Sen. Gary Romine’s Capitol Update: Working to Improve Missouri’s Legal Climate

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The Missouri Senate is now a full month out from the start of session, and I continue to be impressed with the quick progress we are making. As of today, more than half of the 16 bills I filed this session have been heard in committee — a fact on which my staff and I agree is somewhat remarkable. This week I presented two tort reform measures that, if signed into law, will greatly improve Missouri’s legal climate.

 Substantially similar to legislation I filed last year, Senate Bill 745 raises the standard for determining whether an employer is liable for a discrimination charge from a contributing factor to a motivating factor. The measure aligns Missouri law with standards adopted at the federal level and by a majority of other states, and makes it easier to dismiss meritless cases.

 Over the years, I have heard from many of our small business owners, and they have repeatedly expressed concern over the frequency of frivolous lawsuits and the costly litigation resulting from them. As a small business owner of more than 25 years, I know their frustrations are valid. For example, we have seen several instances where the Missouri Commission on Human Rights has determined a case has no merit, yet they still have sent out a Notice of Right to Sue. This encourages individuals to pursue a meritless case simply to force a settlement, costing our small businesses time and money they don’t have.

 Senate Bill 745 helps avoid meritless litigation and clarifies potential liabilities for employers, while retaining significant protections for employees. It is a solid reform bill that will go a long way in improving Missouri’s ability to grow our existing businesses and attract new employers.

 Another tort reform measure, Senate Bill 746, modifies state law regarding arbitration agreements between employers and at-will employees. Arbitration is a method of resolving workplace issues and questions of employment status. Compared to traditional litigation, it is more cost-effective, more casual and generally quicker. Arbitration allows for the same claims and remedies as litigation; it simply occurs in a different forum.

 The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly endorsed employment arbitration and stated that these agreements must be treated in the same manner as other contracts; however, Missouri courts have continued to ignore the Supreme Court’s direction by frequently declaring arbitration agreements invalid. This resistance has resulted in the need to codify and reestablish the value of arbitration, and that is exactly what SB 746 seeks to accomplish.

 We also started debating Senate Bill 580, legislation that was filed in response to the governor’s recent attempt to pay for a new sports stadium in St. Louis by issuing millions in state-backed bonds, without a vote of the people or the Legislature. No single public servant, regardless of who it is, should have the power to put that kind of financial burden on Missouri taxpayers without their approval or the approval of the representative government they elected.

 Finally, I had the privilege of welcoming the following guests to my Capitol office this week: Ron Steele and Ron Inman, with the Missouri Port Authority Association; and Herb Fallert and Eileen Bauman, with Citizens Electric Corporation. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

Contact Me

 I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-4008. You may write me at Gary Romine, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Jefferson City, MO 65101; or email me at; or