JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – This year’s veto session let out almost six hours before last year’s – but not for lack of strenuous debate on two of the most hotly debated bills of the year: HB116, aka the “Right-to-Work” bill, and HB722, the “Bag Bill,” which prohibits municipalities to set their own minimum wage.
The “Bag Bill” ended up being overridden by the Senate hours after the House departed, but right-to-work on the other hand never made it to the Senate. After HB116 was defeated, the House chamber was filled with long-standing cheers and applause.
“I presume I don’t need to clear the galleries,” Richardson jokingly told ecstatic visitors after the vote.
In a post-session press conference, Speaker of the House Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, answered questions regarding the bill and hinted that the bill would not only continue to emerge in the House but would most likely need a Republican governor who would not veto.
“There has not been a single state that has enacted ‘Right to Work’ without a Republican governor,” said Richardson. “I don’t think it says anything about the ‘Right to Work’ bill. ‘Right to Work’ has been an issue that has been gaining traction across the midwest, including some states where some wouldn’t have thought ‘Right to Work’ to be possible – in Indiana, in Michigan, and in Wisconsin. So, I’m proud of how far we’ve been able to take the issue, despite not having a governor that supports the policy.”
Before session began, a pro-“Right to Work” rally was held in the House lounge, where gubernatorial candidates Catherine Hanaway, John Brunner, Bob Dixon, and Peter Kinder were present.
Richardson touted the successes of the caucus, ranging from medical malpractice, tort, and welfare reform, as well as delivering another balanced budget.
The Speaker went on to call the veto session “historic” for the House, praising legislation that would “make sure A+ scholarships are available for Missouri residents.” This veto session made Gov. Jay Nixon the most overridden governor in Missouri’s history.
His veto session disappointment sat in the House’s inability to override the veto of ‘Right to Work’ – a loss by 13 votes.
“Obviously, I am disappointed that right-to-work didn’t pass,” Richardson said. “I believe it is good economic policy for this state, but I also know that it is a very difficult issue for some members of our caucus. We must continue as a state to enact policies that are going to help us compete in a regional, global marketplace. I believe very strongly that right-to-work will help. Despite right-to-work being a difficult issue, we’re going to continue to work on the issue in our caucus, and we’re going to work together on other fights that make Missouri an easier place to live, work and raise a family.”
Richardson vowed that the caucus would continue to attempt and work with similar right-to-work policies.
“We’re going to continue to discuss the effort,” Richardson said. “What that means in the terms of a specific legislative proposal is something to be decided another day. We’ll work very closely with President Pro Tem [Ron] Richard and Senator Kehoe to find out what they’re appetite is and work very closely with our caucus members.”
The Speaker’s comments were echoed by President Pro Tem Ron Richard, who told reporters he thinks that Senate has the votes and would “talk to the Speaker about [right-to-work].
Richardson admitted parts of the bill were not popular and cost Republican votes, but implied openness going into future sessions and crafting new policies similar to the defeated “Right-to-Work” bill.
“I think everything remains on the table,” he said. “Obviously, there were some concerns with a few specific provisions we built. We will be open to changing those, but we’ll be open to any proposal that we think brings more economic freedom to the state.
“It’s our mission, and one of the priorities of this caucus is economic development for a long time. We are in constant competition with our neighbors. To the extent that we can find ways to enact policies that improve that, we’re going to be working.”
HB116 was one of the most hotly debated pieces of legislation, not only inside, but also outside of the Capitol – even going so far as to trend on Twitter in the evening hours of veto session. Hundreds, if not thousands, in opposition to the bill visited the Capitol several times throughout the regular session, rallying in the spring, visiting during the regular session vote and visiting the upper galleries again last night. Dozens more in opposition sent emails to The Missouri Times in reply to the House veto session asking for updates, as they could not attend. Numerous state representatives told The Missouri Times throughout the day said that they had received hundreds of calls from constituents on the issue.
“We will be ready to come back to work in January,” Richardson concluded ‘RTW’ remarks.
Rachael Herndon was the editor at The Missouri Times and also produced This Week in Missouri Politics, published Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosted the #MoLeg podcast. She joined The Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.