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Capitol Briefs: Firefighter benefits bill perfected after Senate amendment stalls

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After debate stalled in the early afternoon, the Senate perfected a firefighter benefits bill Wednesday without a controversial amendment attached. 

Sen. Lincoln Hough’s SB 45 would allow three or more subdivisions to establish a Voluntary Firefighter Cancer Benefits Pool to provide assistance to firefighters based on their diagnosis. 

“The people who put their lives on the line for our families every day deserve the comfort of knowing themselves or their families will be taken care of if they develop cancer because of their job,” Hough said. “It is a good feeling that my colleagues and I can continue to think outside the traditional solutions and work together to take care of the hardworking people of this state.”

Sen. Bob Onder, an opponent of the bill, put forth an amendment shortly after noon that would have prohibited the use of nonmember labor union fees for political use unless authorized by the employee. The amendment was subjected to a point of order shortly after its introduction on the floor, with Sen. Doug Beck saying it exceeded the scope of the underlying bill. The measure was in limbo for two hours before being withdrawn.

  • Before its removal, Onder defended the inclusion of the amendment as it related to “public sector labor law.” 
  • The amendment was modeled after the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which held the use of such fees violated the First Amendment right to free speech.
  • Onder and Hough sparred over the course of the morning, with Onder expressing concern about the precedent the bill could present for other first responders. 
  • Other legislators, including President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, said they supported the program’s independence from the worker’s compensation program.