Right to work bill on Missouri House schedule

Saturday, March 22, 2014 | 5:07 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri House Republican leaders are vowing to consider one of their top priorities, legislation known to supporters as "right to work," when lawmakers return from their weeklong break.

The bill that would prohibit labor contracts from requiring that all employees pay union fees, regardless of whether workers are union members, was the first measure considered by a House committee this year and was named a top priority by the Republican speaker.

A look at bills before the Missouri legislature

The Missouri legislature is to return to work Monday from its weeklong spring break, which marks the traditional midway point of its annual session. Here's a look at where some issues stand:


The House passed legislation tripling the amount of time women have to wait to get an abortion after seeing a doctor. The bill would require women to wait three days before terminating their pregnancy. The Senate is considering similar legislation.


A House committee endorsed a 2015 budget that creates a two-tiered funding plan for education, providing public schools at least a $122 million increase and potentially a $278 million increase if state revenues meet Gov. Jay Nixon's more optimistic projections. Separately, House budget leaders are backing a bonding plan to replace a state mental health facility in Fulton.


House and Senate panels have held hearings on bills that would place caps on campaign contributions. Committees have also considered legislation to limit the amount of gifts lobbyists can provide to lawmakers.


Nixon signed legislation to prevent insurance companies from charging significantly higher amounts for oral chemotherapy drugs than they currently do for intravenous treatments. Companies can only charge $75 for a 30-day supply of chemotherapy pills, starting next year.


Legislation to rewrite the state's criminal laws for the first time since 1979 is pending in both the House and Senate. The bills would create new classes of felonies and misdemeanors, as well as reduce the penalties for some drug crimes.


The Senate passed a measure that could jail federal agents who enforce federal laws that the state deems to be infringements on gun rights. A House committee endorsed the Senate bill, and it is awaiting action on the House floor.


A Senate panel advanced legislation to expand the use of managed care policies in Missouri's Medicaid program. A House panel is hearing testimony on a bill that would include more sweeping Medicaid changes, including an expansion of eligibility to thousands of lower-income adults.


The House passed legislation attempting to get around a state Supreme Court ruling that struck down Missouri's limit on the amount of money victims can receive in medical malpractice lawsuits for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering. The bill seeks to reinstate a cap of $350,000.


A Senate panel advanced a bill to raise Missouri's current minimum wage of $7.50 an hour to $10 an hour starting in 2015. It hasn't been debated by the full Senate.


The Senate passed legislation revising a state law that currently allows students in unaccredited districts to transfer elsewhere at their former district's expense. The Senate bill would first steer students wanting to leave unaccredited schools to other accredited buildings in the same district. A House committee also is considering a bill dealing with unaccredited schools.


The House and Senate each passed similar bills offering a truce with Kansas in a tax-credit battle for businesses in the Kansas City area. The House also passed a bill that would reduce the amount of tax credits that could be approved annually for developers of low-income housing and historic buildings while creating new tax breaks for various other businesses.


The House passed two tax-cut measures — one reducing income taxes only for businesses, the other for both individuals and some businesses. The Senate has gotten bogged down on its own tax-cut legislation, with majority-party Republicans in disagreement about whether to try to compromise with Nixon, who vetoed an income tax cut last year.


A House committee endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment that would ask voters to impose a 1-cent sales tax for Missouri roads, bridges and other modes of transportation.


A House committee endorsed legislation prohibiting labor contracts from requiring that all employees pay union fees, but the so-called right-to-work bill has not been debated by the full House.


The House approved a state constitutional amendment and an accompanying bill that could authorize a requirement for voters to show government-issued photo identification at the polls. Both measures are pending in the Senate, but the chamber's leader said he only wants to focus on the constitutional amendment.

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Although there has been little public movement on the issue since those early days in January, House leaders now say the issue will be debated in the second half of the session.

House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, has consistently said passing the legislation would be on the forefront of the chamber's agenda this year. Talking to reporters before the legislature left town for spring break, he said he wants the bill debated on the House floor.

"I think around the country you are seeing the states that have the greatest economic prosperity and creating the most jobs are those that are right to work states that allow worker freedom and choice," he said.

Republican Majority Leader John Diehl, R-Town and Country, said House members would meet after the break to discuss the legislation.

Those deliberations could come as the Missouri State Building and Construction Trades Council holds a planned rally at the Capitol on Wednesday. The council's president, state Sen. Gina Walsh, said the rally would raise awareness of the importance of protecting unions and combating right to work.

"I know that it is an issue I'll fall on my sword for," said Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors. "This isn't a union issue, this is a human issue.++

The legislation faces an uphill road to become law in Missouri. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon is opposed and would likely veto the bill. Senate Republican leaders have previously expressed skepticism on the bill's chances in that chamber, where Walsh and other Democrats could stage a filibuster.

When the House returns, it has a number of different versions of the right to work legislation to consider. Nixon's opposition has led some supporters to consider sending the issue to voters for approval rather than the governor's desk.

Of the five proposals endorsed by a House committee, two would need voter approval after passing both the House and Senate. But there is a divide on which date to hold the election. One bill would go to the November ballot while the other measure would appear on the August primary ballot, which typically has a lower turnout.

An additional version of the legislation would also rely on voter approval, but would let individual Missouri counties hold separate elections on whether right to work should be adopted in that county. The other two bills endorsed by a House panel would go to Nixon's desk for approval.

When lawmakers return, right to work might not be the only labor policy debated by the House. The chamber is planning to take up separate legislation that would require public employees to give annual written authorization for union fees to be automatically deducted from their paycheck. Under the bill, similar consent would be required for unions to spend fees on political activities.

The measure, which supporters call "paycheck protection," was passed by the legislature last year and then vetoed by Nixon. The current House version would refer the measure to the ballot instead of Nixon's desk.

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