The Missouri Senate has passed a resolution to move the vote on proposed changes to labor laws from November to August.

Missouri Senate

The resolution was filibustered Thursday night into Friday morning by Democrats who tried to block the change of date for a controversial ballot measure to determine whether Missouri becomes a Right-to-work state.

Unions, who oppose a Right-to-work law passed in 2017, collected signatures to get the question placed on the ballot.

The Democratic filibuster came to a bizarre and contentious end when Republican Bob Dixon of Springfield called for Democrat Maria Chappelle-Nadal had to sit down because of graphic words she spoke when reading a book.

Dixon cited bad decorum as the reason for his request.  Dixon said he rose three times over the course of the filibuster to object to the content of what was spoken by Chappelle-Nadal.

Republican Senate leadership backed up Dixon’s call after lengthy behind the scene conversations.  The move was highly unusual as the majority party typically uses a well know procedural maneuver known as the “previous question” to end filibusters and force an immediate vote.

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph said he couldn’t believe his ears when Dixon told Chappelle-Nadal to sit down and described how he ran into the chamber from outside to try and help her. Schaaf said he was offended at what happened to her.

Chappelle-Nadal then said, “Anytime a person’s voice is taken away, it should look like a very huge scar.”

The Senate voted 23-8 on party lines to pass the resolution to move the Right-to-work vote to August after 12 hours of filibustering and wrangling over the chamber’s rules.  The Senate adjourned at roughly 5:15 a.m.

An amendment to the resolution offered overnight by Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, to move the ballot measure from 2018 to 2019 was not addressed on the floor.

Republicans, who are largely behind the resolution to move up the vote, believe pro-union voters, who tend to be Democrats, will be less likely to show up at the polls in August than in November when Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill will be on the ballot for re-election.

Some Republicans also contend an earlier vote will give businesses more certainty over the issue moving forward.  Implementation of the Right-to-work law has been delayed by the union ballot measure.

A Right-to-work law would ban union membership as a requirement for employment at workplaces.

The resolution from Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, will have to move quickly through the legislature as the deadline to adjourn the current session is next Friday.

However, Republican leadership in the GOP-dominated House could now choose to move the vote change resolution to the front of the line for consideration on the floor.

They reacted quickly Monday after an effort by Right-to-work supporters to get their own measure onto the ballot fell short when they failed to collect enough signatures before a deadline last Sunday. House GOP leadership rapidly responded by moving a resolution to establish Right-to-work as a constitutional amendment through the committee process. The proposal was rushed through two committees in a few hours Monday evening and could see floor action in the House at any time.

Republican Rep. Rick Brattin of Harrisonville, who filed the measure in January, told the Kansas City Star that he was stunned at his bill’s sudden speed of movement.

“This late in the session, even when it was referred to committee, I just assumed it was dead,” said Brattin.

The Kansas City Star also reported that Republican Governor Eric Geitens’ non-profit A New Missouri Inc. funneled most of the money into the pro Right-to-work ballot effort.  A New Missouri Inc. is classified as 501 (c) (4) organization, which means it doesn’t have to identify its donors, a status that critics have associated with the term “dark money”.

After being elected in 2016, Greitens joined the Republican-dominated legislature to fast-track a Right-to-work bill into law after such efforts were vetoed previously by then-Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. When Greitens signed the Right-to-work measure into law in February 2017, union supporters were given ample time to gather signatures to get their own measure, known as Proposition A, onto the ballot.

Republicans appear to be working on two fronts now in an effort to make Right-to-work the law of the land – changing the voting date of Proposition A and establishing Right-to-work as a constitutional amendment.  They have six days to secure passage of either proposal.

Recent polling on Right-to-work has shown an even split among Missouri voters.

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