April 23, 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.”

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.

Heated debate precedes initial House passage of paycheck legislation (AUDIO)

The state House has given initial passage to legislation that is alternately called “paycheck protection” by its supporters and “paycheck deception” by its opponents. 

Representative Holly Rehder (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Holly Rehder (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The bill, HB 1617 sponsored by Representative Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston), would let workers annually give or deny permission for union dues to be taken out of their paychecks.

Supporters include the Missouri Chamber who says current law, “allows thousands in taxpayers’ dollars to go political campaigns every year unchecked, siphoned off of public employees’ paychecks in the form of union dues.”

Opponents such as the Missouri AFL-CIO called supporters “extremists,” who seek, “to shut hardworking public workers out of the political process – and to take away their voice on the job.”

The legislation was the subject of two hours of contentious debate. In an exchange that drew an admonition from House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka), Representative Jeff Roorda (D-Barnhardt) read Rehder a quote from Martin Niemoller dating back to World War II.

Listen to a portion of Roorda’s inquiry of Rehder

Niemoller famously wrote, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Roorda read the quote and then asked Rehder, “Who are you coming after next?”

When Roorda was challenged by another Republican for making reference to Nazi Germany, Rooda added, “Lady I never used the word ‘Nazi.’ I hope you don’t think I was comparing you to a 1939-era Nazi German just because you’re doing the same thing that they were.”

Democrats argue the bill is an attempt to limit political involvement by people who are commonly thought to vote for their party.

“We’re being very narrow, and we’re being very precise with this bill,” said Representative Kevin McManus (D-Kansas City). He says it isn’t clear why the bill does not apply to first responders or private corporations. “These are folks that we are silencing and the question is why. The answer is, ‘We don’t like what they’re saying. We don’t like the political speech that their exhibiting.”

Rehder says the bill protects individual workers.

“It gives them the ability to do with their money as they choose,” says Rehder. “This is simply individual freedom.”

The proposal needs another favorable vote to go to the Senate.

House Republican Medicaid plan sponsor undeterred by Senate Republican comments

Work will continue on a House Republican proposal that would reform Medicaid and expand eligibility in Missouri, despite Senate Republicans reaffirming their opposition to Medicaid expansion. A House Committee will hold its third hearing on the proposal, HB 1901 sponsored by Representative Noel Torpey (R-Independence), early Tuesday in the basement of the Capitol.

“There is no path for Medicaid expansion to occur in Missouri this year,” said Brad Lager (R-Savannah) on Monday, one of five Republican Senators who said they would block any attempt to expand Medicaid eligibility this session.

“If we’re going to allow five people to run the state, that’s unfortunate,” says Torpey. He agrees that expansion by itself will not succeed in the Republican-controlled Missouri legislature.

“That was evident last year,” Torpey tells Missourinet, “but if people want reform and truly want reform, we’re going to have to do some type of eligibility changes, and so they’re linked together.”

Torpey says the Senators’ comments won’t cause him to do anything differently.

“Things can change in politics in a day, let alone eight weeks,” says Torpey.

House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka) says the opposition to expansion is not limited to the Senate.

“The signals I’m receiving from the (House Republican) caucus and the signals I’m receiving from the Senate are that expansion is simply something that the legislature does not have much of an appetite for this year,” Jones says. “They’re very concerned about the long-term effects on the budget, and I share those concerns.”

Torpey thinks stripping out the expansion components of his legislation would not be successful either.

“I really think it’s a partnership,” says Torpey of reform and expansion of Medicaid. “We get both or nothing.”

The hearing Tuesday will focus on three aspects of Torpey’s bill, including increased eligibility in some populations.

Earlier stories:

Hearing highlights work requirement, premium in House Republican Medicaid plan

House Republican files Medicaid expansion, reform proposal

Missouri House Speaker, Minority Leader assess session at break (VIDEOS)

See videos of the mid-session media conferences with House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka) and Minority Leader Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis), as the legislature enters its spring break.