Nixon vetoes Republican backed business bills
March 16, 2012 - 10:03pm — Anonymous
Story by Dick Aldrich
Gov. Jay Nixon Friday vetoed two pieces of pro-business legislation that Republican lawmakers and Missouri business groups had made a high priority this year.
Nixon vetoed House Bill 1219, which would effectively roll back Missouri’s workplace discrimination standards. The legislation seeks to bring Missouri standards on worker discrimination in line with federal law. Currently under Missouri law, a finding against an employer can occur if a court finds that discrimination against an employee is a contributing factor in a job action. The federal law states that discrimination must be motivating factor.
Business groups argued that the current standard is too low and leads to too many findings against businesses. Critics of the legislation said that the sought to turn the pendulum too far back towards employers after years of court cases that established the current standard.
The legislation set off bitter debate on both the House and Senate floor and led to a 15-hour filibuster in the Senate, led by Sen. Maria Chapelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis.
The bill is similar to legislation vetoed by Nixon last summer, something he noted in a media statement released with the veto announcement.
“House Bill 1219 is nearly identical to a bill I vetoed last year because it would undermine the Missouri Human Rights Act and decades of progress on civil rights,” the governor said. “This bill contains those same fundamental flaws. Rather than making it easier to discriminate against people with disabilities or cancer, or against women, older workers and minorities, we need to keep our focus on the economic policies that are moving us forward...”
The other bill vetoed by Nixon is SB 572, legislation aimed at moving workers’ compensation laws back to standards set by state statutes passed in 2005. The bill places co-employee liability and occupational disease coverage back into the workers’ comp system. Business groups say current court interpretations on these two issues open businesses up for frivolous lawsuits.
But Nixon disagreed. In his statement, Nixon said SB 572 would take away important workplace safety protections.
“We also should not take a step back in protecting workers who are afflicted with serious or deadly diseases, as a result of their workplaces,” Nixon said. “Unfortunately, this bill weakens the important workplace protections that are part of our laws and regulations. As is the case with the employment discrimination bill, we have to stay focused on the priorities that are truly aiding and moving forward with our economy. This bill moves us backward on protecting Missouri’s productive workers.”
A coalition of business groups led by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce has heavily backed both bills among their list of priority legislation for the 2012 session of the General Assembly.
The business groups argue that the laws’ current interpretations make the business climate in Missouri less inviting than neighboring states. Nixon addressed that argument.
“Our economy is growing, our unemployment rate is at its best level since 2008, we had a record number of exports last year, and we’ve seen a growth in manufacturing jobs,” Nixon said. “With the clear progress we’re making, let’s not get sidetracked by bills that regress on discrimination and don’t help our economy.”
Spokesmen for some of the business groups said they were reviewing the governor’s actions and would not comment until later Friday.
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