GOP ponders next move on business legislation

Republican lawmakers in Missouri are trying to decide what they will do next on two pieces of business legislation recently vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

One measure would require workers who bring wrongful termination lawsuits to prove discrimination was a “motivating factor” — not simply a contributing factor— in the employer’s action. If an employer were to wrongfully discriminate, the legislation would cap the amount of punitive damages a plaintiff could recover at $300,000 or less, depending on the size of their former employer.

The other bill Nixon vetoed would include occupational diseases under the workers’ compensation system, instead of allowing such claims to be decided in court. It would also prevent employees from suing each other for on-the-job injuries. Such claims would also be moved to the workers’ compensation system.

Republicans have identified both bills as legislative priorities, saying they would make Missouri more business-friendly and spur job creation because entrepreneurs and companies looking to expand into the state would feel that they face less risk of being involved in costly, time-consuming litigation.

But Democrats, including Nixon, say the

changes in both measures would be deeply unfair to workers and make it harder for them to seek legal redress. Further, Democrats contend that companies could end up viewing the limited settlements with workers who have been hurt or discriminated against as a simple cost of doing business and not an incentive to change their behavior.

House and Senate leaders now have a few different options for responding to the governor’s rejections.

First, the chambers could try to override the vetoes. That would require a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate on each bill.

Republicans hold a veto-proof 26-8 majority in the Senate and all 26 GOP senators voted in favor of both bills that Nixon ultimately vetoed. This past week, Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said that his chamber was considering override votes, especially on the workers’ compensation bill.

But bringing up the wrongful discrimination legislation could be problematic. That’s because state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, has already filibustered such legislation twice and has vowed to do so if it comes back up in the Senate.

House Speaker Steven Tilley appears to have ruled out override votes in his chamber as a waste of time, as neither bill got a veto-proof majority in that chamber.

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