It is hard to believe we just wrapped up our sixth week of the 2017 session. Here in the Senate, committee work is moving at a brisk pace, the budget process is gearing up, and my colleagues and I are diligently working to address our legislative priorities.
On Thursday, the Senate approved legislation I filed in order to prevent the Department of Revenue from collecting taxes on delivery fees. In 2015, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in Alberici Constructors, Inc. v. Director of Revenue that charges for delivery of a rented crane were subject to use tax because the parties intended for delivery of the crane to be part of the crane rental. In response to the ruling, the DOR sent a letter notifying Missouri business owners that they may soon be required to collect sales tax on delivery charges. A 2015 measure I sponsored requires the DOR to notify affected businesses or individuals anytime a change in tax regulation occurs.
Over the years, it has become increasingly common for Missouri courts to hand down a ruling and then have the DOR reinterpret state tax law — without legislative approval and without any regard for the impact on Missouri’s business community and our hardworking families. Senate Bill 16 is part of my continued effort to rein in bureaucratic overreach by the DOR and protect Missouri taxpayers from their egregious revenue-grabs.
While SB 16 addresses the Show-Me State’s need for serious regulatory reform, the Senate has also been busy tackling tort reform. Last week, we advanced to the House a measure that will help restore fairness to personal injury litigation by modifying Missouri’s collateral source rule.
In 2005, the Missouri General Assembly passed a comprehensive tort reform bill that, among other things, sought to justly compensate injured parties for their medical expenses. The intent of that legislation was always to allow an injured party to recover the actual costs of their out-of-pocket medical expenses, rather than the value of the medical care rendered. This is because individuals, or their insurers, will frequently negotiate with hospitals and doctors over the costs of health care-related fees. These negotiations generally result in reduced out-of-pocket expenses for the patient. It is often the case, however, that juries do not see the actual costs a plaintiff paid; they only see the full-billed amount and end up awarding “phantom damages” as a result.
Senate Bill 31 simply establishes that the appropriate recovery for medical expenses is the actual amount paid, not the value. It clarifies the 2005 law and returns the statute to its intended purpose by adding the definition of “actual cost.” I believe SB 31 offers a balanced solution to what has become a big problem for the Show-Me State, which has previously been listed as a “judicial hellhole” by the American Tort Reform Association. Senate Bill 31 is identical to legislation that was passed by the General Assembly last year but vetoed by the governor.
Senate Bill 31 will restore fairness and reason to personal injury litigation while ensuring injured parties are sufficiently compensated for their out-of-pocket medical expenses. This will help stabilize, and possibly even lower, insurance costs for health care providers, which will lead to increased costs savings for Missouri consumers.
Join the conversation and follow me on Twitter @SenWillKraus. Pease feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns at any time. We look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions and will try to answer any questions you may have. You can reach us by phone at (573) 751-1464, or email at Will.Kraus@Senate.Mo.Gov.