Missouri Chamber president presents business legislative priorities at Cape appearance

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Changes to workers' compensation law, tort reform and employment law reforms top the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry's lobbying agenda in the 2012 legislative session.

State chamber president Dan Mehan spoke to local business leaders at the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce's First Friday Coffee on Friday about what lawmakers accomplished last year and what business law changes are likely to be debated this year in the Missouri Legislature.

The elimination of Missouri's corporate franchise tax and a reduction in unemployment benefits passed last session will save the state's employers more than $200 million annually, Mehan said.

Business groups viewed the franchise tax as excessive because businesses pay the tax on assets and inventory in addition to property and income taxes.

"In our view it was a pinprick of a tax that cost you just to be in business in the state of Missouri. It was double taxation," Mehan said.

Senate Bill 19 reduces the franchise tax for the next several years before eliminating it for the 2016 tax year. The bill also freezes what businesses are required to pay under the tax so that firms would not pay more than what they paid in 2009.

Changes to Missouri's unemployment insurance program will also save businesses money in the coming year. The state will reduce the number of weeks it pays unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 20 weeks.

"While there were some things that didn't pass, there were some very real successes," Mehan said.

The Missouri chamber, with 3,000 members, is the largest business organization in the state and has four paid lobbyists who work to persuade legislators to create a better business climate in the state.

This session they will work toward bills to keep workplace injury disputes out of the courts and to make it more difficult for workers to bring employment discrimination suits.

Workers' compensation reforms to be pushed include a proposal to prohibit employees from suing co-workers over on-the-job injuries and specifying that occupational diseases should not be covered by the state's workers' compensation system.

Last year, Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed legislation passed by the House and Senate to change to the state's employment laws and bring Missouri in line with the federal Civil Rights Act. Under Missouri's Human Rights Act, discrimination must be a contributing factor in the case for an employer to be liable. Federal law sets a higher standard, saying discrimination must be the motivating factor. The vetoed bill also would have capped damages in employment discrimination lawsuits.

"We're trying to work with the governor to again try to get language that we can reach consensus on," Mehan said.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

1333 N Sprigg St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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