While the Missouri Legislature failed to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of the right-to-work bill last month, two state legislators from Rolla continue to support making Missouri a right-to-work state.
While the Missouri Legislature failed to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of the right-to-work bill last month, two state legislators from Rolla continue to support making Missouri a right-to-work state.
Sen. Dan Brown (R-16th District) and Rep. Keith Frederick (R-121st District) were guest speakers at the annual Eggs and Issues breakfast held Wednesday morning at Matt’s Steakhouse in Rolla. CenturyLink, as in past years, sponsored the event, with the support of the Rolla Area Chamber of Commerce.
Right-to-work was among the legislative issues discussed by the two lawmakers as were transportation funding, ethics reforms and Medicaid.
“We didn’t pass as many bills as we normally do,” Brown said of the 2015 Missouri legislative session.
However, Nixon vetoed 14 bills, and over his two terms as governor, he has now vetoed more legislation than any other Missouri governor in the state’s history. State legislators overturned 10 of Nixon’s 14 vetoes this year.
One of the bills that lawmakers could not override was the right-to-work bill, which fell 13 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to override Nixon’s veto in the Missouri House during the September veto session.
Right-to-work states prohibit workplace contracts in which union fees are collected from nonmembers. There are 25 states that have passed right-to-work legislation, and all states bordering Missouri are right-to-work states except for Illinois and Kentucky.
In May, Missouri Senate Republicans used a rare procedural motion to shut down debate on right-to-work and were able to pass the measure before Nixon vetoed the bill. The procedure, known as “moving the previous question,” according to Brown, forces the issues to be brought to an immediate vote.
That eventually led Senate Democrats to bring a halt to all other business on the last week of the legislative session in mid-May.
Frederick, who noted that he watched the Senate proceedings, said the Democratic senators were basically “taunting” the Republican senators with other bills that had support but that would not be voted on because GOP senators “forced” the right-to-work bill through.
The four Republican senators who in May voted against the right-to-work legislation — Ryan Silvey, Paul Wieland, Gary Romine and Tom Dempsey — are in trouble as efforts have already started to find Republicans who will unseat them next election, according to Brown and Frederick. Dempsey has since resigned from the Missouri Legislature.
Frederick said he was glad the right-to-work issue came to a vote because it “put people on the record.” Frederick added that right-to-work is part of the Republican platform, and that politicians should not claim to be Republican when they oppose right-to-work.
During the question-and-answer session at the breakfast, Rolla resident Jamie Myers asked both lawmakers how to make the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) see that expanding U.S. Highway 63 between Rolla and Jefferson City is a priority.
Both Brown and Frederick agreed that the project is important, but the two legislators told Myers they have limited say on how transportation funding is spent — as that is the responsibility of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission.
Brown said after voters in the state turned down a Missouri constitutional amendment in August 2014 that would have imposed a sales tax for transportation funding, he did not support increasing the fuel taxes in the Legislature this past year.
“We need to fund the roads with the money MoDOT has,” Brown said.
“I question whether MoDOT is using the existing funds with the right priorities,” Frederick said.
In addition to the disruption in moving forward with legislation at the end of the regular session after the right-to-work vote, the resignation of a Missouri House leader made it difficult for some legislation to receive attention or votes before the mid-May deadline.
John Diehl resigned in May from serving as the speaker of the House in May after admitting to sending sexual text messages to a Capitol intern.
Then in August, Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey resigned to take a job with a lobbyist group.
“We’ve tried for a long time to pass legislation that says you cannot just walk out of a legislative body and go right into lobbying,” said Brown, noting that there should be more time before making that transition.
That is one of the ethics reforms that Frederick supports as well as campaign finance reform in Missouri.
Other legislative issues
The two local legislators also briefly discussed Medicaid, with Brown noting that about 52 percent of the state budget is spent on social services. That equates to about $14 billion, according to Brown.
While Brown said he believes people want to help those, such as individuals with extensive mental diseases, who actually need the social services, some people “just don’t choose to work anymore.”
Paraphrasing President Ronald Reagan, Brown said, “The government safety net has become a hammock.” Brown said social services are meant to be a “hand up, not a handout.”
Frederick said he continues to be opposed to Medicaid managed care, noting, “even without expanding Medicaid, our Medicaid expenditures are going up very substantially.”
Frederick also mentioned that he wants to introduce an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would make any executive order or judicial decision cease to be effective if 30 states object to the order or decision. He said similar efforts would have to take place in other states.
Then at one point during Frederick’s talk, he turned the event into a mini-roast of Nixon. Frederick jokingly said he was disappointed the governor didn’t come to him for his knee replacement surgery and joked that Nixon’s doctor gave him two left knees, “so now he’s leaning left and going in circles.” The doctor’s advice to Nixon, according to Frederick, “Take two aspirin and call Hillary (Clinton) in the morning.”