END OF 2017 SESSION – MEAN-NESS PREVAILED

We adjourned regular session sine die at 6pm on the dot Friday May 12th, per state constitution, after a contentious week. Before I could barely move my belongings home, say hi to my family and catch my breath, Governor Greitens called for a special session.

His official message:

“We are fighting to bring more jobs to the people of Missouri. Some career politicians failed to do their jobs and then went home. That’s wrong. We’re cancelling their summer vacations and calling a special session to get this done.”

Yes…we termed legislators are “career politicians” and just spent 5 months on the governor’s agenda with his party’s super majority in the legislature.

The cost to taxpayers?  The Missouri House with 163 members estimates the session to cost $50,000 to $100,000 a week. The Senate with one vacancy estimates it to cost $28,000 a week. These costs reflect our daily per diem, mileage to and from the Capitol and costs of supporting session-only staff.

Sound ok to you?  

UPDATE:  HB1, which would authorize Ameren Missouri to offer discounted electric rates for a company willing to reopen the Noranda Aluminum smelter in New Madrid County and a proposed nearby steel mill – passed the House Wednesday 120-17 and the Senate Friday 24-10.  I voted NO because 1) the proposed company was not revealed 2) promise of “jobs” was speculative and not confirmed3) concern about poverty in the Bootheel is disingenious with the persistant GOP anti-poor agenda and 4) Ameren consumer rates are projected to increase around the state.

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WHAT MADE GOV. GREITENS UNHAPPY THE LAST WEEK OF SESSION?

One of the ugliest bills sent to the Governor reared its head in the last week. SB43, making it more difficult for victims of illegal employee discrimination to hold wrongdoers accountable popped up for final House debate after languishing several weeks on the calendar.

Sen. Gary Romine, the bill sponsor, faces a pending lawsuit for alleged acts of racial dscrimination in violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act, the very law he wants to weaken. In this lawsuit, an African-American accounts manager who had worked at Sen. Romine’s company, Show-Me Rent-to-Own, alleged that a white supervisor targeted him with racial slurs, including use of the “n” word.

You should also know this about SB43:

Enterprise-Rent-A-Car fought tooth and nail for discriminatory bills like SB43 since it lost its whistleblower case Dunn v. Enterprise in 2005. Thomas Dunn, an executive at Enterprise, blew the whistle on Enterprise as the company committed actions Dunn believed would violate federal securities laws. Instead of correcting their behavior, Enterprise fired Dunn in retaliation. Dunn sued and won- demonstrating the ability of workers to balance the scales of justice. Since 2005, Enterprise and its lobbyists have fought to silence workers and sweep unethical business practices under the rug.

Enterprise was the major force behind the MO Chamber of Commerce which successfully and ruthlessly lobbied for SB43 this past session.

Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel attempted to testify against the House related bill in February but Special Committee on Litigation Reform Chair Bill Lant cut off his testimony and abruptly ended the packed hearing.

Several weeks later, Missouri NAACP, Empower Missouri, Missouri Faith Voices, PROMO, Planned Parenthood and Missouri ACLU hosted a press event denouncing SB43 and the House Black Caucus followed with their own press event.

The House brought up SB43 on Monday May 8th unexpectedly for a contentious 6 hour debate that went late into the night.

Rep. Kevin Engler (R-Farmington) brought up the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act as an amendment – the first time in two decades the legislation had been debated on the House floor. Before the amendment was withdrawn to avoid a GOP embarrassing roll call vote, this was actually said in debate by Rep. Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville):

 I am not making any of this up.

32 of us Democrats decided in solidarity to refuse to vote on SB43 even though our House rules require a mandatory vote if we are on the House floor.  Read our Constitutional Objection statement in the House Journal.  Check out final State Rep Votes on SB43 HERE which was Truly Agreed and Finally Passed by a vote of 98-30 with 34 absent/not voting.

PLEASE HELP US DEMAND A #HERO-VETO OF SB43 BY GOVERNOR GREITENS.  He has until July 14th to take action.

In case you missed it previously, see the ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH OP-ED: “TROUBLING BILL WOULD CRIPPLE MISSOURI HUMAN RIGHTS ACT”.

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MEAN-NESS AT IT’S ABSOLUTE WORST

To top it off, the House and Senate pulled the cruelest stunt you can imagine in the last hours of session on Friday May 12th.  First, the Speaker refused to allow ANY DEBATE on a series of bills, slamming us right and left and stoking our fury.

The Senate filibustered for several hours the Minimum Wage Pre-emption Bill which would pre-empt or nullify any local municipalities from setting a minimum wage higher that the statewide wage of $7.70 per hour, HB1194. The rare PQ motion was used, ending Senate debate and HB1194 passed 23-10, sending it back to the House for one final vote.

  • St. Louis City had passed a minimum wage increase  of $10.00 per hour which went into effect on May 5th (it would incrementally rise to $11.00 per hour). Their low wage workers had just seen an increase in their paychecks.
  • In Kansas City a grassroots effort put a minimum wage increase on the August ballot. It would boost the minimum wage in our city to $10.00 per hour by 9/1/17 and incrementally raise it to $15.00 an hour by 2022.
  • In addition the KC council voted to incrementally increase the minimum wage to $13.00 per hour by 1/1/23.

