Legislative agenda

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Last Tuesday, on the eve to the start of Missouri's legislative session, a coalition of Missouri business leaders led by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry announced their legislative agenda for 2011.

In addition to the chamber, other statewide organizations in the coalition include: the Missouri National Federation of Independent Businesses, Associated Industries of Missouri, Missouri Merchants and Manufacturers Association, Missouri Grocers Association, Missouri Restaurant Association and Associated General Contractors of Missouri.

The coalition's plan, titled "Fix the Six," highlights six key areas to improve economic growth and job creation in Missouri.

The agenda items include: employment law reform, workers' compensation reform, tort reform, capping corporate franchise taxes, eliminating the minimum wage escalator and unemployment insurance reform.

While a more detailed explanation of the plan can be found on the Missouri Chamber's website, here's a brief look at each item:

* In an effort to make Missouri a more employer- friendly state, the first agenda item promotes reforming employment law, particularly the Missouri Human Rights Act. According to the group, MHRA has been interpreted in ways that skew more to the advantage of plaintiffs than the federal statutes.

* To protect those in supervisory positions from the unintended consequences of 2005 workers' compensation reforms, the coalition is advocating for legislation that would make the appropriate changes necessary to confirm the prior law's intent.

* To put Missouri on a level playing field with other states, the coalition seeks to cap the current franchise tax and eventually phase it out.

* The elimination of the minimum wage escalator is the fourth agenda item. According to the group, this automatic adjustment could raise Missouri's minimum wage to a level higher than federal minimums.

* The coalition is seeking tort reform to reflect a more fair appropriation of legal costs. Instead of one business being held responsible for the entire cost of litigation if they are 51 percent or more at fault in a case, the group suggests allocating costs based upon the percentage of fault by each party.

* The final item seeks a provision to lengthen the term of bonding to repay federal unemployment insurance loans. According to the coalition, this will protect Missouri's Federal Unemployment Tax Act tax credits and reduce interest costs.

Each of these items is revenue-neutral -- a critical component as lawmakers look to make the state's budget as lean as possible.

The coalition is to be commended for presenting a bold but responsible legislative agenda.

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