Day Eighteen: “Paycheck Protection”

Another Win for Republican’s Labor Reform Agenda

Republican House members make their way through their agenda as they pass yet another labor reform bill.

The legislation proposed would bar unions from withholding dues from public sector employee paychecks and prevent said dues from being spent towards political endorsements (among other areas) without the consent of the employee.

It would require unions to get the consent of labor workers yearly to approve the outlets their money is being sent to.

Bill sponsor, Rep. R-Jered Taylor from Christian County, says that dues are currently being used in purposes against the betterment of their members and the law will provide protection against that. While Democrats fought the issue saying that workers can already make the decision to prevent their union from withholding dues, Taylor disagrees.

“Shareholders at any time can stop paying these shares,” Taylor says. “You can’t do that in a public sector union.”

Many Democrats claimed the bill was nothing more than an attack on the working class from one billionaire (likely referencing Rex Sinquefield) who is trying to expunge unions.

“I would say it’s the exact opposite of that,” Taylor argues. “It allows them to choose whether or not they want to be a part of the union rather than having to go through multiple people, do multiple things in order to get out of the union [and] being forced to pay those dues.”

Representative Taylor is confident that the bill will pass into law this session.

The House Minority Floor Leader, Rep. D-Gail McCann Beatty says this is another bad week for Missouri workers but urges public to know that the fight is not over.

Once a referendum comes about in the next couple years, “we will see what the people think.”

House member D-Mark Ellebracht, of Clay County, claims the bill goes against conservative ideology and even went as far as calling it ‘corporatist’.

“If you hold the belief that government should be limited in its role,” Ellebracht questions. “…why would we be reducing legislation that allows government to interfere in how private individuals pay their private dues to private organizations?”

Last year, a similar labor reform bill was introduced and passed through the house and senate but was vetoed by former-Governor D-Jay Nixon.

Missouri House Members passed the legislation with a vote count of 95 to 60 and it now moves onto the senate.

The bill follows the recent passage of Right-To-Work, signed this past Monday by Governor Greitens, indicating a bright future for labor-reform supporters. Speaker of the House, R-Todd Richardson, says that soon to follow are project labor agreement, which will hit the House calendar next week, and prevailing wage, which is currently being discussed in a House Economic Development Committee.

Missouri is now the second-to-last of the West Central States to move forward in labor reform regarding Right-To-Work.

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Day Seventeen: Moms Demand Action

This is a day late; I forgot to post. But here’s an article I wrote about Moms Demand Action, an organization dedicated to common-sense gun reform, responding to two bills that would allow conceal carry weapons on Missouri schools and campuses.

Over 200 volunteers from the national Moms Demand Action organization gathered at the state Capitol Wednesday morning to protest two new gun concealment laws.

The bills would allow students and teachers in public schools and campuses to carry concealed handguns.

The group’s Missouri Chapter head, Becky Morgan (a St. Louis-native) claims that among their supporters are several college campus stakeholders as well as university presidents and law enforcement leaders.

“I think we should listen to our experts,” Morgan says. “They understand the ins and outs of campus life best and so I agree with them that adding guns on a college campus or in k-12 schools will not decrease gun violence but will only make our students and staff members less safe.”

From their website, Moms Demand Action “was created to demand action from legislators, state and federal; companies; and educational institutions.”

Morgan says the organization supports “commonsense background checks for all gun sales” and claims that there are “big loopholes in that system for private sales, online sales and some gun shows” where background checks aren’t allowed.

One of the sponsors for the conceal carry bill, Republican Representative Andrew McDaniel, spoke with St. Louis Public Radio and said his initial reasoning for bringing about the bill was to benefit taxpayers.

“If you’re funding with your taxpayer dollars to go to certain facilities…you’re funding for it and your rights are being taken away,” says McDaniel.

McDaniel emphasizes that the scope is very wide and essentially wants to keep the conversation going about the second amendment.

“I’m a strong constitutionalist so I stand by it,” says McDaniel. “There’s no other amendment that gets more scrutiny than the 2nd.”

He says the bill is not his first priority and will agree to discuss more amendments in order to appease members on both sides.

Last year, during the 2016 session, Missouri Lawmakers overturned former-Governor Nixon’s veto to allow permitless carry and Moms Demand Action was present during that fight, as well.

Becky Morgan says the group will continue “working towards progress” and will be closely following this session’s legislation.

