Dec 10, 2015 –– Weekly Capitol Update

AG SUGGESTS RULES TO FIGHT ABUSIVE DEBT COLLECTION

Attorney General Chris Koster is asking a special judicial commission to consider changing Missouri court rules to crack down on abusive debt collection practices. Koster, a Democrat, made his request in a Dec. 3 letter to the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Fairness, which the Missouri Supreme Court created in October to address the problem of bias in the state judicial system.

The suggested changes primarily target companies that purchase defaulted debts from the original creditors at a deep discount and engage in overly aggressive or questionable tactics to collect the debt, along with attorneys’ fees and other costs to which they may not be legally entitled. Koster, a Democrat, recommends that court rules be modified to:

  • Require debt collection companies to document that they own the debt they are seeking to collect.
  • Halt the practice of debt companies repeatedly postponing court hearings whenever the defendant shows up in the hope that the defendant will eventually give up and skip a court date, allowing the company to obtain a default judgment.
  • Require companies to provide documentation proving that a collection action was brought prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations and that they have a contractual right to recover attorney fees and other costs they are seeking.

“I believe these improvements would increase participation in the judicial system by minorities who become targets of such litigation and protect them from the implicit bias of the existing system,” Koster wrote. “Furthermore, these changes would deter predatory debt collection practices, helping individuals avoid default judgments for debts they may not even owe and preventing negative impacts on their credit reports, which would make it more difficult for them to achieve financial stability and success.”

 

GOVERNOR SIGNS EXECUTIVE ORDER ON GENDER PAY EQUITY

Gov. Jay Nixon on Dec. 4 signed an executive order directing state agencies to identify and address any gender-based gaps in their salary structures to ensure that state employees receive equal pay for equal work. Nixon also encouraged private sector employers to take similar steps to eliminate gender-based wage discrimination.

“We need to ensure that all Missourians are getting a fair shake and an equal opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” Nixon said in a news release. “Shortchanging 50 percent of the workforce is bad for women, it’s bad for families, and it’s bad for our entire economy. Equal work deserves equal pay – period. My executive order sends a strong message that Missouri intends to be a leader in creating an economy of opportunity that works for everyone.”

Missouri is one of 46 states with equal pay laws. However, according to a January 2015 study by the University of Missouri Institute of Public Policy, full-time female workers in Missouri earned 71 percent of what men earned between 2008 and 2012.

 

RURAL ATTORNEY APPOINTED TO HIGHWAYS COMMISSION

Gov. Jay Nixon on Dec. 4 appointed John Briscoe of New London to the State Highways and Transportation Commission, the six-member independent governing authority for the Missouri Department of Transportation. Briscoe, a Democrat, is appointed for a term ending March 1, 2021.

Briscoe operates law practices in New London and Hannibal, as well as a land title company, and also manages the family farm. He is a past president of the Missouri Bar, has served on the Truman State University Board of Governors and also as prosecuting attorney of both Ralls and Knox counties. His confirmation must be confirmed by the Senate.

 

13TH AMENDMENT RATIFICATION MARKS SESQUICENTENNIAL

Slavery was abolished throughout the nation 150 years ago on Dec. 6, 1865, when Georgia, recently restored to the Union following the Confederacy’s defeat in the Civil War, became the 27th state to ratify the 13th Amendment, providing the three-fourths supermajority necessary for it to become part of the U.S. Constitution. In Missouri, slavery had ended 11 months earlier on Jan. 11, 1865, when a special state convention voted 60-4 in favor of an ordinance imposing immediate abolition in the state.

Congress submitted the 13th Amendment to the states on Feb. 1, 1865, and President Abraham Lincoln’s home state of Illinois ratified it the same day, becoming the first to do so. Missouri was the eighth state to ratify, doing so on Feb. 6, 1865. By the end of February 1865, 18 states had ratified the amendment, including Reconstruction governments in the former Confederate states of Virginia and Louisiana.

Only four of the 36 states in the Union at the time, including those of the former Confederacy, affirmatively rejected the 13th Amendment: Delaware and Kentucky, both slave states that had remained loyal to the Union; New Jersey, a free state; and Mississippi, a former Confederate state.

New Jersey soon reversed course and ratified the amendment on Jan. 23, 1866. The remaining three – all former slave states — eventually did as well, although it would take much longer. Forty-six years after the fact, Delaware ratified it on Feb. 12, 1901, followed another 75 years later by Kentucky on March 18, 1976. Mississippi, the last holdout, finally ratified the 13th Amendment on March 16, 1995 – more than 130 years after Congress had submitted it to the states.

The 13th Amendment says: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”