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Mixed bag for business at session's end

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The Missouri General Assembly closed its legislative session May 13, bringing to an end a session that saw myriad business initiatives.

Only two of the "fix the six" initiatives proposed by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce achieved victories during the session.

Gov. Nixon on April 26 signed into law a bill that would eliminate the corporate franchise tax by 2016.

Another bill, focusing on unemployment insurance reform, was signed by Nixon on April 13. The bill temporarily extends the federal unemployment benefit time period to 99 weeks from 79 weeks, with the trade-off being that Missouri would reduce the number of weeks it pays unemployment benefits to 20 weeks from 26 weeks. The move provides annual savings of $108 million, according to a news release from the chamber.

“Senate and House Leadership embraced our unified message for job creation, and focused on the issues that matter to Missouri employers,” Missouri Chamber President and CEO Daniel Mehan said in the release. “In several areas, we got more than we had even hoped.”

Other fix the six initiatives - employment law reform, workers’ compensation reform, tort reform and elimination of the minimum-wage escalator - were not passed into law.

Nearing the end of the session, Missouri lawmakers passed a $23.3 billion budget for the state's fiscal year that starts July 1.

“We began this session with two goals – passing a balanced budget Missouri taxpayers could sustain without a tax increase and putting people back to work,” Senate Leader Robert N. Mayer, R-Dexter, said in a separate news release. "The Senate worked together to pass a balanced budget on time that protects taxpayers, passed four job creation initiatives, restored funding for K-12 busing and higher education, and crafted a new congressional district map that is fair and equitable.”

Two highly touted bills with implications in business did not make it into law despite traction in the Senate. A bill protecting employees from being sued in their roles in workplace accidents did not pass the House, and a bill seeking to change state state laws to mimic federal discrimination employment laws was vetoed by Nixon, the release said.

In another news release, Nixon applauded the extension of the Missouri Rx program, which aids seniors and the disabled in affording prescription medication, and the operations budget.

"We helped countless middle-class families, made it easier for Missouri businesses to create new jobs, stood up for civil rights and kept our fiscal house in order," he said in the release. "While we didn’t get everything done we had hoped, we made steady progress by bringing common-sense folks to the table and crafting solutions.  That’s the Missouri way."

During the session, Springfield Rep. Eric Burlison, a Republican, lead a proposal that would trump federal health care reforms, overturning the federal health insurance mandate. The bill was passed by the House 105-52 on March 31 and by the Senate 31-3 on April 27.
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