Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is set to sign the so-called right-to-work bill on Monday, meaning Republicans in the General Assembly will have achieved a goal they have sought for years.
“The first bill (from the 2017 session) that’s going to get to the governor’s desk is right to work,” state Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, said at a Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce legislative update Friday.
Missouri will become the 28th state to ban the requirement that those who benefit from union representation pay union dues. Advocates say it will bring more businesses to the state. Opponents say it’s an attack on unions and point out that right-to-work states generally have lower wages.
“One side says it’s the death of unions. I don’t think it’s that,” said Rep. Mike Cierpiot, R-Lee’s Summit. “Some people think it’s the greatest thing we’ve ever done. I don’t think it’s that.”
Cierpiot echoed an argument that some advocates have made, that right to work alone doesn’t create business deals but that some corporate site selectors won’t even look at at a non-right-to-work state to begin with.
The bill passed easily in General Assembly with overwhelming but not unanimous Republican support. Legislators representing Eastern Jackson County were split. Kraus, Cierpiot, Rep. Dan Stacy, R-Blue Springs and Glen Kolkmeyer of Odessa voted for it. Republicans Bill Kidd of Independence and Jeanie Lauer of Blue Springs voted no, as did all area Democrats: Reps. Ira Anders and Rory Rowland of Independence, Rep. Jerome Barnes of Raytown, Reps. Brandon Ellington and Ingrid Burnett of Kansas City, and Sen. John Rizzo.
Rowland said Friday he was proud to stand with labor.
“Right to work was passed on Groundhog Day, and it’ll be 60 years until prosperity in Missouri,” he said.
Legislators also discussed other legislation under consideration:
• Lauer has a bill, now approved by a committee she chairs, that would let small businesses form a consortium to apply for state workforce development help. That assistance usually goes to larger businesses, “but we’re missing the smallest businesses,” she said.
• Kraus continues to pursue a bill clarifying that deliveries are not subject to sales taxes.
• Stacy said he plans to file a bill to move Missouri from open to closed primaries. In Missouri and about 15 other states, a voter in a primary election can request the ballot of any party, regardless of that voter’s party affiliation, if any. In a closed primary, which a handful of states still use, only registered members of a party can vote in that party’s primary.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to have people outside the party select their standard-bearer,” Stacy said.
• Rep. Gary Cross, R-Lee’s Summit, has a bill to do away with personal property taxes on such items as vehicles and boats. He said the tax is discriminatory. An official of the Blue Springs School District said that would cost the district $13.7 million a year, and Cross said some officials would have to work out ways to offset that kind of loss “and I agree with that.”
• Cierpiot said if Kansas City voters approve a higher minimum wage – an issue a judge has ordered placed on the ballot – then the General Assembly would step in and block that change.