It’s past the halfway point for Missouri’s legislative session, and things are looking largely positive for the state’s small business owners. Here’s a look at the status of a few key issues.
Senate Bill 546—Venue Shopping
Under current venue reform law, plaintiff lawyers can search the state to find the most sympathetic courtroom and the most lenient judges for their case. This loophole is known as unlimited joinder. Often, this means that plaintiff lawyers sue businesses in St. Louis, where they can get the biggest settlements. This is unfair to businesses, and it undermines the state’s business environment. SB 546, however, would close this loophole. NFIB members showed up to support this one, both on Small Business Day at the capitol and via phone calls and emails. The measure is currently pending in the Senate.
House Bill 1729—Prevailing Wage
After varying levels of prevailing wage reform have floated around for years, this year a full repeal is advancing. Under current law, contractors and subcontractors working on public works projects are required to pay employees the prevailing wage for the particular locality where the project is located. HB 1729, however, would repeal Missouri’s prevailing wage law and require contractors and subcontractors to pay employees the state or federal minimum wage, whichever is higher. This bill has passed the House and is currently with the Senate.
Senate Bill 608—Premises Liability
SB 608, which passed the Senate and was recently heard by the House Litigation Reform Committee, would create the Business Premises Safety Act. Under this legislation, businesses would only have the duty to guard against criminal or harmful acts occurring on their premises if they know or have reason to know about such acts being committed and there is sufficient time to prevent it. In cases where the business does have a duty to guard against such acts, they are not liable if they have implemented reasonable security measures; the claimant was a trespasser, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or was attempting to commit a felony; and the acts occurred outside of business hours.
House Bill 1409—Unemployment Trust Fund
This bill would amend the maximum total unemployment compensation benefits that workers may receive. Currently, the maximum total may not exceed 20 times a worker’s weekly benefit amount of 33 1/3 percent of their wage credits. HB 1409 would repeal that and limit benefits to a sliding scale from 13 weeks to 20 weeks, depending on whether the Missouri average unemployment rate is below 6 percent or 9 percent or higher. HB 1409 has passed the House and is currently with the Senate.