JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed legislation Tuesday that would have required public employees to give annual written consent before union dues could be deducted from their paychecks or used for political purposes.
The Democratic governor said in his veto message that the bill passed by the Republican-led legislature would have placed "unnecessary burdens on public employees for the purpose of weakening labor organizations."
In addition to requiring annual consent for union deductions, the legislation would have required a similar annual approval from public employees to spend a portion of their union fees on political activities.
Republicans who supported the bill called it a "paycheck protection" measure that preserved the rights of individual employees.
The veto was expected from Nixon, who has enjoyed strong financial support from unions during his political career. A veto override is unlikely, because the bill has critics even within the Republican majority.
Dan Mehan, the president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, called the veto "a shame" and said it thwarted "an employee free-choice" movement.
"We think it's a basic right that you should be able to decide where your earned money goes — if you want to contribute to a political campaign or not," Mehan said.
Nixon said the legislation would have unfairly targeted unions with requirements that are not imposed on other automatic paycheck deductions, such as for college savings accounts or retirement plans. Those withholdings are based on a one-time authorization that the employee can revoke at any time, the governor said.
"The bill targets a single group of employees and imposes on them an unnecessary and cumbersome process," Nixon said in his official veto statement.
Hugh McVey, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, said Nixon "stands as a firewall against the extremist agenda that would unfairly take rights away from workers."
"Nurses, teachers, police officers and countless other middle-class Missourians would have lost their voice on the job if this unfair and dangerous paycheck deception bill were to become law," McVey said in a written statement.
Nixon's veto message also cited a provision exempting first responders such as police and firefighters from the bill's requirements. The governor said that would have treated some public sector employees differently than others without a compelling reason, a potential violation of the U.S. Constitution.
The bill was a watered-down version of a Republican-backed proposal that originally sought an outright prohibition on unions deducting fees from paychecks. Republicans pared back the bill as a compromise with Senate Democrats who had blocked it from coming to a vote.
Nixon did not publicize the veto with a news conference, instead listing it at the bottom of a news release noting that he had signed eight other unrelated bills.
Overriding Nixon's veto would require a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate. That appears unlikely, because 19 House Republicans joined with Democrats in opposing the bill. The legislation passed the House last month 85-69 — 24 votes shy of the threshold needed for an override during an upcoming September session. The bill passed the Senate in March by a 24-10 vote, one more than needed for a veto override.