 

 

Day Sixteen: Voter ID

In the November General Election, Missourians voted 63 percent in favor of an amendment that would require registered voters to provide a government-issued ID in order to vote.

Missourians will see the law go into effect on June 1st, 2017 and Missouri officials must decide on a proper budget plan to implement the law.While Governor Greitens initially proposed the budget at $300,000, Secretary of State, R-Jay Ashcroft, estimates 1.5 million which is nearly 3 million below the previous administration’s estimate.

Ashcroft says the original budget “included some things that aren’t required under the law like sending multiple letters to every registered voter in the state of Missouri.”

Ashcroft plans on utilizing a system that will differentiate between registered voters that knowingly have a government-issued identification to save on publicized costs.

“We are currently going through and looking at voter registrations and comparing them to department of revenue records,” Ashcroft says.  “We don’t necessarily see the need to send them a letter telling them they can get a free driver’s license if we know they already have a driver’s license.”

The budget will include informing the public via letters and brochures but Ashcroft says television commercials will not be utilized due to lack of funds.

Democratic Representatives brought up issues regarding informing the public properly to ensure that all eligible voters will be able to vote. Representative D-Karla May raised concerns about how immobile seniors obtain their voter registration card.

May says she has one lady in her district “who was born in Jackson county, Mississippi…[they]said they no longer have those birth records because they had a fire…so I’m trying to figure out how does she get her ID.”

And May is not the only Missouri democrat concerned about stifling eligible voters.

Former Democratic Secretary of State, Jason Kander, was and remains in avid opposition with voter ID and recently implemented a new nonprofit organization titled “Let America Vote” aimed at fighting voter suppression nationwide.

Having lost the issue in Missouri, Kander has acquired a 27-member board that, according to Riverfront Times, includes “human rights activist Martin Luther King III, Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Cecile Richards, and former Obama press secretary Josh Earnest.”

The group claims to “lead a political fight” against the GOP and Kander says in an interview that he formed the group in response to “Republicans going into hyper-drive to suppress voting rights.”

“They don’t want people who don’t vote for them to be allowed to vote,” Kander says.

According to the Wichita Eagle, Kansas, which has been known to have strict voting regulations, lost over 13,700 provisional ballots during the November election. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says he was aware of a glitch that occurred during October which prevented citizens from registering to vote.

Kobach says the “vast majority” of those voters were not registered.

Other cases of voter ID registration issues were present in Michigan and Texas regarding the law but Missouri Secretary of State, Jay Ashcroft, assures Missouri House Members that this will not be an issue. Ashcroft explained several times that registered voters will be allowed to vote, even without proper identification, and if voters do not possess proper photo identification, it will be provided at the state’s expense.

“You may use any of the forms of identification that you’ve been able to use previously to vote,” Ashcroft says. “If you are a registered voter, if you go to your polling place on election day, you will be allowed to vote.”

Ashcroft reassures representatives that the statute requires that provisional ballots must be counted if voting conditions are met.

Day Fifteen: Right-To-Work Step Two Complete

Missouri House Representatives met today, Thursday, Febuary 2nd (or better known as Groundhog Day) to discuss and vote on the Right-To-Work Act and Republicans rejoice as the bill was finally approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives this afternoon with a 100-59 vote count (16 of those 59 being republicans, mind you).

It was the number one goal of Republican legislators upon the inauguration of Republican Governor Greitens. Previously, Jay Nixon had vetoed all efforts to make the Show-Me State right-to-work and now with a conservative majority in the executive and legislative branches, Republicans now have the upper hand in this issue.

As of January 2017, every Missouri bordering state with the exception of Illinois currently allows employees to choose whether or not they want to join a union and, according to Speaker of the House, Todd Richardson, are doing better in regards to wages and unemployment than Missouri is.

“If you look at Missouri’s economy, while we’ve seen improvement in the unemployment rate, we have not seen wages growing in this state at a rate anywhere near what they’re growing in the rest of the country,” Richardson says. “The growth is happening in right to work states.”

Among other things, Right-To-Work was a law that now-Governor Greitens promised to place priority on for the future of Missouri. Shortly following this topic will likely be other union-related issues such as prevailing wage which the House discussed early last week.

Democrats have notoriously opposed this issue.

“This bill is wrong for workers,” says Democratic Representative Cora Faith Walker from St. Louis County. “Workers have the right to organize…You expect other people to come in a facility… and benefit and not pay dues. We call that freeloading.”

Walker claims that working conditions are poor. “Companies are greedy and they’re still greedy,” she says.

Before the passage of the bill, Representatives opted to add additional amendments vying to subject the act to a ballot of the people rather than legislature which was overturned in a vote of 91-64.

Representative Rowland, who is a republican, opted for a five-year sunset of the bill which would enact Missouri as a Right-To-Work state until 2022 where future legislators could determine the success rate of the bill and vote again at a later date.

The House failed to adopt the notion.

With the House accepting and voting in favor towards the terms and conditions of SB-19, the bill will be sent to Governor Greiten’s desk and Missourians will likely see their state as the 28th state in the U.S. to become Right-To-Work.

On a more federal level, there’s every chance that a national Right-To-Work law will come into effect in the near-future.

According to the Huffington Post, U.S. House Republicans intend to introduce a countrywide Right-To-Work law this coming Wednesday that, if passed, would become a moot point for Democratic Legislators currently fighting in their states.

Republicans now control both Houses of Legislature as well as the White House for the first time in at least eight years making the law that much easier to enact.

Regardless, Governor Greitens is making good on his campaign promises to keep government out of business. His proposed Hair Braiding Freedom Act passed through its first committee this week and, next week, doing away with prevailing wage will be next on the agenda.

Day Eight: Greiten’s State of the State address

Yesterday, Governor Eric Greitens held his State of the State address, building off of and emphasizing the importance of the points he originally campaigned with. He started off his speech by alluring to corruption in politics. Early last week, Greitens signed his first executive order barring lobbyists gifts from his administration and, on the day of his address, representatives voted on a lobbyist gift ban (HB-60) regarding members of legislation which passed 149 to 5 (I think it would have been interesting to have had a quote from someone who voted against).

“Too many good, strong public servants have come here only to see the will of the people obstructed and corrupted by insiders and lobbyists,” says Greitens. “I come bearing a simple message from the people of Missouri: They want a government that fights for them, and I come as an outsider ready to lead that fight.”

Before becoming elected, Greitens had not held any senate or representative office position which he utilized as one of his primary campaign strategies. He vowed to put an end to the lobbyist corruption and, later, also touched on topics such as the criminal justice system of Missouri noting that three out of the eleven most violent cities in America were in Missouri: St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield. According to wallstreet, that is accurate. Springfield is #11; Kansas City is #10; and St. Louis is, naturally, #1. St. Louis, Missouri, according to 247wallst.com, had a total of 5,762 violent crimes in 2016. That number increased by 7.7% from the previous year, which is wildly higher than the national increase of 3.9%.

Greitens brought up the idea of the Ferguson Effect, keeping Missouri within those top high-danger cities, and claimed it’s getting harder to be a policeman given that they consistently have to closely evaluate their actions due to the threat of their life and, potentially, their families.

Senators met early this morning to discuss and hear testimonies regarding abortion issues. The first bill proposed regarded protecting the rights of alternatives-to-abortion agencies which was met with scrutiny. Witnesses claimed, given the bill references its first amendment rights, that the bill is irrelevant and already a part of the constitution. Senator Chappelle-Nadal, a democrat, emphasized America does not have a one-size-fit-all world and that furthering abortion laws would only hinder the state.

“We have literally generations of people who have ended up having children prematurely, not making the right decisions, and ultimately end up costing the state more.”

The Senator went on discuss the hypocrisy of pro-life given that proper alterations are not discussed in regards to miscarriages due to contaminated environments. Chappelle-Nadal is an avid environmentalist and regularly hosts meetings regarding radioactive landfills.

Day Seven: lobbyist gift ban

Today is the governor’s State of the State address where he will discuss his mission for the upcoming year. It begins at 7:30 (even though it was originally meant to start at 7:00) and we will be live broadcasting to our main office with a dial up connection. Yes, I said dial up. It still very much exists in the shadows.

House Representatives voted on the ban of lobbyists gifts and it passed with flying colors with 149 yays and only 5 nays with 1 absent (therefore, a no). Essentially what this does is crack down harder on representatives and senators accepting ‘incentive’ gifts to take a particular stance on an issue. Last week, Greitens signed an executive order to prevent lobbyist gifts among his administration and it looks like that will become a rule over both branches, given that the Senate also passes it.