Senator Ron Richard sponsors bill that would amend constitution regarding punitive damages

Senator Ron Richard, R-Joplin, has sponsored Senate Joint Resolution 7, which would aim to amend the Missouri constitution to say that no award for punitive damages would be greater than $500,000 or five times the net amount of the judgment awarded to the plaintiff against the defendant.

The Missouri Chamber is in favor of damage caps on punitive damages and has testified in favor of similar legislation in the past including medical malpractice claims.

In 2012, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned caps on malpractice payouts. The Missouri Chamber fought the overturning of the law.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports this legislation.

“Non-economic damages awards, such as for pain and suffering, are highly subjective and inherently unpredictable – there is no market for pain and suffering,” the Missouri Chamber wrote in a brief. “In recent years, a confluence of factors has led to a significant rise in the size of pain and suffering awards, creating the need for statutory upper limits to guard against excessive and unpredictable outlier awards. Such awards may occur when juries are improperly influenced by sympathy for the plaintiff, bias against a deep-pocket defendant, or desire to punish the defendant rather than compensate the plaintiff.”

The bill awaits assignment to a committee for an initial public hearing.

For more information about tort reform, please contact Jay Atkins, general counsel and director of governmental affairs for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry at jatkins@mochamber.com or by phone at 573-634-3511.

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Uniform Workforce Standards

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.

“After failing to pass anti-employer statewide mandates, we are seeing special interest groups target their efforts at the local level,” said Mehan. “It’s time to put a stop to this new effort to fragment Missouri before it begins driving jobs out of our 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. About a dozen states have taken action to preempt some of these mandates and keep a unified business environment throughout the state.

The Missouri Chamber will advocate for legislation that would protect Missouri from these mandates, specifically targeting ordinances that mandate leave beyond the FMLA, modified discrimination laws and standards and increased minimum wage

Civil Justice Reform

One of the biggest challenges to Missouri’s business climate is the need for continued, meaningful legal reform. The trial bar is intent on increasing the amount of time employers spend in court. Each year, dangerous, anti-business legislation is pushed by this powerful and well-funded special interest.

Reform to the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA) is a leading priority of the Missouri Chamber.  The law as currently written and interpreted promotes costly and sometimes outlandish lawsuits for which consumers and jobseekers pay the price.  A few simple reforms can begin to return Missouri’s MMPA to its original mission of preventing and punishing truly deceptive business practices.

“Like many state consumer protection laws, the well-intentioned MMPA originated in the 1960s.  But since then, the law has been so distorted and contorted by legislative amendments and judicial interpretations that it’s now just as likely to be used to boost trial lawyers’ bank accounts as it is to compensate truly defrauded consumers,” Mehan said.

A 2009 study by Northwestern University’s Searle Civil Justice Institute shows that reported decisions of consumer fraud claims in Missouri from 2000 to 2009 rose an astonishing 678 percent – more than four times the national average — even as the state’s population rose just over 6 percent.

In addition to reforms to the MMPA, the Missouri Chamber will revisit legal reforms, including joint and several liability, third-party liability and employment law.

 

 

Unemployment insurance reform

Reducing the tax liability of Missouri’s unemployment system is another measure that would provide broad-based relief to all Missouri employers.  Following the last recession, Missouri borrowed millions of dollars from the federal government to cover claims the state fund was unable to pay.  Missouri employers, who fund the state’s unemployment insurance system, were required to pay millions of dollars more in additional penalties and interest.  This summer, Missouri’s outstanding federal debt was finally repaid.  Missouri was one of the last states to pay off its debt.  Missouri is the only state that has had to borrow federal money during the last five recessions.

“Missouri employers bear the weight of this problem, because employers fully fund the system through federal and state UI taxes.  Employers have every right to demand a more cost-effective and stable system with greater measures of accountability to root out fraud,” Mehan said.

The Missouri Chamber will work to implement stricter standards for workers who can access the system.  The Missouri Chamber also will push for legislation to tie the unemployment rate to number of weeks unemployment benefits will be paid.  These moves could help provide long-term stability for the fund in the future so that the system can serve the workers it was designed to protect – people unemployed by no fault of their own.

Several states have taken common-sense steps toward stemming the tide of unemployment insurance debt.  In the last two legislative sessions, the Missouri Chamber has successfully advocated passage by the General Assembly of similar measures.  Some of these provisions were vetoed by Gov. Nixon.

Education and Workforce Development Initiatives

Perhaps no other issue impacts Missouri’s workforce and Missouri employers’ ability to compete as much as education policy.  A long-term plan to make our education system as effective as it can be is essential to the future of our state.

“Our workforce is the front line of our economy and our education system determines the strength of that front line,” Mehan said. “Like any other component of a business or organization, if you are not constantly monitoring and making changes to keep up with the times, you will fall behind. Or workforce is too important to allow us to fall behind because we are afraid to make change.”

Recognizing this, the Missouri Chamber board of directors has approved a broad agenda of education reforms, including fully funding our education system, providing better support for high performing teachers and administrators and setting higher standards for Missouri students.

The Missouri Chamber will also advocate for measures that better align our education and workforce development system with the needs of business.

“Our employer members tell us that they have jobs to fill, but not enough qualified workers to fill those positions,” Mehan said. “We must rethink how we approach workforce development so that Missouri is maximizing training dollars toward this need.”

Tammy Long joins Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry staff as Director of the Missouri Chamber Federation

Tammy Long has joined the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry as Director of the Missouri Chamber Federation. In her new post, Long will build the Missouri Chamber Federation, a partnership created to unify local and state chamber advocacy efforts in the capitol in Jefferson City and in Washington D.C. Long will work with executives and members of more than 500 chambers of commerce across the state to expand the overall business community’s legislative engagement and strength. She will build relationships, increase awareness of legislative needs and opportunities and help align advocacy messaging and resources.

Tammy Long

Tammy Long

“There is no better network of Missouri’s employers than that of the chambers of commerce around our state,” said Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Daniel P. Mehan. “Building strong relationships with these community leaders is a vital component of a unified business agenda. Tammy already knows many of these professionals from her many years in chamber work and can turn her experience and relationships into a stronger voice for employers.”

Long comes to the Missouri Chamber with a long history of chamber experience. She served as president of the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau for more than 19 years. In that role, Long managed operations for the 11-member staff, including strategic planning, membership development and support, community involvement and legislative activity. She served as the organization’s legislative lobbyist. Warrensburg’s proximity to Whiteman Air Force Base made military relations a critical part of Long’s responsibilities. Long developed and implemented legislation to support military and Department of Defense installations and assets in Missouri through the Missouri Military Preparedness Enhancement Commission.

Prior to her work at the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce, Long served as a captain in the US Air Force. Long received her Master’s degree in management from Webster University, St. Louis, and a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.

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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