Missouri State Representative Kevin Corlew represents Missouri House district 14. Most of Representative Corlew’s district is in Platte County, but a small portion of it extends into Clay County. For more information on our Opinion Section and why we publish these newsletters from elected officials please click here.
House Approves Legislation to End Venue Shopping in Missouri (HB 460, HB 461, and HB 462, 2017)
House members continued their tort-reform efforts this week by passing legislation to help put an end to “litigation tourism” and the many lawsuits that are filed in Missouri by out-of-state parties. The bills approved Thursday are meant to stop the large number of lawsuits filed in the state by people who live outside Missouri, who are alleging injuries that didn’t occur within the state’s borders, against companies that are not from Missouri.
A 2016 study released by the American Tort Reform Foundation named St. Louis as the number one “judicial hellhole” in the country; calling it a “magnet for product liability lawsuits and consumer class actions.” The report noted that plaintiffs travel from out-of-state to file lawsuits in Missouri to take advantage of the state’s weak venue law and low standards for what is considered expert testimony. A Bloomberg Businessweek article noted that Missouri has “developed a reputation for fast trials, favorable rulings, and big awards.”
To help end Missouri’s reputation as the “Show Me Your Lawsuits State,” in February the Missouri House took up and passed a piece the legislation I’m sponsoring that is designed to strengthen the state’s expert witness standards (HB 153). This week members continued their lawsuit-reform efforts by approving legislation that would prevent what is commonly referred to as venue or forum shopping in Missouri.
As interpreted by Missouri courts, existing law permits many out-of-state litigants to join together in a lawsuit, so long as there is one Missouri plaintiff. In 2016, there were 140 aggregated mass tort cases pending in St. Louis, with 8,400 plaintiffs in the cases having nothing to do with Missouri. On average, the cases had 56 out-of-state plaintiffs for every one Missouri plaintiff.
Specifically, the legislation would change state laws governing where lawsuits may be filed and whether suits can be joined together. The legislation will create a more balanced court system that doesn’t favor trial attorneys over job creators. For too long our courts have been tilted towards trial attorneys by allowing out-of-state plaintiffs to sue out-of-state defendants. This clogs up our courts and limits access to everyday Missourians. It’s time we created a more balanced system that treats every party equal.
The venue legislation now moves to the Missouri Senate for consideration.
House Approves Minimum Wage Fix (HBs 1194 & 1193, 2017)
In response to a Missouri Supreme Court decision that invalidated part of Missouri’s minimum wage law, lawmakers are moving quickly to implement a fix that would provide a consistent wage in municipalities throughout the state. The House approved legislation this week that would reaffirm that the state’s minimum wage is applied throughout Missouri. The legislation would not change the minimum wage; it simply would re-establish that decisions to adjust the minimum wage must be made on a statewide basis. The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration.
The state currently has a minimum wage that increases based on the Consumer Price Index, and is currently higher than the federal minimum wage. It is important to have a consistent minimum wage across the state instead of an inconsistent patchwork of wages that vary from city to city.
Increasing STEM Career Awareness (HB 248, 2017)
House members gave bipartisan support to legislation that would establish a statewide program designed to promote careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (“STEM”). The legislation is modeled after successful programs in Tennessee and Arkansas that have helped promote the STEM fields to young people.
The bill would require the state Department of Economic Development to establish the STEM Career Awareness Program to increase awareness of careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for students in grades six through eight. The program would involve online-based curriculum that would emphasize more than 80 different careers and technologies, and would be organized around the concept of solving societal or human-centered problems.
STEM careers support the economies of the state and the nation. A lack of awareness of STEM fields keeps many young people from pursuing careers in these expanding areas. By giving students increased exposure to these careers, the state can better prepare the next generation of Missourians to succeed in the fastest growing job sector.
Raising Awareness of Multiple Sclerosis
House members joined Missourians across the state this week in wearing orange to raise awareness of multiple sclerosis. In 2015 the legislature approved HB 861 to designate the first full week of March each year as Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week in Missouri. The week is designed to call attention to the need for additional research, care, and support for those living with multiple sclerosis. According to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, the disease affects more than 400,000 people in the United States, and about 2.5 million people worldwide. Approximately 200 new cases are diagnosed each week in the United States.
Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease.
Senior Service Award
Missouri Lieutenant Governor Mike Parson is seeking nominations for the Lieutenant Governor’s Senior Service Award, given each year to seniors who volunteer in their communities.
Winners will selected from across the state, and the winners will be recognized at a banquet in the Capitol. the award was created to promote and highlight service Missouri’s senior citizens provide their communities.
Nomination forms are available at the Lieutenant Governor’s website: https://ltgov.mo.gov/assistance-seniors/, or can be obtained through the lieutenant governor’s office by calling 573-751-4727. Nominees should be at least 60 years of age and volunteer a minimum of 25 hours per year. The deadline for nominations is March 29.