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BPAA State Policy Update - April 30, 2021

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COVID-19 Updates and Tracking 

 

COVID Liability Protections & Updates 

  • At Long Last: South Carolina Passes COVID-19 Liability Immunity On April 28, 2021, Gov. Henry McMaster signed South Carolina’s COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act into law.  The state’s employers will now have a defense that they are immune from liability if an employee claims s/he contracted COVID-19 at work.  
    • Under the law, any claim arising from an actual, alleged, or feared exposure to COVID-19 on the premises of a business or from the operations, products, or services provided by a business would be barred by immunity, unless a plaintiff can show by clear and convincing evidence that the business:  
      • 1) engaged in conduct that was grossly negligent, reckless, willful, or intentional; or 2) failed to make any attempt to adhere to public health guidance.  Healthcare providers are also covered entities under the Act, but a different standard of proof (preponderance of the evidence) applies to certain acts or omissions in the healthcare setting. 
    • Read more here.  
  • After Missouri House rejects COVID-19 liability protection bill, new version emerges The Missouri Senate passed a sweeping COVID-19 business liability protection bill on Feb. 23 in a 20-13 vote and sent it to the House, where the measure was approved by one committee but rejected by another.  
    • Senate Bill 51 was shot down by the House Rules-Legislative Oversight Committee in a 7-3 verdict during a late-night session, leaving a key legislative priority for Gov. Mike Parson and state businesses stymied with two weeks remaining in the session. 
    • But a scaled-back COVID-19 liability bill has emerged in the House Downsizing Government Committee in the form of an amendment attached to SB 27, which relates to candidate filing periods, county courthouses and other local government issues. Read more here. 
       
  • North Dakota’s new COVID-19 lawsuit shield is good business Important legislation last week was signed by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, with little fanfare but with crucial protections for the state’s businesses. 
    • Friday, Burgum gave final approval to House Bill 1175, which will protect employers from lawsuits by workers who claim they contracted COVID-19 while on company time. The governor calls it “common-sense liability protection” for employers who have endured a financially traumatic last 13 months. Now that it’s signed, the protections will apply retroactively to January 2020. An exception in HB 1175 exists for employees who believe their employer was intentionally trying to harm a worker. Read more here. 
       
  • Florida's New COVID-19 Liability Protection Legislation: What It Means And The Legal Effect Moving Forward The new legislation protects individuals, businesses, governmental entities, and religious organization against COVID-19 related claims by creating a heightened standard for Plaintiffs claiming COVID-19 related damages. The legislation creates pre-suit requirements before Plaintiffs can file civil actions based on COVID-19 claims, and heightens the standard of proof Plaintiffs must meet in order to be successful. Preliminarily, under the new law, Plaintiffs are required to file an affidavit signed by a physician actively licensed in the state attesting that within a "reasonable degree of medical certainty" the Plaintiff's COVID-19 related damages, injury, or death occurred because of the defendant's acts or omissions.  Read further on the details here.  
     
  • Kentucky Becomes Latest State to Protect Businesses from Pandemic-Related Liability On the final day of the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2021 session, it fulfilled one of its top legislative priorities: enacting a new law that provides personal injury liability protections against COVID-19-related claims to certain Kentucky businesses, schools, and individuals. In doing so, Kentucky joins many other states that have enacted similar laws, including its neighbor to the north, Indiana. Specifically, businesses and individuals that directly or indirectly invite or permit another person onto their premises are shielded from liability for injuries, loss, or other damages to that person arising from conditions subject to a declared emergency – including, of course, the ongoing pandemic. Read more here. 

 

Tax Updates 

  • Tax relief, proposed hikes at the fore as Minnesota legislators start to hammer out tax bill The Minnesota Senate on Wednesday, April 28, on a 39-26 vote advanced a $681 million tax plan aimed at providing relief to businesses that drew down federal loans during the COVID-19 pandemic and providing assistance to some industries hardest hit. 
    • A bipartisan group of lawmakers advanced the proposal to a conference committee where members of the Senate and House of Representatives will iron out differences in their respective tax proposals. There, some sort of compromise plan will hatch and help determine how much lawmakers can spend in the next two-year state budget. Read more here. 
  • Michigan House passes bottle return fund legislation that would compensate beverage companies Legislation to compensate beverage companies to update their recycling equipment using unreturned recyclables deposit funds passed Tuesday in the Michigan House. 
    • Unredeemed money from the 10-cent per container bottle return is currently divided between the state and retailers operating bottle return locations. The state’s Cleanup and Redevelopment Trust Fund, which mainly funds cleanup efforts for certain contamination sites, gets 75% of the money and 25% is given to the retailers. Read more here.  
  • Kansas Lawmakers to Consider Veto Override on Tax Reform Bill The Kansas legislature will reconvene next week for its 2021 veto session, when legislators will reconsider bills that were vetoed by the governor. One such bill that has a second chance of being enacted, Senate Bill 50, would enhance Kansas’ economic competitiveness by improving the state’s corporate, individual, and sales tax structure while providing tax relief to individuals and businesses. Read an analysis here at the Tax Foundation.  
  • Oklahoma Senate has 'no appetite' for corporate tax cuts, Sen. Greg Treat says The leader of the Oklahoma Senate does not support legislation to phase out the state’s corporate income tax over the next five years.  
    • Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said there is not widespread support in the Oklahoma state Senate for the proposal from House Speaker Charles McCall, meaning the hotly debated tax cut legislation is unlikely to succeed this year. Read more here.  
  • Gavin Newsom signs tax break on pandemic loans for many California businesses Many California businesses won’t have to pay state taxes on their federal pandemic loans under a bill Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Thursday. The measure, Assembly Bill 80, aims to help businesses that received loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, which the federal government established to help businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. Newsom’s office described the law as “providing a $6.2 billion tax cut” for small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. Read more at the SacBee. 
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