Missouri Legislative Session Adjourns – Winning Session for Home Builders!

On Friday, May 13, Missouri’s legislators wrapped up a session focused on job creation and economic development.

“The HBA’s strong focus on educating legislators regarding the job-killing effect of mandatory residential fire sprinklers helped legislation to prohibit mandating sprinklers pass early in the session without getting bogged down by amendments or other obstacles that often kill even the best proposals,” said HBA CEO Matt Morrow. “That’s quite a testament to the effectiveness of our lobbying team and the strength of your relationships with area legislators including House Speaker Pro Tem Shane Schoeller. Many other pro-business measures supported by multiple business advocacy groups were not as fortunate.”

Among those that did not pass was Senate Bill 8, sponsored by area Senator Jack Goodman, which would have made definitional changes to a law passed in 2005 that changed the workers’ compensation landscape but resulted in unintended consequences after a 2007 court decision. The measure was one of the issues that died on the legislature’s last day. The workers’ compensation makeover would have made it unlawful for employees who were hurt on the job to sue fellow employees. Under the law, only an employer would be protected from providing additional benefits after workers’ compensation benefits are granted, the court ruled. The warning from business is that, if not revised, an increased financial liability is posed not just for workers but also for managers and business owners for injuries that, in the past, had been covered by a state program for injured workers. Adding to the workers’ compensation reform, the business coalition also proposed the inclusion of occupational diseases’ claims in the workers’ compensation system, preventing a worker from suing an employer for extra damage awards for an occupational disease in some cases. “We were very supportive of Senator Goodman’s effort to fix this detrimental problem,” said Morrow. “It will certainly be among our priorities next year and hopefully it will have a better opportunity to pass in 2012.”

The legislature passed a bill to address Missouri’s lower threshold for employer liability under the Missouri Human Rights Act. The legislation would have made it harder for employees to prove discrimination in the workplace and would cap damages awarded in such cases. The issue plowed through the House with a 107-56 vote and the Senate with 26-8, but once it was on his desk, Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill. On the positive side, legislators passed a bill to cap the franchise tax charged to some of Missouri’s larger companies and phase it out over time. Missouri’s franchise tax coincided with a corporate business tax. Missouri was one of a few states that imposed both a corporate income tax and a franchise tax, which opponents said was a form of double taxation. This bill was signed by the Governor and it is estimated it will save Missouri businesses more than $80 million.

A bill designed to protect homeowners from unscrupulous business practices of “storm chasing” roofing and exterior repair contractors was truly agreed and finally passed this session. “We certainly hope the legislation has this desired effect,” said Morrow. “However, there are details in it that we will be monitoring to see if they create unintended negative consequences for professional contractors who are operating in good faith. The bill may well need to be re-visited next session.” The final version of this legislation can be reviewed at http://www.senate.mo.gov/11info/pdf-bill/tat/SB101.pdf.

The HBA’s Ozarks Regional Housing and Construction Conference on May 25 will feature a session with an update from Rep. Shane Schoeller regarding legislation such as this that passed this session which impacts the industry and/or small business generally.  To learn more about the conference or to register online, click here.