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Wasson Report 2.23.12

Protecting Missouri’s Workers

On Thursday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 572, which modifies the law relating to workers’ compensation. Under the legislation, co-workers could no longer be found personally liable for honest workplace accidents. The bill would also mandate civil actions from workplace injury or death cannot proceed in court until all administrative remedies are exhausted.

Co-workers should not be at risk of lawsuits if they did not purposely act to cause harm to another employee. Most workers are not covered for these lawsuits, and they can be financially ruined for an incident that was simply an accident.

This bill also helps businesses by establishing workers’ compensation as the primary remedy for workplace injuries. By curbing the costs of lawsuits for businesses, those companies can reinvest that extra capital in expanding and creating new jobs. We must give Missouri a climate where businesses can grow and expand, and this bill goes far in advancing that goal.

A Second Makes a Big Difference

The Senate debated Senate Bill 611 this week, which would require the Missouri Department of Transportation to establish a minimal yellow light change interval time for traffic lights based on nationally recognized standards set by the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. No yellow lights in Missouri could be set below this standard. This legislation would prevent cities from setting their own yellow light change interval times and creates a uniform time throughout Missouri.

This is an instance where a small change can have a large impact. By lessening a yellow light time by a second, it has been found violations increase by more than 100 percent. Some cities have begun doing this, a trend that has become more prevalent with the implementation of red-light cameras, which automatically ticket drivers for running red lights.

Ticketing more drivers may be a boon for a city’s revenue, but it puts people at greater risk. Shorter yellow light times can cause more accidents at intersections, while adding a second to a yellow light time can drastically reduce collisions. Safety should be our first concern, and preventing accidents is more important than boosting violations. With this bill, we can guarantee consistency and increase safety for Missouri drivers.

Making Missouri’s Buildings, Bridges and Structures Safer

The Senate Financial and Governmental Organizations and Elections Committee held a hearing on Senate Bill 667 this week. The bill, which I sponsored, creates a peer review process for architects, landscape architects, land surveyors and engineers.

Many architects and engineers are wary of doing peer reviews on past or current projects out of concern it could be used against them in court. This can have serious effects on the safety and quality of Missouri’s buildings, bridges and other structures. A design error in a building or bridge can have fatal consequences, but could be avoided if another engineer or architect examines the documents. By establishing protections for a peer review process, we can allow architects and engineers to examine each others’ work for flaws, and conduct post-project reviews to identify mistakes and areas for improvement.

We allow doctors to do this all the time. A surgeon can consult another surgeon on a procedure, but only the doctor who actually performs the operation is at any risk of civil liability. Architects and engineers should have the same protections. Senate Bill 667 would give them those safeguards while maintaining the right of property owners to access project records.