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Protecting innocent coworkers

The Senate passed Senate Bill 572 this week, which modifies the law relating to workers’ compensation. A 2010 appellate court decision established coworkers could be found personally liable for their part in the workplace injury of another worker. This opened the door for employees to be sued for honest accidents at work. Senate Bill 572 would protect employees from these types of lawsuits, except when they purposely cause harm to another worker. The legislation also makes workers’ compensation the exclusive remedy for workplace accidents.

I was determined to add a provision to this bill that would extend protections to employees who are exposed to toxic chemicals at work. With a little help from another senator, we held out and were able to get this in the legislation. Senate Bill 572 now goes to the House for consideration.

Last month, the Missouri Supreme Court threw out the new Senate district maps that were drawn to reflect population shifts by the 2010 census. Now, the maps have to be redrawn by a new public commission. Adding even more confusion to this issue is the looming Feb. 28 filing deadline for political candidates. Until the new maps are done, no one really knows where they’ll be running. To address this problem, we passed Senate Bill 773, which, if approved by the House and signed by the governor, moves the filing deadline to the end of March. This will give candidates time to see how the redistricting process plays out.

I filed Senate Bill 804 this week, which will give landlords more protection against tenants who refuse to pay rent or vacate the property. While most people are responsible renters, there are some who abuse the arrangement, putting a huge financial strain on landlords. This is one of the few areas where someone can basically steal from another person month after month, with next to no consequences. Landlords deserve more protection, and this bill will give them that.

The Senate Financial and Governmental Organizations and Elections Committee held a hearing Monday on Senate Bill 710, which establishes a prescription drug monitoring program. Missouri is one of only two states that don’t monitor prescription drugs, one of the fastest growing types of drug abuse in the country. Just this week there was an article in the Farmington Press about a woman who went “doctor shopping” for drugs. We must do more to stop people from abusing prescriptions and distributing these drugs in Missouri. This is one of the most important pieces of legislation we could pass this year and we will be voting on it in committee on Monday.

Senate Bill 633 was approved by the Senate Transportation Committee and will now move to the Senate floor for debate. The legislation, which I sponsored, would allow scrap metal operators to acquire vehicles or vehicle parts that are 10 years old or older without a title, as long as certain other requirements are met. There are many older cars around Missouri that are no longer drivable but still hold value as scrap metal or parts. This bill would make it easier for people to sell those vehicles to scrap yards while keeping the proper restrictions in place to protect the public.

This report is filed at the end of each week during the legislative session. This report was filed at the close of business last week.

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