August 1, 2014

Chamber applauds bill that redefines ‘misconduct’ becoming law

The state Chamber says a bill that will make it harder to get unemployment benefits will benefit both employees and employers.

The bill changes the definition of “misconduct” in relation to employment, so that it is harder for people to get unemployment benefits after doing things like violating an employer’s rules or even state standards that could get an employer in trouble.

Lawmakers backing the bill gave examples during debate including employees who urinated off of buildings or fell asleep on the job, yet were still able to draw benefits, and said the bill is needed to keep such things from happening again.

Vice President of Governmental Affairs with the Missouri Chamber, Tracy King, says fewer people getting benefits takes pressure off the unemployment trust fund.

“I think this is a common sense first step in what we need to do to try to shore up the unemployment trust fund and the system that’s out there,” says King, “so that it is out there for the people who truly need it.”

King says it was a series of compromises that led to Governor Jay Nixon (D) allowing the bill to become law this year, after vetoing similar legislation the past three years.

“There was some opposition with the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys last year. We worked with them on trying to compromise on this legislation, as well as the unions,” says King. “We felt like we found common ground.

She says the bill also includes language Governor Nixon wanted.

“The Governor vetoed a similar provision last year and in that veto message he stated that he needed some additional language in order for us to be in compliance with the U.S. Department of Labor. We included that this year.”

The bill takes effect August 28.

Backers, critics argue significance of Missouri’s new ‘right to try’ law

Next month, Missouri will have a “right to try” law in place that aims to allow terminally ill patients who have exhausted conventional treatments to seek the use of drugs, devices and products that haven’t gone all the way through the federal Food and Drug Administration’s testing process.

John DiPersio, MD, PhD (left) and Show-Me Institute analyst Patrick Ishmael

John DiPersio, MD, PhD (left) and Show-Me Institute analyst Patrick Ishmael

Governor Jay Nixon (D) signed legislation on Monday to make Missouri the third state to enact such a law, to give patients and their doctors the opportunity to try so-called “investigational” drugs if the makers of those drugs agree.

Proponents of the measure like Show-Me Institute analyst Patrick Ishmael say it will mean a lot to patients.

“I think they’re going to find this legislation as being very helpful to them, being very hopeful for their families,” says Ishmael, “and at the end of the day it provides them an opportunity to pursue treatment and care that before, the state may have been able to step in and try to prevent.”

See the legislation, HB 1685

The bill has critics, however, who say it won’t actually do anything.

“The problem is there’s this thing called the FDA,” says Doctor John DiPersio, Deputy Director of the Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis and Chief of the Division of Oncology at Washington University in St. Louis.

DiPersio says a mechanism for giving patients access to investigational drugs already exists. He says no matter how the new law reads, the administration to a patient of a drug still under development without FDA approval is illegal.

“If you gave an investigational drug and the FDA found out about it … outside of a clinical trial, outside of their proper mechanism, then it could be potentially catastrophic for the patient, the physician and the institution,” says DiPersio.

DiPersio says it is unlikely pharmaceutical manufacturers would risk development of new drugs by giving them to patients under the terms of the “right to try” law.

“You can’t just give your drug to everybody in the country that wants it and not be in a position to actually, rigorously follow those patients,” says DiPersio, “because if something bad happens then it could undermine the development of the drug, number one. Number two is that there are liability issues.”

HB 1685 was sponsored by Representative Jim Neely (R-Cameron)

Proponents counter that one company, Neuralstem Inc, has expressed interest in making available experimental treatments for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), under Colorado’s right to try law.

Still, DiPersio says allowing such access to new drugs not only threatens their development, but he criticizes the bill for allowing drug companies to require patients receiving an experimental drug, product or device, to pay for them.

“Under the current practices you’d have to get FDA to approve it, it actually reduces or limits the liability of the company providing it, insurance companies have to pay for the standard of care associated with it and any complications because it’s FDA approved,” says DiPersio, “But now, you’re telling me that the companies can actually ask for a payment for an investigational drug for which there is no known cost associated with it, so they could make up a cost.”

