JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – “With all due respect, this is some bullsh*t.”
To a gunshot of a gavel bang and several moans of displeasure, Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, was harshly reprimanded Tuesday night for breaking decorum in the first of many hours of debate over a “paycheck protection” bill carried by Sen. Dan Brown, R-Solo. The bill is a Senate substitute for HB 1891 from Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, which passed in late February.
Paycheck protection essentially allows public employees that belong to public labor unions to opt out of the union’s withholding fees from their paychecks based on the annual consent of the employee. Supporters of the legislation say it prevents unions from spending money on political causes an employee opposes while providing more money for individuals.
Nasheed and many other Democrats opt to call the bill “paycheck deception,” alleging that the bill serves as a subtle version of right-to-work by still essentially allowing union members from opting out of paying certain union dues while reaping the benefits unions provide.
“What you’re doing right now is trying to undermine and do away with the union movement,” Nasheed told Brown. “How many people within the union movement came before you, came to the committee hearing and said this is what we want? No one. This is not about protecting those workers. This is about weakening the union movement. This is about making sure the union movement is weak and they cannot produce in a way that they have been and should be.”
Nasheed also essentially told Brown that she would lead a concerted effort against his campaign for state treasurer for sponsoring the bill.
“We’re going to come out in a major way because you’re trying to dismantle the union movement,” she said. “And the union movement has helped millions and millions of people in this state.”
And thus, the second filibuster of the session began. Senate Democrats argued and cajoled and meandered over language and topics from female presidential candidates to days on union lines to the 2016 election to baseball and, briefly, the Oscars. Nasheed called for a roll call vote to table the bill at 7:25 p.m., a motion which failed on party lines.
Sen. Gina Walsh, D-St. Louis, offered an amendment after nearly two hours on her feet that would change the bill to only refer to change to state employees and employers, not all public employees and employers. In her explanation, she extended the idea that state union members had not asked for this bill.
“We hear often in this building that we want less government intrusion but we often carve it up to serve out own needs,” she said of opposition to her amendment. “I remember when I was speaking to raise the minimum wage, when [the state] voted for it and the legislature wanted to overturn it. Somebody made a statement that the people of the state of Missouri didn’t know what they were voting for. I don’t think it’s very good to say folks don’t know what they’re talking about.”
The conversation devolved after that for much of the rest of debate. While inquiries began with earnest discussion on the bill, senators eventually found other topics of discussion. At around 8: 30 p.m., Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis, and Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, began talking about Salvador Perez’ contract and baseball. At 11:00 p.m., Sen. Jill Schupp, D-St. Louis, and Sen. Shalonn “Kiki” Curls, D-Kansas City, were discussing the goings on of their own families.
“Debate” continued between Democrats until around 11:30 p.m. when the bill was perfected 23-7, nearly along party lines with Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis and Sen. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, breaking ranks. With a veto-proof majority, Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, is confident the bill will make it into law.
“We want to ensure that public union employees are in control of their own hard-earned money,” said Kehoe in a statement. “We were willing to take the time this week to make sure this important piece of legislation crosses the finish line.”
UPDATED: March 2, 2016, 12:54 p.m. An earlier version of the story stated the bill was passed along party lines, but two senators voted differently than their party.