In lobbying, size equals strength. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry is Missouri largest statewide employer organization, representing 3,000 employers that provide jobs for more than 425,000 employees. That makes the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry one of the most powerful forces lobbying at our state capitol, working with government agencies, and representing business in our courts.
The Missouri Chamber’s Legislative Agenda is an outline of where we plan to focus our efforts during the current Legislative Session. The agenda represents the interests, concerns and positions of our members and encompasses positive reforms to create an improved business climate for Missouri. The Missouri Chamber governmental affairs staff will carry this agenda to our state capitol and work with legislative members to achieve positive reforms.
Civil Justice Agenda
One of the biggest challenges to strengthening Missouri’s business climate is the need for continued, meaningful legal reform. The U.S. tort system costs more than $247 billion each year, or $825 per person. The price tag for businesses alone in America is a staggering $160 billion each year. The plaintiffs’ bar is intent on increasing the amount of time employers spend in court, and each year dangerous, anti-business legislation is pushed by this powerful special interest. While the civil justice reforms passed in 2005 were a step in the right direction, we must be diligent in upholding these reforms and protecting Missouri employers against new threats.
Economic Development, Small Business and Life Sciences
The Missouri Chamber has helped make great strides in recent legislative sessions to secure solid economic development legislation. In the current Legislative Session, the Missouri Chamber will build on that success. The Missouri Chamber supports improving the corporate environment and removing potential barriers facing new business development and the growth of existing businesses in our state. By continuing to monitor successful job creation and growth incentive programs and encouraging the development of new business attraction programs, Missouri’s business climate will continue to improve.
Entrepreneurial and small business development are also critical to economic development in our state. Providing a framework to develop and cultivate these relationships is imperative to economic development -- whether it be increasing access and improving technological advancements, providing incentives for investment in small businesses, increasing financial support for emerging industries, such as the life sciences, or linking venture capitalists with researchers and entrepreneurs.
Education and Workforce Development Agenda
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry recognizes that the strength of the state’s economy and ability of its workforce to compete on a global scale rests on the quality of the state’s education system. The state and the business community fail when students are not challenged to succeed. That’s why it is important that the business and education communities work together to improve the overall performance of Missouri schools. The Missouri Chamber has worked to bring together an alliance of leaders from business, education and state government to identify ways to work together on improving education.
In the upcoming Legislative Session, the Missouri Chamber will champion efforts to preserve a healthy environment and to protect Missouri’s natural resources. The Missouri Chamber will work with the public sector to ensure that efforts to achieve these goals do not put businesses in Missouri at an economic disadvantage over companies residing in other states. We support the idea that sound environmental practice is good economic practice as long as the costs of a particular regulatory action and its expected benefits are balanced with the expenditures of public and private resources. The Missouri Chamber will also advocate for environmental standards that are based on scientifically sound, transparent, and peer-reviewed facts, and that the costs are borne equitably.
Health Care Agenda
Lawmakers must be ready to act on another important employer issue in the upcoming legislative session – health care. Sweeping federal legislation has put the spotlight on health care, and Missouri employers are at the center of that debate. Skyrocketing health insurance costs are driving employers out of the insurance market. This should be a sobering fact for policy makers, as employers foot the bill for 59 percent of Missourians covered by health insurance. For this reason, the Missouri Chamber insists that any health care debate includes more ways to make health insurance affordable for Missouri employers.
Taxation and Budget Agenda
In order to stimulate the growth of our existing companies and attract new jobs to Missouri, the Missouri Chamber will continue to fight to eliminate unnecessary tax burdens that hinder Missouri employers. The Missouri Chamber has long been the champion for holding the line on employer taxes, by advocating reform that is broad-based, simplifies administration, and minimizes the shift of the tax burden on Missouri employers. The Missouri Chamber will continue to work for tax policy that promotes business activity in Missouri -- which ultimately raises tax revenues for the state.
With dozens of clear streams to float, caves to explore and a number of great entertainment nightspots and wineries, the Show-Me state is the destination for travelers looking for relaxation and adventure. In fact, tourism is one of the state’s most lucrative industries. It has a total economic impact of more than $13 billion. Plus, the industry employs nearly 300,000 Missourians. That’s why the Missouri Chamber encourages greater investment in the state’s Division of Tourism. In recent legislative sessions, the Missouri Chamber successfully supported an increase to the Division of Tourism budget and other key legislation such as establishing a uniform school start date. The Missouri Chamber will continue to champion this important sector of our economy.
Transportation is a critical factor in maintaining the future economic vitality of Missouri. Our geographic advantage as a transportation hub is in serious jeopardy if we allow Missouri’s transportation system to deteriorate. National reports estimate that the state faces a transportation funding shortfall of billions of dollars over the next twenty years. Facing this staggering figure, Missouri must open the discussion now for ways to address funding shortfalls. Protecting and advancing our transportation system is not an option – it is essential.
Workers’ Compensation Agenda
Workers’ compensation is a bottom-line issue for Missouri employers. Changes to our workers’ compensation system impact every employer in the state. In 2005, the legislature passed Senate Bill 1, which contained common-sense reforms that have strengthened our workers’ compensation system to better protect truly injured workers. The reforms are reigning in abuses and provide stronger penalties for fraud and have been documented as decreasing the costs of workers’ compensation on Missouri employers. These changes, the broadest set of pro-business workers’ compensation reforms the state has ever passed, not only help Missouri employers, but are also helping employees get the benefits they deserve. Unfortunately, recent court challengesThe Missouri Chamber will work to protect the legislation passed during the previous legislative sessions, while supporting new initiatives to strengthen Missouri’s workers’ compensation system.