Southwest Missouri representatives have set their sights on the destruction of labor unions in Missouri.
Three bills, all sponsored by Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, have received second readings in the House. House Bills 876, 877, and 878, are co-sponsored by Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, Ed Emery, R-Lamar, and Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, co-sponsored HB 877.
HB 876 requires that unions disclose the following information:
-Assets including cash, accounts receivable, loans receivable, U. S. Treasury securities, investments, and other assets.
-Liabilities including accounts payable, loans payable, mortgages, and other liabilities;
-Cash receipts from sources including dues, fees, sales, interest, rent, and dividends;
-Cash disbursements including negotiation, administration, organization, lobbying, political, benefits, overhead, gifts, and contributions;
-Membership status including active, inactive, associate, apprentice, retired, and others.
This bill smacks of 1950s McCarthyism when government officials were demanding membership lists and information about Communist organizations, or anyone that certain elected officials considered to be left of center.
HB 877 would establish "employee rights" according to the wording on the bill. It would prohibit any requirements that people join unions, pay dues or fees to unions, and would eliminate any current agreement between a union and an employer that violates those rights. In other words, this band of merry business proponents are trying a back-door approach to get rid of contracts that are already in place, contracts that are designed to provide better pay and benefits to workers.
HB 878 requires that no money be spent on political activities unless it comes "from a fund established for that purpose." Under the provisions of this bill, unions would be required to notify members that they do not have to contribute and that nothing will happen to them if they do not.
Of course, businesses would be allowed to continue to contribute to any politicians or political causes they want to, especially to elected officials who continue to add to the businesses' profits by sponsoring this type of legislation.
While our area legislators are targeting labor unions, Republicans in other areas of the state are also working to protect themselves from ethics complaints.
The bill, sponsored by Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, zipped its way through the Committee on Elections recently on a 9-1 vote. Ms. Cunningham's bill would discourage people from filing complaints with the Missouri Ethics Commission or from talking about those complaints.
If the Commission, which of course, is appointed by elected officials, decides that a complaint has no merit and was filed "with malice," the bill would permit the complainant to be fined.
Complaints are considered closed records, the bill says, and anyone who talks about them could be fined up to $2,500.
Proponents of the bill say that it should be passed because complaints are often used as election tactics.
No one testified against the bill. Of course, that is not surprising, since the public at large has no lobbyist to represent it and must rely on the honesty and integrity of its elected officials.
Lobbyists are also on the protected list for Missouri Republicans. A bill that would eliminate the requirement that they file documents from the state telling which laws they lobbied for or against will receive a hearing 2 p.m. Monday, April 11, in the Senate Lounge.
HB 524, sponsored by Robert May, R-Rolla, would also reduce other lobbyist reporting requirements.
Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, is back in the driver's seat in the race for lobbyists' gifts, according to statistics available from the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Hunter received more from lobbyists in March than other area legislators, though only by a small margin. He picked up $161.42 worth in gifts including:
-$54.16 in the meal, food and beverage category from Richard C. Wiles, who represents a number of hospital, insurance, and pharmaceutical interests, including Pfizer.
-$53.59 in meal, food, and beverage from Mark Johnson, who is not listed in the Missouri lobbyists register for this year (lobbyists have not filed their March reports yet). I don't know if is is the same guy since there are many people with the name Mark Johnson, but there is a lobbyist with that name in Iowa who represents gambling interests.
-$27.61 in meal, food, and beverage, from Michael G. Winter, who represents, hospital and insurance interests.
-$26.06 in meal, food, and beverage, from Chris Liese, who represents varying interests, including the city of Joplin, St. John's Regional Medical Center, and the Isle of Capri casinos. Liese's partner in his lobbying firm is former representative Gary Burton, R-Joplin.
Coming in second in the gift race was Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, with $147.17, including $120 in entertainment from Allen James Snider, lobbyist for the University of Missouri.
Richard also received $18 in meal, food, and beverage from David E. Martin, Empire District Electric lobbyist; and $9.17 in meal, food, and beverage from Sherry L. Doctorian, lobbyist for St. Louis University and the law firm of Armstrong and Teasdale.
Ed Emery, R-Lamar, received $73 in gifts, all in the meal, food, and beverage category. Topping the list was $48, in two $24 increments, from David E. Martin of Empire District Electric, followed by $25 from William Spencer, lobbyist for Laclede Gas Co., and Missouri Podiatric Medical Association.
Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, had only one lobbyist give her any gifts in March, David E. Martin of Empire District Electric, $34 in meals, food, and beverage.
Missouri Ethics Commission statistics indicate Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, did not receive any gifts from lobbyists in March.
It does appear that there is no mystery as to why state legislators passed a bill which would allow Empire District Electric to recoup any added expenses it has by passing them along to its customers. So much for a fair hearing before the Public Service Commission.
Our state senator, Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, took in more in gifts than any of the representatives, according to Missouri Ethics Commission filings.
Nodler received $248.88 in gifts, including $221.25 worth of "gifts' from lobbyist Alan "Chip" Mason, who represents a number of Branson interests, including the Herschend family of Silver Dollar City renown, Silver Dollar City, Inc., and the Dixie Stampede.
Nodler also received meals, food, and beverage worth $5.63 from Harry Gallagher who represents a number of interests, including banking and the Missouri Press Association, but most noticeably R. J. Reynolds and the Poultry Federation. The Poultry Federation has been a chief proponent of removing restrictions on commercial egg operations. Of course, a $5.63 meal is not going to buy anyone's vote, but it does buy access and that is just as important.
Nodler's other gift in March, a meal worth $22 came from who else but David E. Martin of Empire District Electric Company.