At the halfway point of the session after the Missouri Legislature returned from spring break, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry issued a report highlighting issues affecting the business community.
The legislature’s 2018 session is scheduled to close May 18.
Below are summaries of key actions identified by the state chamber.
1. Legal reform
Topping the chamber’s list is legal reform by way of House Bill 1578. The bill, which passed the House and was sent to the Senate, would change the state’s venue and joinder laws to stop thousands of cases from being transferred to Missouri by joining them with other cases.
2. Transportation infrastructure investment
The 21st Century Missouri Transportation System Task Force in January issued a three-pronged report with possible solutions to aid the state’s ailing transportation system. The chamber supports Missouri House bills that would adjust fuel tax rates for inflation.
3. Computer science education
Legislation has passed the Senate and House that would incentivize additional Missouri high school students to take computer science courses. Under the legislation, the courses would count toward graduation as a math, science or elective requirement — a move the chamber views as crucial toward filling 10,000 open computer science jobs in Missouri.
4. Visiting scholars
Legislation was sent to Gov. Eric Greitens’ desk that would allow business professionals to receive a one-year visiting scholar certificate when meeting with students for potential job opportunities. The chamber indicates the legislation would aid Center for Advanced Professional Studies programs throughout Missouri.
5. Tax reform
A House bill sponsored by Rep. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, is in committee and another bill in the Senate is being debated related to Missouri tax reform. Haahr’s proposal would reduce the corporate tax rate to 5 percent from 6.25 percent and eliminate the top two income tax brackets for individuals.
6. Modernizing utilities
Legislation passed the Senate and was sent to the House that’s designed to allow utility customers to receive the full benefits possible under tax reform passed at the federal level. The chamber points to the potential for more than $100 million in savings for Missouri residents.
7. Asbestos system
A bill making headway in the legislature would prohibit trial lawyers from using “double-dipping” practices on future claimants in cases related to the asbestos trust system. The legislation passed the House and was sent to the Senate.
8. Jobless benefits
Both the House and Senate are working on legislation that would tie the length of jobless benefits to the unemployment rate. It also would raise the jobless benefits fund’s threshold before rate reductions occur.
9. Workforce training and taxes
Legislators seek to extend the existing Missouri Works and Missouri Works Training programs through 2030. Missouri Works allows employers to keep a portion of their withholding taxes, and Missouri Works Training incentivizes businesses to expand by offsetting training costs. The Senate bill is sponsored by Sen. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa.
10. Crimes on business properties
Current law puts companies at risk of being held liable when crimes are committed on their properties by third parties. Legislation that passed the Senate and moved to the House would protect businesses from liability in such incidents.
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