House Approves “Paycheck Protection” Legislation (HB 251)
Members of the Missouri House of Representatives continued their labor reform efforts this week as they passed legislation commonly referred to as “paycheck protection.” It’s a change supporters say would allow union members to ensure their dues aren’t used for political purposes they oppose.
The bill is meant to give public employee union members the right to opt-in annually to have their dues automatically deducted from their paychecks. The current system requires a public employee to opt-out. If they fail to do so, their dues are automatically deducted.
Specifically, the bill would require annual written consent from a public employee before any amount could be withheld from the employee’s earnings for the payment of any portion of dues, agency shop fees, or other fees paid to a public labor organization. The legislation also would require public employee unions to obtain annual written consent in order to spend a portion of the fees on political activities.
In addition, the bill is designed to increase transparency by requiring public labor organizations to maintain financial records identical to those required by federal law. The reports must be made available to employees in a searchable electronic format.
Supporters of the change say it is a matter of protecting the rights of workers and giving them a say in where their money goes. They say unions sometimes support political causes not endorsed by their membership and the bill would give members the authority to prevent their fees from being used for these purposes.
Opponents say contributions already are voluntary as current law allows union members to opt-out of the automatic deductions. They believe the requirement is an unnecessary intrusion and another administrative burden placed on unions by state government.
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. The Missouri General Assembly approved a similar bill last year, but the legislation was vetoed by the previous governor. The current governor is expected to sign this year’s version of the bill into law if it reaches his desk.
Right-to-Work Legislation Signed into Law (SB 19)
Missouri will now become the nation’s 28th Right-to-Work state as Governor Eric Greitens recently SB 19 into law. This week the governor traveled to Springfield and Poplar Bluff before returning to Jefferson City for a series of ceremonial bill signings to tout the benefits of the new law that will take effect August 28.
As Greitens told a group of legislators and onlookers before signing the bill in the State Capitol, “Passing Right-to-Work sends a very clear message that the people of Missouri are ready to work and Missouri is open for business.”
House Gives Initial Approval to Legislation Expanding Screenings of Newborns (HB 66)
The Missouri House gave first-round approval this week to legislation that would expand screenings of newborns in Missouri to look for two more life-threatening diseases.
The bill would require that infants be screened for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and mucopolysaccharidosis II (MPS II), otherwise known as Hunter syndrome. Both are genetic diseases that can be fatal. Supporters say the earlier they are detected, the better outcomes can be.
The sponsor said the bill, “gives families hope and it gives us a chance to save the lives of even more babies here in Missouri.”
SMA results in a loss of physical strength that can include a lessened ability to walk, eat, or breathe. It is the leading genetic cause of death for infants. Hunter syndrome is caused by an enzyme deficiency that results in the buildup of harmful molecules that can affect a person’s appearance, mental development, organ function, and physical abilities. An estimated 2,000 people have Hunter syndrome worldwide, with about 500 of those living in the U.S.
No drugs have been approved for SMA, but one could be approved by April. There is no cure for Hunter syndrome, but earlier detection could improve the lives or increase the lifespan of those children who have it.
The sponsor of the bill believes there should be little or no additional cost to screen for SMA, and screening for Hunter syndrome can be done “very reasonably.” The bill would make the additional screenings subject to annual funding by the state, and would allow the Department of Health and Senior Services to increase its newborn screening fees to pay for the additional tests.
The bill now requires another vote in the House before moving to the Senate.
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