Legislature readies for major debates

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

At the writing of this week's column, the Missouri Legislature is poised to have a potential firestorm week following a rare budget agreement that normally grinds along to the very closing moments of the legislative session.

Republicans, who hold a veto-proof majority in both the House and Senate, approved and sent to the Governor a completed budget much earlier than has been tradition.

Anticipating a potential veto, the GOP wanted to resolve budget issues during this session and avoid a veto session in the fall.

But Gov. Nixon last week signed into law the new budget which leaves this week for those long-avoided issues that usually die a quiet death in the closing hours of the session.

With the deck now cleared, the Legislature will debate right-to-work legislation and voter ID laws.

Both are polarizing and partisan measures that will likely see filibusters and fiery debate as the session comes to a close.

Right-to-work legislation has been the 800-pound gorilla in the corner of the Missouri Legislature for years and years.

Proponents say the removal of mandatory union dues will open the state to more industrial expansion. Supporters say the measure would make Missouri more competitive with other right-to-work states and they cite a laundry list of examples that make a compelling argument.

Opponents say the measure is a thinly-veiled attempt to lower wages of Missouri workers and put more money into the hands of management and less in the hands of workers.

Filibusters are promised which could set the stage for some creative legislative maneuvers.

The requirement for voter photo IDs, too, is a controversial measure though for the life of me, I have yet to accept the argument against such a simple move.

Democrats have long argued that the photo ID requirement constructs an impediment for some voters and they charge the move is just the latest attempt to keep poor and elderly voters - often Democrats - from voting.

The GOP counters that voter photo IDs provide another layer of voter integrity and transparency to the voting process by assuring that no illegal ballots are cast.

As of the writing of this column, I could not venture a guess on how these two controversial measures will end this week.

But I have long held the position that both measures - though not connected - are long overdue in Missouri and throughout the country.

I feel right to work will indeed expand the potential pool of industries which might consider locating here. And I feel that voter photo IDs are a simple requirement to participate in the all-important electoral process in this state and country.

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