House passes bill adding regulations on public employee unions

Thursday, April 3, 2014 | 5:16 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — This time, Democrats instead of Republicans were claiming a bill was government intrusion with the passage of HB 1617, which supporters call the “paycheck protection” bill.

The bill narrowly passed the House 83-69 on Thursday. A bill needs a minimum of 82 votes to pass. HB 1617 requires public employee labor unions to get permission each year to have fees automatically removed from their paychecks, and forces those unions to get annual consent to spend some of their fees on political activities.

Unions for first responders like firefighters and police officers are exempted from this bill.

Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, said this bill doesn’t align with conservative values of small government because it puts the government between people and the organization.

He said the bill tells workers they aren't competent enough to make an agreement longer than one year about dues being used for political speech.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, said the bill allows individual workers more freedom by giving them the choice that their dues don’t go to political use.

Workers can already opt out of their dues going to political speech by the union, but Rehder said this bill would take out some of the stigma of not aligning politically with their union.

"As you can imagine, there’s quite a bit of intimidation and embarrassment with that when you’re going against the grain, when you’re going against the group," she said. "This takes that out of the way."

Webber said this bill was a brazen political move that was done to make unions less powerful.

"There’s no public policy behind it at all,he said "You know there’s no public policy because they carved out first responders like police officers and firefighters. If it’s important enough to protect workers, why wouldn’t we protect them?"

Rehder said the bill exempted first responders because that was the compromise the House decided on last year, and it would be simpler to have the same compromise.  

Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a similar bill last year. But if HB 1617 passes the Senate this year, Nixon won’t be able to veto it because of a referendum clause that would send the bill directly to voters for approval.

"It would go around the governor, and it would go straight on the ballot," Webber said. "So the governor wouldn't have a chance to veto it."

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