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”