JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri will decide on the controversial right-to-work law in just a few months, but the question of exactly when that will happen is subject to legislation.
A resolution pushed by Republican lawmakers in the Senate this week concerning Prop A, a ballot referendum moving right-to-work from the November ballot to the August primary ballot, received final approval from the upper chambers on Thursday evening.
“What we’re asking voters to uphold in this state is the right to allow the worker the freedom to choose,” Sen. Dave Schatz said.
Schatz and Rep. Holly Rehder were the sponsors of the right-to-work bill passed last year, and after the initiative petition received more than 300,000 signatures, they put forward a resolution to move it to an earlier date.
Sen. Bob Dixon said that it was the arrogance of the Governor’s Office and those pushing for the right-to-work legislation that landed them in this situation.
“They, in their ignorance, gave their opponents two or three extra months to go out there and gather signatures,” Dixon said, stating that they never opened a statute book or thought about what rushing the bill out could do. “I laugh about that.”
“We had the chance to send this to the people and let them decide,” he continued. “Pride comes before destruction, and they have destroyed themselves… One of these days, they’re going to start listening.”
It’s not the only misstep by the right-to-work support groups: just this past week, a political action committee called Freedom to Work failed to turn in enough signatures to put a right-to-work amendment on the ballot – despite spending more than $750,000 on the campaign.
Sen. Jake Hummel predicted that whether Prop A appears on the November ballot or the August primary, right-to-work would be defeated, saying that a strong voice in the workplace is good for everyone.
Republicans say the legislation’s purpose is to give the voters a quicker chance to weigh in on the matter, while Democrats maintain that it’s a political move to place the bill within an election with a lower expected turnout. That also could mean fewer labor proponents at the polls as Republicans look to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.
But before the resolution could be passed, Democrats stood to oppose the legislation, filibustering for roughly 12 hours before it finally came to a vote.
And though the measure passed with a vote of 23-7 down party lines, the tension between the Senate body became all too clear.
Shameful. Senate Republicans vote to overturn the will of 310,568 Missourians by moving Prop A to August. Rest assured, this isn’t over. Whether it’s Aug. or Nov., Prop A will fail & workers will win. #moleg
— Senate Democrats (@MoSenDems) May 11, 2018
After more than 10 hours of filibustering, things came to a head early Friday morning when Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal was censored for words spoken while reading from a book concerning black history. Sen. Dixon made the motion, pursuant to Senate Rule 78, resulting in the President at the time, Sen. Caleb Rowden, telling the Senator from the 14th senatorial district to sit down.
Calling it an attempt to take the floor back, several senators rose to speak their minds about the actions, with Sens. Rob Schaaf and Gary Romine voicing their concerns about a lack of concern for the traditions of the Senate and willful attempts against decorum, citing a senator’s right to be heard.
“Any senator has a right to free and fair debate,” Sen. Bill Eigel said but noted that senators also have a right to expect a certain level of decorum.
Before allowing the resolution to come to a vote at about 5:25 a.m., Schaaf called it an historic time in the history of the state, but urged colleagues to remember there’s still one week left, saying they must fight for their right to safeguard the traditions of the body and represent their districts to the best of their abilities.
Chappelle-Nadal rose to appeal the decision of the Chair to the Senate and requested to speak on the motion to appeal. President Pro Tem Richard stated that the appeal was non-debatable; therefore, her request was denied.
Senator Schaaf raised the point of order that Senator Chappelle-Nadal must be given the opportunity to explain her appeal and inform members what they were voting on.
“What’s happened here tonight… I’m extremely disturbed by,” he said. He said that the words might have been considered offensive by some, but he also questioned what it would mean if a senator decided to read the details of the House committee report concerning Gov. Eric Greitens and his extramarital affair.
The point of order was referred to the President Pro Tem, who ruled it not well taken, and the appeal of the decision of the Chair was defeated on a voice vote.
Whether this night will result in an implosion of the upper chambers, however, still remains to be seen in the final week.
Speaking on the Senate floor Friday morning, Chappelle-Nadal said that when she woke, in regard to more coming legislation, she was inclined to “kill, kill, kill.”
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.