- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri Senate has approved legislation that would require public employees’ annual permission for unions to withhold dues from their paychecks.

Senators debated the measure for about seven hours Tuesday before passing it with a veto-proof 23-7 vote after 11 p.m. Tuesday. The bill now goes back to the House, which also passed a version of the legislation with a veto-proof majority. Gov. Jay Nixon has vetoed similar legislation in past sessions.

Bill supporters, such as Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, said the “paycheck protection” legislation would make unions more responsive to members’ needs. And Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, said the bill would help ensure unions do not take political positions that are at odds with their members’ views.

But opponents, such as Sen. Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, said union leaders are already accountable to their members through elections and regular meetings.

“When it gets to election time, these guys are scrambling and working the crowds just like we do,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Joseph Keaveny, D-St. Louis, said his caucus hopes to change the legislation in a conference committee, where lawmakers from the House and Senate would negotiate a final version of the bill. Otherwise, the House could pass the Senate bill.

Sen. Paul Wieland of Imperial was the only Republican to vote against it, and Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, did not vote.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, a St. Louis Democrat, said the measure is designed to weaken Republicans’ political opponents and “dismantle the union movement as we know it.” Nasheed, who did not vote on the bill, said the measure would galvanize union members in the next election.

“We’re going to come hard, we’re going to come all out against you,” she said to Brown, who is running in the Republican primary for state treasurer. “This is going to hurt you a great deal.”

The only Democrat to vote in favor of the bill was Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal of University City. She said she voted for the bill because she has had complaints from constituents that some unions are not inclusive toward their minority members.

And, like many Republicans, Chappelle-Nadal said she’s also faced unfair attacks by some unions.

“It’s been a good ol’ boys system for so long,” she said. “And if I did not stand up and be heard, then they would not be paying attention.”

Some Democrats also criticized the measure’s exceptions for first responders such as police and firefighters. Similar exceptions were included in a 2014 bill.

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The union paycheck bill is HB 1891.

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Online:

Missouri House: http://www.house.mo.gov.

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