MSIA Legislative Report - February 15, 2013
SENATE FLOOR ACTION
Workers' Compensation, SIF & Occupational Diseases
Workers' Compensation/SIF reform, as contained in SB 1, was brought back up for debate Tuesday afternoon. If you recall, the bill was laid over with Senator Walsh's SA 3 pending as well as Rupp's substitute. Following the withdrawal of Walsh's amendment, Rupp withdrew Senate Substitute #1 then offered Senate Substitute #2.
Senator Rupp went on to highlight the changes in the substitute. Among the changes was an expanded benefit for OD due to toxic exposure equal to 200% of the state's average weekly wage for 225 weeks. For mesothelioma cases, when the employer is an asbestos manufacturer, an additional amount of 200% of the state's average weekly wage for 225 weeks shall be paid by the employer.
Furthermore, mesothelioma, asbestosis, berylliosis (aluminum disease), coal worker's pneumoconiosis, brochiolitis obliterans, silicosis, silicotuberculosis, manganism, acute myelogenous leukemia, and myelodysplastic syndrome are added to the definition of diseases due to toxic exposure. It's thought the original language indicated the list of diseases was not exclusive, meaning additional diseases could be added by the courts as they rule on the law. This was the rationale behind SA 3, which adds "only."
Anumber of amendments were then offered including the following:
SA 1 adding emergency clause to the funding mechanism for the enhanced benefit - adopted by a voice vote
SA 2 sectional reference trying to clarify where the enhanced benefit is coming from - adopted by a voice vote
SA 3 - adds "only" to clarify those diseases listed is the exact list of those to be considered in the definition of toxic disease - adopted by a voice vote
SA 4 Walsh - two technical changes which Rupp spoke in support of - adopted by a voice vote
SA 5 Walsh - ensures those to receive the payment for toxic diseases will do so. Rupp spoke in support of the amendment - adopted by a voice vote
SA 6 Walsh - giving the option for employees with toxic diseases to take their cases to civil court folks that work for manufactures that made asbestos. Senator Rupp spoke in opposition to the amendment specific to moving all meso cases to the top tier - defeated by a voice vote
SA 7 Sifton - doubles the enhanced remedy in terms of weeks and removes the restriction of mesothelioma remedy for manufacturers of asbestos - withdrawn
SA 8 Rupp - an additional amount of three hundred percent of the state's average weekly wage for one hundred ninety-one weeks would be paid for meso. So, for meso diseases, an employee would receive the first tier ayment of $150,000 plus the upper tier totaling $600,000. In other words, Senator Rupp's amendment allots an additional $85,000 - approved by a voice vote
Seeing no further comments or amendments, the bill was Perfected by a voice vote round 8:30 p.m.. The bill later received final approval by the Senate on Thursday by a vote of 33-1.
Disqualification of Unemployment Benefits
SS#1 for SB 28 (Kraus) received initial approval Wednesday followed by final approval Thursday by a vote of 32-2. The bill redefines "misconduct" for which an employee may be disqualified from unemployment benefits. Currently, misconduct includes a wanton or willful disregard of the employer's interest and a disregard of standards of behavior the employer has the right to respect. The act changes that standard to a knowing disregard of that interest and a knowing violation of the standards the employer expects. Currently, an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer's interest or of the employer's duties and obligations to the employer also qualifies as misconduct. The act changes that standard to a knowing disregard of such interests, duties and obligations. Currently, a deliberate violation of the employer's rules constitutes misconduct. Under the act, a violation of an employer's rule is misconduct unless the employee demonstrates that he or she did not know and could not reasonably know the requirement or the rule is unlawful.
Misconduct also includes a violation of a no-call, no-show policy, chronic absenteeism, tardiness, unapproved absences following a written warning, and a knowing violation of a state standard or regulation of an employee of a licensed employer which would cause the employer to be sanctioned.
The misconduct standard shall apply irrespective of whether it occurs at the workplace or during work hours.
Currently, employees are disqualified from benefits if they voluntarily leave work without good cause. The act defines "good cause" as that which would compel a reasonable employee to cease working or which would require separation from work due to illness or disability.
One change was made during debate, as requested by the Missouri Department of Labor, adding language to put the bill in compliance with the federal government.
HOUSE FLOOR ACTION
HCS for HBs 256, 33, 305 (Hoskins) titled Open Meetings and Records Law received initial approval on Tuesday followed by final approval on Thursday by a vote of 148-3.
The companion bill in the Senate, SB 139 (Kehoe), also received initial approval on Tuesday followed by final approval on Thursday by a vote of 34-0. Both bills modify provisions of Missouri's open records law, commonly known as the Sunshine Law, regarding bases for closing a record, meeting or vote. Certain bases for closure relating to operational guidelines and security systems expired on December 31, 2012. This act extends the sunset to December 17, 2017. This act contains an emergency clause.
SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION
Among the bills voted out of the Senate Small Business, Insurance, and Industry Committee was SB 34 (Cunningham) which requires the Division of Workers' Compensation to develop and maintain a workers' compensation claims database.
Attached is a current Bill Status and Summary Report.