JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Today the house failed to get the 82 votes required for final passage of the controversial “Right-to-Work” legislation. The bill was perfected today in the House by a vote of 78-68, lacking a majority of the full house and marking a blow for Right-to-Work proponents.
Speaker Tim Jones has made the issue a top priority during his tenure as speaker. While early approval of bills only requires a majority of members present, the bill will need 82 votes — a majority of the entire chamber — to advance to the Senate where Senate leaders have been remarkably unenthusiastic about its passage.
Proponents, like Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, who sponsors the House language, says the bill merely expands freedom and choice for Missouri workers. Other supporters chided Democrats and RTW opponents for taking a too aggressive stance. Several Democrats repeatedly demanded an end to debate on the floor, repeatedly crying “let’s vote.” Burlison exclaimed on the floor that opponents of his bill were dictating to workers.
“Why are we so afraid to just give people a choice?’ Burlison said on the floor. “Freedom to Work is a necessary issue if we want a competitive advantage with the states around us.”
The bill received a hearing the third day of session and has been hotly debated over the first four months. Labor leaders are calling the defeat a clear signal that the policy does not have the support of the public.
“This ill-conceived attack on working families further demonstrates the radical agenda at work within the Missouri Republican Party aimed at destroying the middle class in favor of their wealthy political donors,” Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhardt, said.
Others saw the bipartisan rejection of the bill as a promising sign for future cooperation.
“The failure of this bill just shows that when both parties work together on issues where our focus actually should be — like education or a balanced budget or jobs — this is not a priority for our lawmakers. When we come together and reach across divides, we can reach a consensus and see that this isn’t the right solution for Missouri,” said Jeff Aboussie, President of the St. Louis Building Trades Council.
Thursday is typically a day for final approval of House bills, but without 82 votes the measure will not leave the body. Opponents of the legislation say the lack of a clear consensus from House Republicans shows that the bill is misguided. Supporters counter that work isn’t finished on the legislation for this session and can be third read at any time until the legislature must adjourn on May 16.
Former Republican House Speaker Steve Tilley, who represents the AFL-CIO, said the failure to garner 82 votes is a sign bipartisan unity on the issue.
“It’s healthiest for our state when Democrats and Republicans come together to stand up for working families. I hope the cooperation continues for the betterment of our state,” Tilley said.
Mike Louis Secretary-Treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO celebrated the vote by adding, “Today’s vote should be a major wake-up call to the extremists who have been pushing this divisive agenda at the expense of Missouri’s middle class,” said Mike Louis, Missouri AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer. “Although Grover Norquist did get the vote he demanded from House leaders, the strong bipartisan opposition to HB1770 stopped this unfair and unnecessary bill in its tracks for the 2014 session. Now that enough Republicans and Democrats voted in favor of the working people in their districts instead of shady special interest groups, the remaining weeks of session should be spent on jobs, not more of the ALEC agenda intended to impress deep-pocketed donors.”
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.