- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri House voted Wednesday for legislation that would change how public union members pay dues, the first step to overriding a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon.

Instead of automatically paying union dues and fees through paycheck withholdings like is currently done, public employees would have to reauthorize those withholdings each year. Unions with public-sector employees would also have to make their financial records available to their workers.

Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed the bill in March, but Republican leaders say they have enough votes to enact it over his objections.

Opponents say the measure is an attempt by Republicans to weaken unions in order to shift power from workers to employers. Supporters, who called the measure “paycheck protection,” counter that workers will benefit from more union transparency.

“Every time that union boss took my money and supported some political candidate that I opposed, he impinged my freedom of speech,” said Republican Whip Delus Johnson, a retired firefighter who belonged to a union for about 20 years.

The bill would exempt first responders, such as firefighters and police, from the annual reauthorization requirement, something Johnson said he did not prefer but that bill sponsor Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, has said was a necessary compromise.

In his March veto letter, Nixon said the “political calculations” behind that exemption demonstrated that Republicans’ rhetoric about the legislation protecting workers was a pretext to pile unnecessary burdens onto unions. Wednesday’s 109-47 House vote just barely met the two-thirds majority required for a veto override, with one Democrat, Rep. Courtney Allen Curtis of Ferguson, voting for it. Curtis, who is black, has said unions have not been inclusive enough to minorities.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where the legislation sparked about seven hours of filibustering earlier this year.

But with less than two weeks left in the session, the move threatens to derail less controversial legislation, said Rep. John Rizzo, the Kansas City Democrat who serves as minority whip.

“We’re going to send them a ticking time bomb,” he said, noting that disagreements over union legislation last year brought the Senate to a halt during the session’s final week.

Nixon vetoed a similar bill in 2013, which lawmakers failed to override. And despite GOP supermajorities in both chambers last year, lawmakers failed to overturn Nixon’s veto of so-called “right-to-work” legislation that would have barred private-sector unions from requiring workers to pay fees.

This year’s bill calls for unions that include public employees to make five years of financial records - including spending, loans and officers’ salaries - available to any worker they represent. If the organization does not, the worker could sue.

“What’s anti-worker about saying that a member of a labor organization should know basic financial information about their union?” said House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff. “Trust and confidence in public and private unions is at an all-time low. Maybe a little transparency would help.”

Members from both parties accused the other side of lying during Wednesday’s debate. Lawmakers repeatedly tried blocking members of the other party from speaking, with one exchange escalating to a lawmaker shouting a profanity across the chamber.

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Union legislation is HB 1891.

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Online:

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

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