February 2nd, 2017
Missouri Senator Ron Richard’s “Capitol Report” 02/02/17
The Senate continued working this week to make Missouri a more business-friendly state and improve our legal climate. The most notable success came on Thursday, when the Legislature sent Senate Bill 19 to the governor’s desk. Upon the governor’s signature, Missouri will become the 28th Right to Work state, ending forced unionism and helping to create a more competitive business climate.
Right to Work is an issue I have been working on for close to 16 years, with many coming before me who worked on it even longer. We have not just been fighting for more jobs. We have been fighting simply for the chance to be considered by companies looking to relocate. Regardless of what you may think of Right to Work, I believe today’s success sends a message to the people outside of our state, looking inward, that Missouri is serious about transforming the way it does business.
On a personal note, today has certainly been one of the great highlights of my career — if nothing else happens, I will still be pleased. While I wish we could have passed Right to Work 15 years ago, I have to say this day has certainly been worth waiting for. The governor called on his way back from southwest Missouri to offer his congratulations to both chambers, and I look forward to seeing SB 19 signed into law within the coming week.
Also on Thursday, the Senate gave its approval to legislation that aims to restore fairness to personal injury litigation and reduce the cost of insurance for doctors and businesses. Senate Bill 31 modifies provisions relating to the collateral source rule and provides that parties may introduce evidence of the actual cost, rather than the value, of the medical care rendered. Missouri lawmakers passed identical legislation last year, which was vetoed by the governor.
In 2005, the General Assembly passed a comprehensive tort reform bill that, among other things, aimed to fairly compensate injured parties for their medical expenses. The intent was always to allow an injured party to recover the actual cost of their medical bills, or the true dollar amount they paid. However, in 2010, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in Deck V. Teasley that the 2005 tort bill allowed plaintiffs to introduce evidence of the total amount they were billed, not just the amount that was actually paid. Over the years, this has resulted in plaintiffs trying to recover compensation for medical expenses they were never required to pay. To complicate matters, juries do not always see the actual cost a plaintiff paid; they only see
the full-billed amount and often award “phantom damages” as a result.
Very simply, SB 31 establishes that the appropriate recovery for medical expenses is the actual amount paid, not the value. This legislation ensures injured parties will be compensated for their out-of-pocket medical costs while restoring fairness to personal injury litigation. Furthermore, SB 31 does not affect a plaintiff’s ability to recover other forms of damages such as pain and suffering and lost wages. By reducing the cost of insurance for Missouri doctors and businesses, health care providers will be able to pass those cost savings on to consumers. More importantly, it increases our ability to attract top-rated physicians to the Show-Me State.
The Senate also voted this week to perfect Senate Bill 16. This legislation seeks to roll back government overreach by exempting delivery charges from sales and use taxes. Historically, sales and use tax has never been applied to delivery fees in Missouri. Then, in January 2015, the Supreme Court of Missouri ruled in Alberici Constructors, Inc. v. Director of Revenue that charges for delivery of a rented crane are subject to tax because the parties intended for delivery of the crane to be part of the crane rental. The court’s ruling effectively opened the door for taxes to be applied to delivery charges. As a result of this change, the DOR sent a letter to Missouri business owners notifying them that they may have to start collecting and remitting tax on delivery charges.
Simply by sending the letter, the DOR was able to start collecting this new tax. Unfortunately, although unsurprisingly, this latest move by the DOR has led to a considerable amount of confusion for Missouri’s business community, who do not know if they should start collecting a tax that has yet to be uniformly applied or collected. Senate Bill 16 will put into statute the rule that was previously used by the DOR to determine how delivery charges are taxed. In doing so, it will protect Missouri business owners — especially our small business owners — from another egregious attempt by the DOR to generate revenue at their expense.
And last but certainly not least, I was happy to welcome a number of area students to the Capitol this week. Brandon Jordon and Deven Kimsey were visiting as part of Family, Career and Community Leaders of America’s legislative shadowing program. FCCLA is a national career and technical student organization that provides personal growth and leadership development opportunities.
Also this week, the Senate recognized several students who are currently participating in the state Historical Society’s premier educational program, National History Day in Missouri. This innovative program lets students in grades six through 12 explore the past in a creative, hands-on way. They become experts on a historical subject of their choosing while conducting extensive research to produce a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance or website.
Statewide, more than 3,000 students participate each year. Nearly 600 compete in the state contest at the University of Missouri in Columbia, and top finishers advance to represent the Show-Me State in the Kenneth E. Behring National Contest in the D.C. area. In my district, I am proud to say Nian Wheeler of Joplin High School and Grace Carter of College Heights Christian School are currently participating in this year’s contest.
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