missouri Chamber’s 15-year strategic economic plan, Missouri 2030: An Agenda to Lead. Across the nation, 25 states have already passed right-to-work protections.

“Despite the rhetoric you hear from opponents, right-to-work is not a new idea. It’s not extreme. It’s also far from rare. In 2015, right-to-work is a basic protection offered in half of the states across the country,” said Mehan. “If we don’t extend this basic protection to Missourians soon, our state will continue to fall off the map for job creation.”

Arbitration agreements go to court

Lawsuit could undermine the ability to find solutions outside the courtroom

By Brian Bunten, General Counsel/Director of Legislative Affairs, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry

The Missouri Chamber Legal Foundation has entered a case that threatens to undermine the ability of consumers and businesses to resolve disputes outside of court.

The suit involves arbitration agreements, a beneficial system for settling legal claims without costly litigation. The arbitration process has advantages for both consumers and businesses in that it allows issues to be settled quickly and cost-effectively.

Yet the case of Lopez v. H&R Block—which is pending a hearing in Missouri’s Western District Court of Appeals—could reroute arbitration cases back to the state’s inefficient courtroom process.

The case involves Manuel Lopez, a consumer who is suing H&R Block over compliance fees, amounting to $2 and $4, he was charged for tax return preparation services in 2011 and 2012. The case is noteworthy because Lopez is seeking to sue H&R Block despite the fact he agreed to arbitration when he used H&R Block’s services in 2011.

A circuit court decision sided with Lopez, giving him the ability to sue despite the arbitration agreement. If that decision stands through appeals in higher courts, it would set a new precedent in Missouri, undermining existing arbitration agreements.

The Missouri Chamber Legal Foundation has filed a brief in the case in support of the arbitration process.

“If the circuit court’s decision stands, businesses and consumers can no longer be confident that their arbitration agreements will be enforced, despite the many advantages arbitration provides,” writes the Missouri Chamber Legal Foundation in its amicus curiae brief. “Instead, arbitration agreements knowingly and willingly entered into by the parties will be subject to being invalided based on a court’s public policy preferences.”

The legal foundation’s argument is based on several existing court decisions that support arbitration. The foundation also notes that the arbitration agreement used by H&R Block is similar to agreements used in many businesses and meets all relevant legal requirements.

If Missouri courts ultimately rule against H&R Block’s agreement in this case, consumers could find themselves burdened with the cost of furnishing legal representation. The slow nature of the Missouri court system would also mean plaintiffs could have to wait months to years before they receive a judgment.

Businesses, large and small, would feel harm from the potential ruling as well.

“It is critical for businesses to be able to use inexpensive dispute-resolution mechanisms like arbitration. Civil litigation takes too long for resolution of consumer disputes, and the pendency of such disputes is itself bad for consumer relations,” writes the Missouri Chamber Legal Foundation. “Moreover, particularly for small businesses, the cost of civil litigation is prohibitive – threatening the viability of some businesses, producing extortionate settlements, and putting Missouri and American businesses at a disadvantage to exporters in other countries.”

This case could only worsen the legal climate in Missouri, which is already ranked 42nd in the nation according to a September study by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. The Missouri Chamber

Legal Foundation is closely monitoring this and other lawsuits in the state and will continue advocating for sound legal decisions that work in favor of faster growth and making Missouri a more welcoming place to do business.