JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Democrats filibustered for hours in the Senate today over a bill that would prohibit local municipalities from establishing their own regulations on shopping bags, minimum wage, and hiring practices.
The fight began in some ways last week, when HB722 hit the Senate floor with a substitute changing the title of the bill and adding several provisions. Originally, HB722 had an extremely narrow focus: to prohibit local municipalities from banning the use of plastic bags at grocery stores. When the substitute arrived in the senate, language was added prohibiting cities from passing their own minimum wage standards. Additionally, the bill also sought to preempt efforts by Sen. Jamilah Nasheed to “ban the box.”
Nasheed’s efforts would prohibit various government employers from inquiring about past felony convictions on an initial job application. Criminal background checks can still be conducted, but requiring an indication of a criminal history would be prohibited on the initial application. Nasheed says the move will keep a number of applications for jobs from going “straight into the trash.”
“We have too many young men and women that have made mistakes in the past, they served their time, they come out of prisons each and every day and knock on the doors of opportunity simply to have those doors slammed in their face because they walked through them with the stigma of being an ex-felon,” Nasheed said. “It’s incumbent upon me and many of my colleagues to try to right that wrong. If we ban the box on those applications, many of them will go on to work and be productive citizens. And if we don’t do that, we’ll continue to see the recidivism rate rise drastically because no one is willing to give them a second chance.”
Last week, Nasheed offered a point of order against the Senate substitute language of HB722, arguing that the changes went beyond the scope of the original bill. Early on Tuesday, Sen. Pro Tem Tom Dempsey ruled against the point of order. Dempsey’s staff said they viewed the bill as a “preemption bill” and that adding language dealing with local hiring or minimum wage policies was “not a stretch.”
After the ruling, Democrats sought to take the floor for much of the afternoon, offering amendments to strip minimum wage language, ban-the-box language, and increasing the statewide minimum wage, all in an effort to talk the bill to death. Republicans ultimately relented on the language dealing with ban-the-box, but language keeping minimum wage a state decision remained. The bill was ultimately advanced by a party-line vote, something Nasheed called a “soft victory.”
Democrats largely stood opposed to the bill because they saw the language as creating another barrier to raising the minimum wage, a debate generally drawn on stark partisan lines. The bill will still require House approval before advancing to Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk.