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 House votes to give employees a choice to join a union, but additional votes needed for final approval

Legislation to give employees the right to choose whether or not they want to be part of a labor union was given first-round approval on April 9 by the Missouri House of Representatives after heated debate.  The bill, HB 1770, sponsored by Rep. Eric Burlison, specifies that no person can be required to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of work.  The bill was perfected on a vote of 78-68.

Some called the vote historic.  It was the first time in history that the Missouri House took a vote on right-to-work legislation.  However, in order to move to the Missouri Senate, the bill must receive 82 votes in support, which means four representatives must change their votes in the final vote on HB 1770.  Twelve representatives were absent for the April 9 perfection vote.  (See how they voted.)

Until House leadership is confident 82 yes votes can be secured, the bill likely will not be brought back up.  That is unfortunate for Missouri, which could soon be among the minority of states without right-to-work protections for its workers.

“It’s an issue of economics,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO.  “A state’s labor policy is one of the top factors site selectors look to when deciding where to move or expand businesses.  The more favorable a state looks to site selectors, the more jobs that state will have to offer its workers.  It’s also an issue of fairness.  Shouldn’t an employee have the right to decide whether a portion of his or her paycheck goes to a union?”

In Missouri, labor groups can negotiate on behalf of all workers — even those who are not in unions. Employees who are not union members don’t have to pay dues, but they must pay fees to cover the cost of representation — essentially tying them to the groups, even if they want no affiliation.

Twenty-four states currently have right-to-work laws.  In 2013, right-to-work legislation was introduced in 21 states, as well as in the District of Columbia and the U.S. Congress.  Of the states surrounding Missouri, all but Illinois and Kentucky are right-to-work states.

Statistics show that states that have implemented right to work laws are seeing an increase in jobs and worker wages.  According to Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), two years after Indiana passed right to work 64 companies relocated in the Hoosier State.  These companies created 8,000 jobs and $2.5 billion in capital investment.  What’s more, these new jobs paid on average $3.00 more per hour than previous wages.  While the IEDC says the right-to-work law wasn’t the only reason the companies came to Indiana, company executives said they wouldn’t have considered the state without it.

A similar success story hits even closer to home in neighboring state Oklahoma.  The first six months after Oklahoma passed right to work, the state went from 40th in the nation to 1st in job creation, according to the State Chamber of Oklahoma.

“Missouri can’t afford to ignore what is happening in states around us,” Mehan said.  “The most beneficial things we can provide Missouri workers are more job opportunities and that is what this bill would do.  It doesn’t mean we wouldn’t still have unions in Missouri, but the unions will have to work a little harder to earn their fees.”

Unfortunately, 2014 may not be the year this legislation will pass in Missouri.

“This vote makes it clear that we cannot underestimate this issue,” Mehan said.  “The states that have recently passed right-to-work legislation – Michigan, Indiana, Oklahoma – were successful because it was approached strategically and as part of a long-term plan.”

For more information on right to work legislation, contact Jay Atkins, Missouri Chamber general counsel and director of governmental affairs, at jatkins@mochamber.com, or by phone at 573-634-3511.

NEWS RELEASE – Innocent until proven guilty: House votes to extend basic right to all businesses

 Arriving in court, the common assumption is innocence until proven guilty. Yet in Missouri, that right does not always apply to some businesses.

When the Missouri Department of Revenue chooses to take a company to court in a tax dispute, the company is actually presumed guilty unless it can prove otherwise. This unfair standard applies to Missouri companies with more than 500 employees and a net worth of greater than $7 million. All other taxpayers—individuals and smaller companies—are presumed innocent unless the Department of Revenue can establish guilt.

Today, the Missouri House of Representatives voted to end this bias against Missouri’s employers on a vote of 130-13. In approving House Bill 1455, sponsored by Rep. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, Missouri lawmakers are working toward bringing fairness to our state’s tax courts. The bill would allow all Missouri taxpayers to be treated as innocent until proven guilty.

“Fairness is the cornerstone of a functional legal system. Yet, in Missouri’s tax courts, we have different rules depending on who you are. It’s a biased system,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber President and CEO. “We would like to applaud the House for making legal fairness a priority this session, as well as thank the Senators working on a similar measure in that chamber.”

Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, has parallel language in Senate Bill 829. The Senate legislation has been passed by committee and awaits approval by the entire Senate.

 

House committees approve three noteworthy business bills

Three significant business bills passed out of committee in the Missouri House of Representatives this week.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry testified in support of these bills and will continue advocating for their passage as they reach the House floor. Fortunately, two of these bills were passed as “consent,” putting them on the fast track for approval in the House.

In addition to House passage, all three bills must also be approved by the Missouri Senate as well before going to the governor for a final endorsement.

  • Ending the jobs border war with Kansas: HB 1646 and HB1515: This week, the House Special Standing Committee on Small Business passed these bills which seek to end the practice of giving generous relocation incentives to border jumping companies. In House testimony last week, the Hall Family Foundation in Kansas City announced that enticing companies to cross the Missouri/Kansas border, to either side, has cost both states a combined $217 million. The bills are sponsored by Rep. Tim Jones, R-Eureka, and Rep. Kevin McManus, D-Kansas City. They were passed as consent.
  • Funding transportation, HJR 68: With Missouri’s funding for transportation just years away from seeing a huge cut, the Missouri House Committee on Transportation has endorsed a proposal to fund future transportation needs with a 1 percent sales tax. The tax, sponsored by Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, would need approval by Missouri voters and would sunset after 10 years without additional voter approval. Without additional funding, by 2017 Missouri will not have enough funding to continue maintaining our existing infrastructure.
  • Picking up the sales tax tab, HB 1296: It is currently illegal in Missouri for sellers to entice buyers with an offer to pick up the sales tax tab. But House Bill 1296, which was passed as a consent bill this week by the House Ways and Means Committee, would change that. The bill allows these transactions to happen as long as the seller provides an invoice or receipt showing how the sales tax would be absorbed into the total purchase price. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester.

For more information on unclaimed property, please contact Tracy King, vice president of governmental affairs for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, at 573-634-3511 or tking@mochamber.com.

House committee hears legislation that would change prevailing wage laws

The Missouri House Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee took on legislation this week that would reform prevailing wage laws in Missouri.

House Bill 1306, sponsored by Rep. Warren Love, R- Osceola, would change the laws regarding the prevailing hourly rate of wages, and would revise the definition of construction as it relates to prevailing wages on public works projects by removing improvements, alterations, or major repairs and specifies that it does not include maintenance work. Currently the law includes construction, reconstruction, improvement, enlargement, alteration, painting and decorating or major repair.

The Missouri Chamber has a long-standing position against prevailing wage mandates.

“Prevailing wage is a product of a bygone era.  The policy mandates an arbitrary level of wage-setting on public projects,” Jay Atkins, general counsel for the Missouri Chamber, said.  “That mandate is costing taxpayers far greater costs for public projects. In some areas of the state, it could nearly double the wage level on taxpayer-funded projects compared to wages for other local construction projects.”

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