April 16, 2014

‘Flimsy’ Republicans join caucus leadership ahead of debate of income tax cut (VIDEO)

11 of the so-called “flimsy 15″ stood with House Republican Leaders in an apparent show of caucus solidarity ahead of debate, and likely a vote on, Senate tax cut legislation this afternoon. 

The House has taken up Senator Will Kraus’ (R-Lee’s Summit) legislation, SB 509, for possible passage to Governor Jay Nixon (D).  It would cut income taxes by one-half percent over several years beginning in 2017. The “flimsy 15″ was what a pro-business lobbying group called 15 Republicans who voted with Democrats last year to veto a proposed income tax cut.


One of the most vocal opponents of last year’s bill was Representative Nate Walker (R-Kirksville), who called that legislation “flawed” and said he had to do what was right for his constituents. Walker says he was not coerced to stand with his caucus’ leadership today.

“It was my choice to be there and I support [Kraus'] bill,” Walker tells Missourinet.

He says the lawmakers among that 15, 14 of which are still in the House, met after the veto session and talked to House Republican leadership about their concerns.

“I think this is a good step and I think we need to try this,” Walker says, “and I think the economy will benefit from it.”

“I know why they called us,” says Representative Mike Thomson (R-Maryville), another of the 15. “But we’re a part of the caucus. We always vote our district and our feelings.”

Thomson asks why similar attention hasn’t been paid to Republicans who voted against Right to Work last week in the House. “I don’t know why we were singled out on this to be quite honest.”

Senate moves to knock trolls off the bridge (AUDIO)

A story many people recall from their childhood has a real-life counterpart in the adult world. The legisalture is considering what to do about trolls.

Remember that trolls lived under the bridge used by the three Billy Goats Gruff and threatened to gobble them up as they crossed his bridge, until the third goat “crushed him to bits,” as one version goes.

The senate has approved Senator Mike Cunningham’s bill that takes on “patent trolls.”

AUDIO: Cunnigham :15

He says they usually demand $800 to $1200 dollars per user of their product.

AUDIO: Cunningham :16

Cunningham’s bill sets up seven standards the trolls have to meet to prove their cases in Missouri Courts and allows the Attorney General to go after trolls.

AUDIO: Cunningham :16

St. Louis Senator Scott Sifton, an attorney, says there are legitimate patent infringement lawsuits, but he calls the letters from patent trolls “legalized ransom” and says it’s time to attack their legality.

AUDIO: Sifton :17

Cunnigham’s bill has been sent to the House. Congress has had similar bills for three years but hasn’t acted.

‘Right to work’ sponsor thinks he can find 4 votes

The sponsor of the so-called “right to work” bill in the House says he is optimistic after it received initial approval Wednesday, despite its opponents declaring victory.

The policy would prevent the paying of union dues from being a requisite for employment in private businesses in Missouri. Unions and Democrats say it’s an attack on workers and have declared the measure defeated, because it only got 78 “yes” votes. That’s enough for initial passage, or “perfection,” but more would be needed on a vote to send it to the Senate.

Representative Eric Burlison (R-Springfield) says they’re being premature.

“I think this is a historic victory,” says Burlison.

Four more votes are what supporters would need to reach the constitutional majority necessary for the bill to clear the House and go to the Senate. Burlison thinks they can be found.

“To get to 82 is a small step from the 78. There’s a lot of room there,” says Burlison. “What’s clear is we’ve set the low water mark at 78, which is very good. I don’t know where the high water mark is going to be on the vote.”

19 Republicans voted with Democrats against the legislation, while 11 were absent and two entered neutral “present” votes.

The legislation faces a likely filibuster if it reaches the Senate but could result in a move of the “previous question,” a motion to shut down debate and force a vote … a rare move in the Senate.

Burlison says that potential means he has time to find four more votes.

“The Senate will likely not take this bill up until the last possible day,” says Burlison. “The PQ is something that you don’t want to have to do until the very end … there’s time.”

Even if “right to work” doesn’t make it out of the House, Burlison says its initial passage is a win.

“This is an absolute victory. It’s never happened in the history of the State of Missouri.”

See how state House members voted on “right to work”

‘Right to work’ backers, opponents both see win in House vote

The House gave initial passage, or “perfected,” legislation alternately called “right to work” by supporters and “right to work for free” by opponents, and both sides are claiming victory.

The proposal would bar making the payment of union dues or fees a requisite for employment in private sector workplaces. If passed it would go to voters in August.

The proposal is a top priority of House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka).

The legislation received 78 “yes” votes, enough to secure “perfection” but not enough to send the bill to the Senate.

Governor Jay Nixon (D) issued a statement calling the vote a “failure.”

“Today a bipartisan coalition of legislators rejected Right to Work, marking a victory for Missouri working families and a setback for the out-of-state ideologues and special interests trying to attack them,” Gov. Nixon said.

Supporters of the policy are offering a different message. Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder (R)\ said on Twitter, “History made today in [the Missouri] General Assembly: Right to work bill wins first-round approval.”

Supporters could still find the remaining four votes needed to pass the bill on to the Senate. 11 legislators were absent for the vote and two voted “present.” 19 Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the proposal.

Click here to see how lawmakers voted on the proposal

Under current law workers can not be forced to join a union but labor unions must negotiate on behalf of all employees in a bargaining unit. Employees who aren’t in the union don’t have to pay dues but must pay fees to cover the cost of representation.

Opponents say the legislation would allow non-union members to be “freeloaders.” Supporters say forcing non-union workers to pay union fees is wrong, and say such laws make states more appealing to businesses and have in other states led to increases in employment numbers in both union and non-union workplaces.

House Floor Leader: expect ‘Right to Work’ on Wednesday

National organizations are raising the stakes and the pressure on GOP lawmakers in Missouri to vote on a so-called “right to work” law, which would bar making union membership a requisite of a job.

Majority Floor Leader John Diehl (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Majority Floor Leader John Diehl (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Unions and Democrats say “right to work” allows non-union employees to share the benefits of union membership without having to pay dues. Backers say “right to work” favors businesses and keeps workers from being forced to join a union. 

House Majority Floor Leader John Diehl (R-Town and Country) says the bill was going to be brought up Wednesday but he was asked to hold off by Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka) and others.

“The Speaker and the bill sponsor believed that there are some improvements that can be made in the ballot language, so they asked me to hold off on it,” says Diehl. “Assuming that the ballot language issue gets corrected, my plan would be to go to it on Wednesday of next week.”

Jones says he is confident that there is support for “right to work” in his caucus.

“If you look at our caucus of currently 108 people, I can definitely say there is a strong majority of that 108 that wants us to have a vote on that issue this year and move that bill forward.”

Diehl thinks the vote will be close, and Thursday’s House vote to pass what supporters call “paycheck protection” legislation could be seen as supporting that prediction. The bill passed 83-69 but 17 Republicans voted against it.

Called “paycheck deception” by Democrats and unions, the bill would require that workers annually sign off on whether unions can take dues out of employee’s checks. Opponents argue such deductions are already voluntary.

Jones has called “paycheck protection” a way to get to the goal or right-to-work.