Legislative News

 

State senators spent the first two days of session this week debating legislation that will discourage frivolous lawsuits against Missouri’s employers and restore balance to our discrimination laws. After a combined 17 hours of floor debate and numerous discussions that took place off the Senate floor, a compromise was reached, and the Senate gave its approval to Senate Bill 43.

Currently, under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), an employee only has to prove that race, religion or another protected trait was a contributing factor in their employer’s decision to discriminate. By requiring such a low standard of proof, Missouri’s business community has repeatedly been exposed to costly and time-consuming frivolous lawsuits. If SB 43 is signed into law, employees will have to meet a higher standard by demonstrating that their protected status was a motivating factor in their termination or discrimination, not simply a contributing factor. As part of a compromise, language requiring an employee to prove their protected class was the sole reason they were fired or discriminated against was removed.

Language prohibiting state employees and employees of political subdivisions from being awarded punitive damages in MHRA cases was also dropped. Finally, the caps on punitive damages for the largest employers — those with more than 500 employees — was raised from $300,000 to $500,000.

Senate Bill 43 will help curb judicial overreach and restore fairness to Missouri’s discrimination laws. By ensuring our laws work for both the employer and the employee, we will create a more balanced legal system and a business environment that attracts and retains job creators. I am proud of how members on both sides of the aisle worked together to get SB 43 to a place where it was more palatable to its opponents yet still maintained its original integrity. Senate Bill 43 has one more hurdle to clear in the Senate before it can make its way to the House.

Also this week, the Senate passed several Consent bills, which are non-controversial in nature and do not increase or decrease net expenditures or revenue of the state by more than $100,000. In addition, Consent bills cannot increase an existing civil or criminal penalty or create a new civil or criminal penalty.

Pictured above, Sen. Ron Richard with members of the Jasper County 4-H Club in the Senate chamber Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Senate Bill 217 expands a current tax credit of up to $2,500 for donated food or cash to a local food pantry in a taxpayer’s area of residence to include donations to local soup kitchens or homeless shelters.

We also passed Senate Bill 252. Under current law, corporations and associations owned and operated by religious or sectarian groups are exempted from the MHRA. Senate Bill 252 also exempts corporations or associations owned or operated by religious or sectarian organizations.

Finally, I was happy to welcome members from the Jasper County 4-H club to the Capitol on Tuesday.

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