JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, led the House to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of HB 1891, also known as ‘paycheck protection.’
After a heated debate on the House floor, Richardson spoke last, calling for decorum and speaking in support of the override. But Democrats insisted that the fight’s not over yet, saying there would be a filibuster in the Senate.
“Organized labor, they need to start asking some hard questions. Because you know what the fact is, union membership is at an all-time low in Missouri. Trust and confidence in public and private unions is at an all time low. Maybe a little transparency would help,” Richardson said.
“What’s in this bill is an opportunity to give members of labor organizations more information. And it’s an opportunity for them to give their consent to what their organization is doing,” he added. “What they’re doing here today is telling their members they shouldn’t have that information.”
Richardson’s remarks followed a contentious debate that nearly exploded over a confrontation between Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, and Rep. John Rizzo, D-Kansas City.
“This is not right to work,” Engler said. “I will stand for my word that I will vote for this if other things are kept off the table,” he added, saying he wouldn’t vote for right to work or prevailing wage. “Don’t confuse the issue, let’s get it done. Please vote for this bill.”
He also indicated that during the 2011 session in the Senate, Sens. Tim Green and Victor Callahan, strong pro-union legislators, had supported this legislation. Rizzo, when he spoke, corrected Engler and said they had let the legislation come to a vote when they knew it would be killed in the House. Then he held up a copy of the roll call from that vote to show that they had voted against it.
“Missouri is pro-labor state and always has been,” Rizzo said in a statement afterwards. “House Bill 1891 won’t create a single job or do anything to provide economic security to working families. This is big government at its worst by imposing burdensome, unnecessary and costly regulations on private organizations. Missouri will not achieve economic prosperity by attacking worker rights.”
Engler tried to come back and inquire Rizzo, but because he had already spoken a point of order was raised. Engler said an expletive and left the chamber.
“Wow. Of all the bills that we’ve debated this session, on big, huge, weighty issues, issues of conscience and morality, issues of tax burden for working families, this is the bill that causes people to lose their tempers on the floor of the House?” Richardson said. “What does this bill do that people find so offensive. We’ve heard on the floor of the house today multiple times that this bill is anti-worker? What’s anti-worker about saying that a worker should know basic financial information about their union? What about that is anti-union?”
To get the 109 votes necessary for the override, a couple of votes needed to be added to the yes column.
The motion got one Democratic vote from Rep. Courtney Allen Curtis, D-Ferguson, who cited his frustrations with leadership in the House and unions and his dissatisfaction that the Senate didn’t fight the bill when it was originally brought up.
Finally, a reluctant Rep. Ron Hicks, R- St. Peters, shrugged his shoulders, walked into the chamber and pressed the yes button to cast the deciding vote for the override.
But Democrats indicated the fight was not yet over in the General Assembly. Rizzo said the House was sending the Senate a “ticking time bomb” and that the Senate would filibuster the override. He also said that all of the legislation the House has been working on could get caught up in the filibuster like it did last year over the Senate’s filibuster of right to work.
Groups supporting and opposing the override released statements reacting to the vote.
“Members of the Missouri House finally listened to what their constituents want,” said Rachel Payton, deputy state director of Americans For Prosperity Missouri. “AFP Missouri has been working on advancing worker freedoms over the last year, and our grassroots activists have made their voices heard. Americans for Prosperity Missouri is dedicated to leading the conversation on labor issues, and our activists will be encouraged to thank those who stood with worker freedom today.”
“UFCW Local 655 is deeply saddened to see the Missouri legislature approve a reckless attack on hard-working public employees like our teachers and nurses. It’s concerning to see lawmakers who have publicly claimed to be champions of middle class families change their votes today as they bend to the pressure of their party’s leadership and self-serving lobbyists,” said the local UFCW. “When the leadership in the majority party holds good bills hostage to force their fellow representatives to vote for a policy that punishes so many Missourians and further guts the middle class, the entire state loses. We will continue to work every day to give hard-working people the pay, benefits, dignity, and respect they deserve on the job. We hope Missouri voters will remember how their representatives voted on this issue when Election Day comes, and choose to vote for candidates who will support the middle class.”