(The weekly column of Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin)
Last week, the Senate approved Senate Bill 572, which modifies the law relating to workers’ compensation. The legislation returns workers’ compensation as the exclusive remedy for workplace accidents. Under the bill, no civil action for injury or death can proceed until all administrative remedies are exhausted. By reducing the cost of lawsuits for businesses, those funds can be reinvested in expanding and creating additional jobs.
The bill also protects co-workers from being found personally liable for honest workplace accidents, abrogating, or abolishing, a 2010 appellate court decision. If approved by the House and signed by the governor, co-workers could no longer be sued for their part in the work injury of another employee, unless their actions are proven to be purposely done to cause harm. Senate Bill 572 now goes to the House for consideration.
Missouri recently received $196 million from a national settlement between 49 states and five of the largest mortgage lenders in the country. The case stemmed from accusations the lenders were robo-signing foreclosure notices, allowing employees to sign off on documents without verifying information. A large portion of the settlement, around $100 million, will go to helping homeowners.
The governor also announced, however, that he will amend his budget to have $40 million of the settlement go to higher education. This was a welcome bit of good news to Missouri’s public universities and colleges. The governor’s FY 2013 budget included sharp cuts to higher education, around $106 million, or 12. 5 percent. With the additional mortgage settlement funds, the cuts will be reduced to $66 million, or around 9 percent. This will help universities curb some of their planned tuition increases.
However, the settlement funds are a one-time fix, and if we’re not able to create more jobs and bring in additional state revenue, we’re going to continue having problems funding the critical functions of state government, including higher education.
I filed a bill this session aimed at fostering job creation in Missouri while bringing in additional state revenue. Senate Bill 588, which was combined with Senate Bill 585, would create a tax incentive to attract amateur sporting events to Missouri. These events, such as college championship games, are a financial boost to the cities that host them. By bringing more of these games to Missouri, we not only attract attention to our area, we help bolster our state’s economy through tourism dollars. As we continue to face budget shortfalls, it is important to find ways to bring in additional revenue. The bill has been passed out of committee and awaits debate on the Senate floor.