One of the Missouri Legislature’s top Democrats wants a committee to be granted subpoena power to compel witness testimony in cases involving the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty speaks to the Capitol Press Corps on January 4, 2017. Photo courtesy of Tim Bommel; House Communications

A scathing November investigative report in the Kansas City “Pitch” says Missouri paid about $7 million during the past four years, to settle lawsuits brought by Missouri Corrections employees who claim they were victims of harassment and retaliation.

House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) has called for an investigation into the Department. House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City) supports Richardson’s call, and says a legislative committee should use subpoenas.

“I think it is imperative that we truly investigate this and see how far it goes,” says Beatty. “I also went so far as to talk to the (State) Auditor (Nicole Galloway) and ask her to do an audit of that fund.”

Beatty is referring to the state’s Legal Expense Fund, which is an account used to make payments that stem from lawsuits against the state.

House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) tells Missourinet that he will call DOC officials to testify about the “Pitch” report. A date has not been scheduled yet.

While Republicans have large majorities in the Missouri Legislature, Beatty is optimistic about working with the GOP in several key areas.

“I think there’s still some education issues that we need to work on. We talk about infrastructure and transportation, our highways, we still need to deal with that,” Beatty says. “And the budget in general, that has always typically been a very bipartisan process.”

Beatty tells Missourinet she worries about possible education cuts. She is pushing for additional funding for early childhood education.

House Budget Committee Chair Fitzpatrick predicts Governor Eric Greitens (R) will have to make $150 to $200 million in additional restrictions.

Beatty, who spoke on ABC 17 News and Missourinet during Monday’s live inauguration coverage, also addressed right-to-work. She says Republicans are taking their cue on right-to-work from retired St. Louis investor Rex Sinquefield and Joplin businessman David Humphreys.

“I do not see a big clamor from the public one way or the other for right-to-work, quite frankly. And if you simply follow the money trail, look at the dollars that were spent by those two (Sinquefield and Humphreys) in the campaigns and who they supported and the number of pro-labor, particularly Republicans, who lost as a result of those dollars being put against them.”

A Missouri House committee held public hearings Tuesday in Jefferson City on five right-to-work bills.

The Senate General Laws Committee will hold a noon hearing Wednesday on State Sen. Dan Brown’s (R-Rolla) right-to-work bill.

Right-to-work says that a person cannot be required to join or refrain from joining a labor organization, as a condition of employment.