Ishmael says there is no way to be sure what drug manufacturers are going to do.

“Do we know the future about what the FDA will do, about what drug companies will do? This is a new innovation in the law, and really it’s a de-regulation where the state is getting out of the way,” says Ishmael.

Ishmael says he has no doubt the legislation will make a difference.

“There is something to be said for hope. There is something to be said for opportunity,” says Ishmael, “and I think the patients who are in a terminal situation deserve the hope and the opportunity of making sure that the state is not going to stand in their way when they seek this sort of experimental medication.”

The law becomes effective August 28.

Agriculture groups gear up to fight vetoes (AUDIO)

Missouri agriculture groups, angered that Governor Nixon has vetoed a couple of bills declaring deer to be livestock, will be pressuring the legislature to override the vetoes.

Nixon acknowledges there are important issues in the omnibus agriculture bills. But he maintains the parts declaring captive deer to be livestock are unconstitutional.

The Missouri Constitution gives the Conservation Department control of all “bird, fish, game, forestry, and all wildlife resources of the state.” ┬áBackers think they get around that provision by declaring captive deer are something other than a “wildlife resource,” allowing the Agriculture Department, not Conservation, to regulate them.

AUDIO: The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association’s Mike Deering ┬ásays his group will be among more than a dozen farming groups pushing for the override. (:18)

Legislators behind the bills say the Conservation Department has proposed regulations that will put deer-raising farmers out of business. Some of the deer are being raised for private game preserves, and conservation backers say that if they’re being raised as “game,” they fall under department regulation.

Legislation sought by several agriculture groups had been combined into the bills. Each of those groups hopes an override will give them what they want.


Gov. Nixon vetoes payday loan bill, says it is not ‘meaningful reform’

Governor Jay Nixon (D) has vetoed legislation aimed at restricting payday loans, dismissing the bill as not being true reform.

“Senate Bill No. 694 provides false hope of true payday lending reform while in reality falling far short of the mark,” writes Nixon in his veto message.

The bill would prevent consumers from taking out new short-term loans, as can happen under six times under current law, with interest continuing to accumulate. It would also require that once a year, lenders offer extended 60- to 120-day payment plans to borrowers, free of additional interest or fees.

The bill would also cap interest fees on loans at $35 for every $100 in principal. The current cap is 75-percent of the original principal.

Nixon writes the bill, “fails to protect consumers and fails to prevent the cycle of debt that payday lending perpetuates.” Instead, he says the bill, “appears to be part of a coordinated effort by the payday loan industry to avoid more meaningful reform.”

See the legislation, SB 694

The bill passed both legislative chambers by margins wide enough to overturn Nixon’s veto, if enough lawmakers would vote the same way.

Nixon will keep flying (AUDIO)

Governor Nixon brushes off criticism from some legislative leaders that he’s using Highway Patrol airplanes too much.

House and Senate budget chairmen say the Highway Patrol should stop flying Governor Nixon hither and yon. Nixon is in the air and on the road a lot, defending his vetoes of what he considers special interest tax cuts and other special interest bills that he says will cripple state services. He’s trying to generate local pressure on legislators to keep them from overriding his vetoes in September.

Nixon has been telling local governments and other groups that the sales tax cut bills passed this year will devastate local and state programs. He says he’s not going to be cloistered in his office at times like this. “The Stoddard County Soil and Water (District) would not have known about the fact that they were going to get cut almost five million dollars a year…if I had not gone there,” he says.

He says he’ll continue to communicate to Missourians, which will mean long days covering a lot of territory. “I will not be cloistered in my office as Governor of the state,” he says.

Nixon says he has to govern all of Missouri, not just his Capitol office, and flying is the most efficient way to do that. He says he’s not going to stop.

AUDIO: Nixon 1:02