JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After 8 hours of debate and a contentious series of previous question motions, Missouri lawmakers in the Senate advanced a bill that would make Missouri the 26th Right-to-Work state by a vote of 21-13.
Democrats railed against the bill for hours, leading a lengthy filibuster of legislation they said would reduce wages and worker safety and harm middle class families. Republicans, largely supportive of the measure, say the bill stops unions from imposing their will on members and gives workers more choice, along with creating a more attractive business climate.
“I don’t know how you can be a Republican and not support Right-to-Work,” said Sen. Dan Brown, the bill’s sponsor in the senate. “This is for the people of Missouri, an economic development bill.”
Democrats said the bill was politically motivated, aimed at dismantling unions that largely support their causes.
“This country was built on organized labor, by organized labor,” Sen. Jamilah Nasheed said. “This is about turning back the clock and dismantling unions as we know it.”
Tangled in the matter is the choice of Republicans to push the “previous question” motion, a motion typically only used in the House which forces an end to any debate. The motion has been used 14 times since 1867, and only a handful of times in the last decade. Republicans promised to offer a PQ on RTW legislation, Democrats vowed to block any and all bills on the floor if Republicans PQ’d a “partisan issue.”
Not to be deterred, Sen. Majority Floor Leader, Ron Richard — a Republican who has largely championed the PQ strategy in the senate — is now looking to force Democrats to block a bill with wide support on both sides: an extension of Missouri’s Federal Reimbursement Allowance program, which pumps more than $3 billion into the state’s Medicaid program. The extension is currently on the Senate calendar, but Democrats have promised not to let the issue come to a vote despite their support for the bill.
“It’s the Republicans that chose this,” said Democrat Scott Sifton. “They chose to use the nuclear option and PQ a partisan issue, so as far as I’m concerned, discussions for the 2o15 legislative session are over.”
Sifton went on to say he hoped Gov. Jay Nixon — who is widely expected to veto RTW — would call a special session for the legislature to pass the FRA. Brown said the failure to pass FRA would “effectively end Medicaid.”
The Senate returns at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow, where Democrats have promised to bring the chamber to a halt.
The bill must be approved by the House before heading to Nixon’s desk.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.