JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The House voted 119-36 to override Governor Jay Nixon’s of SCR 46, which suspends a rule made by the Department of Health and Senior Services raising the wages of home care employees above the minimum wage. The Senate voted to override the veto last month.
While opponents said it was important to improve the wage situation of these employees, supporters said it was important to maintain the separation of the branches of government and to keep bureaucrats from legislating via fiat.
“The executive branch does not get a blank check to do whatever it wants whenever it wants,” said Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, the bill’s handler. “This is about more than a policy. It is about the underlying rule of law that is bigger than this resolution, that is bigger than any resolution that will come before this body this year.”
While many Republicans were making that argument, a couple Democrats joined them. Rep. Genise Monticello, D-St. Louis, stressed that she supported raising the minimum wage for workers, but also said the rule of law had to be followed.
“It is shameful that we have been put in the position today of having to have this argument in this manner,” she said. “By going about it in the way that it was done, by violating the rule of law. It could have been simple. The governor could have put this line item in the budget.
“It’s a slippery slope when we start to pick which rules we are going to follow….The separation of the three branches of government is important to me. It should be important to all of us. …That’s how we maintain the trust of the people that we go back home and represent.”
For most Democrats though, they expressed doubt of the sincerity of Republicans opposing the wage raise, saying they have allowed other possibly unconstitutional laws to pass. They said that this rule change was important enough to oppose SCR 46.
“When we go out in our chambers and talk to our constituents, they don’t care about this rule or a previous question or a rarely used parliamentary procedure. They want to know about this job and how it affects me. ‘What have you done for me and what have you done to me?’” said Rep. Jeremy LaFaver, D-Kansas City. “It’s a matter of do we raise wages for the people who do some of the toughest work for the people we love the most, do we begin to solve this problem of income inequality in this state, or do we say ‘golly, the rules wouldn’t let us do it.”
But Barnes maintained that ignoring the law in favor of the people would be wrong.
“This is not a technical vote, it’s about the rule of law,” he said in closing. “A lawless society is a society where no one is protected. And every member of this body should vote yes on this”
After the vote, Rep. Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, the assistant minority floor leader, released a statement expressing disappointment in the override.
“Home health care workers provide difficult yet essential services to Missouri’s most vulnerable residents and get paid very little to do it,” she said. “With its action today, majority Republicans have declared that the care these hard-working Missourians provide to our loved ones isn’t worth a meager salary bump that would pay them $8.50 to $10.15 an hour. The majority is using an arguable legal technicality as cover for attacking people who do tough work for low pay and deserve support, not scorn.”