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Unemployment, casino bills among new Missouri laws

Unemployment, casino bills among new Missouri laws

August 29th, 2014 in News

Wealthy gamblers could find it easier to make big bets at Missouri casinos while some fired employees could encounter greater difficulties getting jobless benefits as a result of some of the many new state laws that took effect Thursday.

The Missouri Constitution sets Thursday as the standard effective date for laws passed during the annual legislative session that ended in May, unless the bills specifically set earlier or later starting dates.

Some of this year's most high-profile measures contained clauses delaying their effect until future years, including a rewrite of the state's criminal laws and a gradual income tax cut that won't kick in until at least 2017.

A new law requiring teenagers younger than 17 to get written parental consent to use tanning beds also apparently will be delayed by several months. It contained wording requiring the state health department to first adopt a rule creating a standardized consent form.

A health department spokesman said the proposed rule was being filed Thursday with the secretary of state's office. The proposal will have to be published, undergo a public comment period and published again, which could delay the distribution of the youth-tanning-permission forms into 2015.

Other highly publicized measures, such as new abortion restrictions and special business tax breaks, were vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon and would take effect only if lawmakers vote to override him during a Sept. 10 session.

The bills on casino wagering and unemployment benefits were neither signed nor vetoed by Nixon. But under the Missouri Constitution, those measures also took effect Thursday along with scores of other bills that Nixon did sign.

Casinos will now be able to extend a line of credit of $10,000 or more to high-stakes gamblers who don't want to carry a briefcase full of cash around with them. The Missouri casino industry had lobbied for the bill, asserting that some wealthy tourists were taking their betting to places such as Illinois, Nevada or New Jersey where such perks already are in place.

"It's going to be a convenience that we can offer to some of our patrons," said Mike Winter, executive director of the Missouri Gaming Association.

The new unemployment law expands the definition of workplace misconduct, thus narrowing the instances in which fired employees can qualify to collect jobless benefits. Among other things, the law specifically includes absences, tardiness and actions that occur outside the workplace or normal working hours within the definition of misconduct that can serve as a reason for an employee's dismissal and subsequent rejection for benefits.

The new law was backed by Republican lawmakers and business groups who contend that court rulings had gradually eroded Missouri's previous law allowing unemployment benefits to be denied for misconduct.

The new law will "ensure employees who are fired for willfully breaking workplace rules are not rewarded with unemployment compensation," the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry said.