Crowell outlines state priorities at Cape business luncheon

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The budget, tort reform, overhauling workers' compensation laws and rewriting the state's school foundation formula are top priorities in Jefferson City, state. Sen. Jason Crowell told a group of local business owners Friday.

"Each and every one of these issues are vital to your success as a business owner," Crowell told the group at a luncheon in downtown Cape Girardeau.

Crowell said that the leaders in the legislature are committed to not raising taxes.

"We've made the tough decisions not to raise taxes," he said. "We want to craft a budget that lives within our means. The less we take the more you have. We realize you know what it's like to endorse the front of a check instead of just the back."

He also said that even the foundation formula for schools would affect business. The new formula being proposed by the legislature would lift all school districts to minimum spending of $6,117 per student.

"You can't run a business unless you have a good, well-trained, prepared work force," he said. "We want to improve the employee pool you have to draw from."

Workers' compensation is also going to get addressed during this session, Crowell said. For example, it would set a finer line between what a work-related injury is, he said.

"If you trip and fall in the parking lot walking into work, right now that's a compensable injury," he said. "But that's a risk of life. It's not a risk inherent with employment."

Tort reform will happen, too, he said. One change that is to be made involves venue. Under new proposals, lawsuits would have to be filed where they happened as opposed to having them moved to areas of the state known for giving big awards.

Assigning responsibility in civil suits also must change, Crowell said. Under existing law, a feature called "joint and several liability" can force a defendant who is only partly responsible for an injury to be held liable for all damages if other defendants are unable to pay.

"If you are 1 percent at fault, you can be held responsible for 100 percent of the liability," he said. "You have a gun to your head and you have to settle because you can't take the risk."

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