Right to work fails in Missouri; local minimum wages debated

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., AP) — Missouri’s Republican-led House took the first step Wednesday toward enacting a ban on local minimum wages but fell significantly short in an attempt to override a veto of a right-to-work bill that would have barred mandatory union fees in workplaces.

The employment bills were the prime focus of Missouri’s annual veto session, which drew hundreds of union members and business leaders to the Capitol to see whether Republicans are able to succeed in their long-sought attempt to make Missouri the 26th right-to-work state. Union supporters cheered in the Capitol halls when the vote failed.
The Legislature also could consider overriding vetoes of bills that would cut Missouri’s jobless benefits to one of the shortest periods nationally and block certain immigrants from receiving college scholarships.
Veto overrides require a two-thirds vote in each chamber. Republicans hold the supermajorities to make that happen, as long as they don’t have more than a few dissenters. Earlier this year, for example, Republicans stuck together to override Nixon’s veto of a bill removing several thousand families from the welfare rolls by shortening how long they can receive cash payments.
But the right-to-work bill got just 96 House votes — well short of the 109 needed for an override — as some Republicans sided with Democrats and unions.
Republicans couched many of their veto override efforts Wednesday as benefiting businesses — and thus the economy.
“At the end of the day, we’re creating more jobs,” Republican Rep. Eric Burlison, of Springfield, said as he brought the right-to-work bill up for debate.
Democratic Rep. Genise Montecillo, of suburban St. Louis, countered: “I do not understand this anti-worker climate.”
Senators waited to debate any veto overrides until after the House vote on right to work.
Earlier Wednesday, the House voted 114-46 to override Nixon’s veto of legislation that would prohibit cities and counties from setting local minimum wages or benefit requirements that exceed state or federal standards. If also passed by the Senate, that same bill would prohibit local governments from banning or taxing plastic bags used by retailers — a response to a since-abandoned proposal in Columbia.
“When you have higher minimum wages, it will be economically destructive,” said Rep. Kevin Engler, a Republican from Farmington. “People are going to lose their jobs,” if businesses can’t afford to pay more, he added.
Nixon has asserted that state lawmakers are attempting a “power grab” from local officials — a claim echoed Wednesday by House Democrats.
The legislation is part of a national trend in which state legislatures have been pushing back against local officials who have tried to set standards on everything from local wages to agricultural seeds to fast-food meals. Business lobbyists contend a patchwork of local requirements would be a burden.
Still awaiting debate is another bill that would link the duration of jobless benefits to the state’s unemployment rate, offering less aid when there are fewer people unemployed. If the jobless rate remains below 6 percent, the effect would be to reduce Missouri’s current 20 weeks of benefits — which already is one of the shorter periods nationally — to as few as 13 weeks starting in January. That would be lower than every state except North Carolina, where benefits currently are capped at 12 weeks under a similar sliding scale.
Nixon contends an override attempt would run afoul of the state constitution, because although the House voted to override him in May, the Senate did not bring the unemployment bill up during the regular session but instead waited until September.
Republican legislative leaders also are pushing to override Nixon’s veto of a bill barring the state’s A+ Scholarship from going to students who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents as children. The scholarship pays for two years of tuition at a community college for students who meet GPA, attendance and tutoring or mentoring requirements.
A state agency rule change this year ensured the scholarship could go to students without legal status who have been deemed lawfully present in the U.S. under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Republicans are seeking to undo that.
The measure runs counter to efforts in roughly half of the states, where either lawmakers or colleges have guaranteed in-state tuition or financial aid to certain immigrant students. Only a few states have blocked such aid.
Associated Press writer Summer Ballentine contributed to this report.
Follow David A. Lieb at: http://twitter.com/DavidALieb.