Missouri lawmakers approved a bill to forbid cities from the hiking minimum above the state’s rate on the last day of the legislative session.
The measure finished in dramatic fashion, passing in the House with about 10 minutes to spare before the 6 p.m. deadline. The Senate took up the legislation first in the early afternoon.
The chamber debated and voted mostly along party lines on a series of parliamentary maneuvers over the measure. The were joined by one Republican, Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph, who was very vocal in his disapproval over his party’s handling of floor action.
Democrats tried to stall the measure from passing, and were successful in blocking forward movement for several hours.
Republican Senator Dan Hegeman of Cosby introduced his measure and through a series of procedural tactics was able choke off debate and move for a direct vote. What followed was a series of delaying ploys executed by Democrats that stretched the clock for almost three hours.
During that time, the Republican super-majority was able to approve the measure along with an emergency clause to ensure it would go into effect when signed by the governor, instead of the August 28th normal date for implementation.
Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard said a consensus in the Republican caucus agreed that a maneuver known as “Previous Question” should be used to jam debate on the bill.
“We felt, most of us, felt that it was something that we needed to do” said Richard. “If we couldn’t get it done through regular debate, then we’d go to the previous question, and that’s what we decided to do.”
Still, Democrats used blocking tactics that were successful in keeping the bill locked in the chamber as time ticked away toward 5 p.m. The delay ended abruptly when Republican Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe of Jefferson City called for the session and the chamber to adjourn for the year.
The move prevented Republicans from proceeding further with any of their other legislative priorities such as measures to weaken unions, and to expand charter schools. But it ensured the minimum wage bill would be delivered to the house before the 6 o’clock deadline.
Minority Floor Leader Gina Walsh of Bellefontaine Neighbors took issue with Republicans’ handling of floor action, noting no one in her caucus got a chance to be heard.
“That is what really saddened me today” said Walsh. “I think that is what threw us into disarray. If you are all familiar with the House, and we are all familiar with that happening in the House. We are not accustomed to that over here. We don’t like it and we will never like it.”
Hegeman, the Senate’s carrier of the measure, acknowledged there were philosophical differences between supporters and opponents of the legislation.
“I am sure that the supporters believe that they’re doing great things for their constituents” Hegeman said. “But I also believe that the people that supported this minimum wage preemption believe that same thing, that they’re doing what’s in the best interest of the citizens across the entire state.”
A wage hike went into effect a week ago in St. Louis after legal wrangling in the courts. Walsh thinks the state is out of line to dictate what the city chooses to do.
“The fact of the matter is that the city decided what they wanted. I don’t think that the state should step in like the big brother or big sister and say ’You don’t know what you voted on’. That happened several times here in this building.”
After the Senate passed the bill, it was sped over to the House where it arrived at roughly 5:40 p.m. and was passed in around 10 minutes. The lower chamber, however, failed by one vote sustain the emergency clause.
The bill now goes to Governor Greitens, who’s expected to sign it. The measure will go into effect on August 28th.
It’s unknown how it will impact the St. Louis law. Republican state lawmakers say it was designed to withstand a legal challenge from the city.
The current minimum wage in Missouri is $7.70. St. Louis raised its wage to $10.00 May 5th.