House members, on Wednesday, overturned Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of House Bill 1891, the so-called paycheck protection bill, which would bar public employee labor unions from withholding dues from workers’ checks without their written permission.
Democrats argued that unionized workers already have the freedom to decide how their dues are used, and that the bill is an attack on labor unions.
“This is (an) unnecessary piece of legislation, and you’re coming up with dumb crap,” said Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis. “It’s personal, (and) you’re doing it to be antagonistic to labor — simple as that. You are doing it because you don’t want people to be able to bargain and intellectually make decisions about their working conditions on their own.”
The debate grew heated at times, especially between Republican Kevin Engler of Farmington and Democrat John Rizzo of Kansas City. Engler is a former state senator who opposes two other anti-union measures: making Missouri a right-to-work state and scrapping the prevailing wage requirement.
He accused Democrats of trying to equate the paycheck protection bill with right-to-work, and said that former Democratic Sens. Tim Green and Victor Callahan voted for a similar paycheck protection bill years ago.
“My word is good,” Engler said. “If somebody says it’s not, I’d like to be called upon soon because I’d like to be able to defend that.”
Rizzo, when he got to speak, called Engler a liar.
“They have never voted for this,” Rizzo said. “They let it out of the Senate and did not filibuster it … after the first time (Engler) said it, I corrected him off the floor, and I didn’t say anything (else), but (he said it a) second time.”
Engler sought to speak again after Rizzo finished, but was shouted down by Democrats yelling “point of order” because he had already spoken once on the bill. That prompted him to shout back, “Yeah, point of order, my ass!”
Shortly after that outburst, Republican Delus Johnson of St. Joseph argued in favor of the bill and of overturning the veto. He said as a member of a firefighters union, his dues constantly went to political candidates he opposed.
“Ninety percent of our union members would raise their hand up and say ‘We want to support Jim Talent, or we want to support this other Republican’ … and then two or three days later we’d go see in the newspaper a full-page ad that says ‘The firefighters support Claire McCaskill!'” Johnson said. “The union bosses are the ones that control our political action committees, they’re the ones that control our union dues, (and) they’re the ones that control who the firefighters endorse.”
In a rare move, House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, took to the floor to speak.
“Wow,” he began. “Of all of the bills that we’ve debated this session, on big, huge, weighty issues, issues of conscience and morality, issues of tax burdens for working families, this is the bill that causes people to lose their tempers on the floor of the House?”
The vote was close, 109-47, the minimum needed to override a veto in the House.
The Missouri Senate now has to vote to override Nixon’s veto for the paycheck protection bill to become law.
Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport