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Business Priorities Clear Legislature

It was a big win for big business in the state capitol Wednesday. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.

One day before adjourning for the legislative Spring Break, lawmakers sent to the governor's desk two bills that were top priorities for business interests.

First, lawmakers approved a bill that limits jury awards in liability lawsuits, including medical malpractice cases.

The legislation also limits where these cases can be tried.

Second, lawmakers sent the governor a bill that makes it more difficult for injured workers to receive compensation.

Bill supporters, mostly Republicans say worker's compensation claims are driving up the cost of doing business in Missouri.

Republican Representative Bryan Pratt says the legislation is important to the state.

Under the bill, work would have to be the prevailing factor, not just a substantial factor in an injury in order for a worker to receive compensation.

During debate on the measure, Democratic Representative Clint Zweifel said this legislation is not good for workers.

But bill supporters say without changes to the workers' compensation system, there won't be very many new businesses in the state providing jobs for workers.

Representative Bryan Pratt says neighboring states have made similar changes.

Labor unions have criticized the bill for failing to address workers' issues.

Representative Clint Zweifel says a good workers' compensation bill would include changes that help injured workers receive compensation more quickly.

On the same day lawmakers sent the governor two key components of his pro-business agenda, Governor Matt Blunt unveiled his economic development plan.

He called on lawmakers to create a tax incentive for new businesses that bring new jobs to the state.

Blunt says the jobs must be high quality.

Blunt's economic development package also includes a proposal that clears the way for voter-approved tax increases at the local level.

Blunt endorsed a plan that makes it easier for cities and counties to ask voters for a sales tax increase.

The House already endorsed a similar proposal that would allow revenue from these sales tax increases to fund a community's efforts to market itself.

Blunt says this proposal is consistent with his opposition to taxes.

But during his State of the State Address, Blunt urged lawmakers to oppose raising taxes.

Blunt says giving local communities the ability to ask voters for a sales tax increase won't kill jobs...He says the tax revenue will help bring more businesses to the state.