- Associated Press - Thursday, April 3, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri House passed legislation Thursday that would limit how unions representing some public employees could collect fees and spend money on political activities.

The bill, known to supporters as “paycheck protection,” would require those employees to give annual written consent for money to be automatically deducted from their paycheck. Those same workers would also need to give yearly authorization for a union to spend their fees on politics.

The measure narrowly won approval Thursday with an 83-69 vote, only two votes above the minimum threshold required for the House to pass legislation. The bill now heads to the Senate, which has passed similar measures in recent years.

After the House vote, Senate leaders reiterated the bill’s status as a priority for the majority Republicans. If passed there, the issue would head to the August ballot for voter approval.

The legislation’s backers want the issue on the ballot in order to bypass Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, who vetoed an almost identical bill last year. At the time, Nixon said it would place an undue burden on public employees.

Like last year’s measure, the bill would not apply to unions who represent so-called first responders, such as police officers and firefighters.

Supporters, including Republican House Speaker Tim Jones, said the measure protects workers and gives them more control over how a union spends their fees.

“This gives individuals an ability to belong to a union without having to support causes or people the union advocates for politically,” said sponsoring Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston.

But opponents argue the legislation was designed to limit public employees’ political speech by making them annually sign off on a union’s political spending. They said the bill is an affront to those workers who voluntarily sign up to join a labor organization.

“What we are telling them is that we, as a government, don’t believe they have the ability or are competent enough to willingly enter an agreement for more than a year,” said Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia.

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Union paychecks bill is HB1617.

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Online:

Legislature: http://www.moga.mo.gov