The Missouri legislature’s veto session begins at noon Wednesday, and several storylines surround it. Here is a breakdown of some of the key issues:
Right to Work
Called “right to work” by its supporters, and the “right to work for less” by its opponents, backers of House Bill 116 say it would prohibit employers from requiring an employee to be a member of a union, and prohibit requiring an employee to pay union dues, as a condition of employment.
2015 was the first year a Missouri General Assembly sent a right-to-work bill to the state’s governor, but it came at a cost. Senate Republicans used a procedural move called the “previous question,” to block debate of the bill and force a vote on it, which carried thanks to a Republican majority. The move angered the chamber’s Democrats, who held the floor and blocked debate in the final days of the session, allowing only one more bill to clear the chamber. Governor Jay Nixon (D), who once told Reporters he’d never seen a right-to-work bill he would sign, vetoed HB 116 in early June.
The bill is expected to be brought up for a veto override in the House, but is not expected to receive the 109 votes necessary to send it to the Senate.
Unemployment legislation, and can the state Senate vote on it?
The state legislature approved a bill that would reduce the number of weeks a person could receive unemployment benefits from the current 20 to a few as 13, depending on the state’s unemployment rate. The bill would also increase the amount that must be in the unemployment fund before businesses’ fees are reduced and would count severance pay or termination packages as wages in determining eligibility for unemployment.
Governor Nixon called the legislation unnecessary in his veto message. The House overrode his veto in May, but the Senate did not act on the bill before the end of the session. Nixon and some other say because of when he vetoed the bill, the state Constitution required that the legislature override his veto before the session’s end. Republicans and some who side with them say that’s not the case, and say the state Senate can still vote on whether to override.
The bill’s Senate handler, Mike Kehoe (R-Jefferson City), says there are enough votes in the chamber to complete the override.
Status of new House intern policy
The state House’s session ended in scandal with the admission by then House Speaker John Diehl, Junior, that he had exchanged sexually-suggestive texts with a college intern. In July, Kansas City senator Paul LeVota resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment of interns, which he continued to deny.
The House elected a new speaker, Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) on the final day of the session, and Richardson launched an effort to create a new House intern policy and said he wanted to improve the public’s perception of the chamber.
The development of that new policy was the subject of a flurry of attention last month when an e-mail became public, in which a House republican suggested a dress code be a part of that new policy. Richardson said that idea was never the subject of serious consideration.
That latest version of that proposed policy will be given to Richardson this week, and it will be up to him how and when it will be acted on. Key pieces of that proposal call for the creation of an ombudsman program, an electronic communications policy, and a personal conduct policy.
Who will be the next leader of the Senate?
The Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles) announced at the end of July he would resign. Dempsey said he wanted to spend more time with his family. He accepted a position as a partner and director of business development with the St. Louis-based Gate Way Group, a lobbying firm backed by Rex Sinquefield.
Two senators are vying for the Senate leader’s post: Majority Floor Leader Ron Richard (R-Joplin) and Senator Gary Romine (R-Farmington). The Senate Republican caucus will choose between the two before the chamber goes into session Wednesday. The Senate must elect a new president pro tem before it can conduct any other business.
If Richard wins the position, he would be the first person in history to have been both Missouri’s House speaker and Senate president pro tem. Also if he wins, a new majority floor leader will have to be chosen.
Transfer legislation to be brought up, but maybe not for a vote
The sponsor of the 2015 General Assembly’s version of legislation to change Missouri’s student transfer law has said since Governor Nixon vetoed it in June that he would not bring it up for a possible override in the veto session. Representative David Wood (R-Versailles) doesn’t expect to find enough votes to make the leap from the 84 the bill received in the regular session to the 109 needed to overturn the veto.
Some Republicans, however, might want a chance to voice skepticism about the “historic agreement” announced in June by Governor Nixon between several St. Louis-area schools to support the struggling Normandy and Riverview Gardens districts. Backers of the transfer bill say there was no written agreement, and call the announcement a ploy to, in Wood’s words, “alleviate some of the angst of vetoing House Bill 42.”
The bill, then, might be brought up for discussion, but a vote is not anticipated.
A filibuster across two sessions?
The use of the previous question to end debate of a bill in the state Senate is often characterized by those who oppose the bill as an insult in a chamber where all members expect to be allowed to speak as long as they like. Senate Democrats angered by the use of the previous question in May to force a vote on right-to-work proceeded to hold the chamber floor for the final days, allowing only one more piece of legislation to get through.
That block on debate could continue into the veto session, though it’s unclear whether the caucus is agreed on what action it will take.
The veto session typically only lasts one or two days, but could run up to 10.