The House recessed briefly for the required Fiscal Review Committee to pass out HB1194 before final debate on the floor (again with NO DISCUSSION or even review of the fiscal note allowed).

With less than 30 minutes remaining of session, we Democrats filled every microphone on our side, mad as hell – loud, boisterous and in full fighting mode to protect low wage workers. There is NO state benefit to reduce their wages.  Not ONE Democrat was allowed to speak and HB1194 passed with the clock ticking fast, 109-43.

In further insult, an emergency clause was brought up which would make the law effective immediately instead of the traditional late August 2017 date.  I can think of NO REASON in which it was an emergency to take away wages from miminum wage workers, can you?

HALLELUJAH – the emergency clause failed by JUST ONE VOTE, with mere minutes left.

The Kansas City Star wrote“The House cut off debate on the measure just a few minutes after it debated a bill naming a state historical dog.  That should shame every member of the General Assembly and outrage everyone in Missouri.  Everyone.”

Go ahead.  Call Gov. Greitens and ask for his #Hero-Veto on HB1194 also.  It can’t hurt for him to hear your disgust.

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MORE GOOD, BAD, UGLY BILLS SENT TO THE GOVERNOR

BAD/UGLY BILLS WHICH MAKE IT HARD FOR YOU TO ACCESS OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM IF EVER NEEDED:

CRIMINAL OFFENSES (SB 34): Makes various changes relating to criminal offenses and establishes a “blue alert” system to inform the public when a suspect alleged to have attacked a police officer is at large. Also creates a crime of attacking law enforcement (many believe it further targets minority communities) and allows Missouri to be involved in immigration offenses (unconstitutional).  Passed 117-27  I WAS ONE OF ONLY 19 DEMS VOTING NO.

EXPERT WITNESSES (HB 153): Increases the standards for admitting expert witness testimony in state court. I VOTED NO.

TORT CLAIMS (HB 339): Modifies statutory provisions relating to tort claims, making it harder to access the legal system. I VOTED NO.

COLLATERAL SOURCE (SB 31): Modifies the collateral source rule and allows litigants to introduce evidence of the actual cost, rather than the value, of medical care rendered.  I VOTED NO.

PROJECT LABOR AGREEMENTS (SB 182): Prohibits local governments from entering into project labor agreements on public works projects. Under a project labor agreement, a government entity agrees to follow union labor standards on public construction projects. I VOTED NO.

GOOD BILLS (REALLY!):

REAL ID (HB 151): Attempts to bring Missouri driver’s licenses and non-driver identification into compliance with the federal REAL ID of 2005.  YOU FINALLY GET TO LEGALLY FLY WITH YOUR DRIVERS LICENSE JUST IN TIME. I VOTED YES.

FUND SWEEP (HCB 3, SENATE VERISON): Authorizes excess revenue sitting unused in various special state funds to be redirected for in-home and nursing home care in order to prevent more than 8,000 disabled or elderly Missourians losing their services. NOTE: The enacted Senate version replaced the original “bad” House version that sought to eliminate the modest “circuit breaker” for elderly and disabled Missourians who rent their homes.  I VOTED YES

UMKC CONSERVATORY (HCR 19): Authorizes the sale of $48 million in public revenue bonds for new music and dance conservatory building at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. I VOTED YES.

PENSIONS (SB 62): Allows pensions for state employees to vest after five years of service instead of 10 years, returning the time period for vesting to what it was prior to 2011. I VOTED YES.

LEGAL EXPENSE FUND (SB 128): Requires the attorney general and state commissioner of administration to report all settlements and judgments paid from the State Legal Expense Fund on a monthly basis. I VOTED YES.

BAD BILLS THAT DIDN’T PASS – THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS (including NO abortion or gun bills which is very unusual but, I’ll take it – I was a NO on them all):

PREVAILING WAGE (HB 104): Sought to prohibit contractors and subcontractors on public works projects to being required to pay workers the local prevailing wage.

ABORTION (HB 194, SB 194): Sought to impose various new restrictions relating to abortion.

PROTECTION OF FAKE PREGNANCY CENTERS (HB174): Sought unnecessary freedoms of speech for alternatives to abortion centers which have no state regulation and receive millions in state tax credits.

GUNS (HB630):  Sought to expand locations where firearms are legal, including hospitals, childcare, places of worship, casinos, amusement parks, polling locations, police stations, public schools and universities, stadiums and sports arenas and the General Assembly.

PAYCHECK DECEPTION (HB 251): Sought to impose new procedural barriers to the efficient and timely collection of union dues.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS (HB 288): Sought to cut the maximum weeks of unemployment benefits from 20 weeks to as low as 13 weeks, depending on the statewide unemployment rate.

PRIVATE SCHOOL VOUCHERS (SB 313): Sought to authorize $25 million a year in tax credits to pay for private school tuition.

SEE ALL BILLS PASSED THIS SESSION HERE.  

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END OF SESSION MEMORIES

Meramec Elementary 4th graders prior to their field trip to Jefferson City the last week of session —-these are who I think of when considering consequences of state policy. These hopeful and enthusiastic faces keep me grounded.

Traditional end of session Democratic House press conference in the majestic Thomas Hart Benton House Lounge.  Our faces reflect our mood – disgusted by the mean-ness of bills passed by the majority party.

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