On a day that looked like it might be a busy one for the Missouri Senate, lawmakers adjourned Thursday without taking a final vote on banning cities and counties from raising their minimum wage because of negotiations.
Meanwhile, the Missouri House sent the Senate three bills, showing their intent to get rid of prevailing wage, protect anti-abortion groups that assist pregnant women and allow for Real ID driver’s licenses.
House Bill 104, which passed 89 to 60, would scrap the state’s prevailing wage for public works projects. The bill’s supporters say the prevailing wage law hurts small business owners, especially those in rural areas.
But Sen. Gina Walsh, D-St. Louis County, said there appears to be pushback against the bill from some in the private sector.
“This is an employers’ issue, and I believe (Republican leaders) have been inundated by employers and contractors throughout their districts asking them to leave the prevailing wage laws alone in this state, so we’ll see what happens,” she said.
Walsh also said she’s surprised and grateful that the bill hasn’t moved as fast as "right to work," which was signed into law last month. She added that prevailing wage enables low-income skilled workers to make extra money if they get assigned to a public works project.
“If I work next to a non-union bricklayer on a school in the Bootheel, he knows he’s going to be making 5 or 6 dollars more an hour,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense to me that we want to mess with something that provides a good product.”
The Missouri House passed a bill designed to bring the state into compliance with the federal Real ID Act of 2005.
House Bill 151 passed 99-40. It would require the Department of Revenue to issue driver’s licenses that meet federal standards, but also requires the agency to issue non-compliant licenses to drivers that request one.
It’s sponsored by Rep. Kevin Corlew, R-Kansas City.
“We heard from many constituencies, businesses, people whose services are military-based throughout the state that this was causing them burdens, administrative hassles, major costs in terms of getting identification for their workers,” he said.
The bill’s fate is now in the Senate’s hands, where Will Kraus of Lee’s Summit and several Republicans have been blocking it via filibuster.
The struggle, however, could become moot.
Earlier this week, Gov. Eric Greitens indicated that President Donald Trump may be working to alter the Real ID law, which came from the George W. Bush administration. Under the law, all states must have compliant IDs in place by January 2018 in order for residents to use them to board flights.
“We need to look at whether or not the Trump-Pence administration are going to actually keep the Obama-era rules in place,” Greitens said. “They actually may be considering a change — if that change happens, then the IDs that we have today will be functional for people to fly.”
House shields anti-abortion groups
The Missouri House also passed the second of two bills meant to strike down a St. Louis ordinance designed to protect women who have abortions or use contraception.
House Bill 174 passed on a 118-36 vote. It would mandate that federal and state laws be interpreted in a way that guarantees the rights of free speech and assembly of people who work for alternative-to-abortion businesses and ministries. It’s sponsored by Rep. Tila Hubrecht, R-Dexter.
“(The bill) is not making anyone abstain from participating in an abortion, but it’s … protecting those who do not want to participate,” she said.
Opponents argue the bill is an example of state overreach.
"To come back and say that we here in the Missouri legislature have to overturn, or to interfere with a St. Louis discrimination ordinance because we might be interfering with religious groups, is false," said Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights.
Minimum wage on hold
The Senate, meanwhile, chose not to take up legislation to forbid St. Louis and Kansas City from enacting a minimum wage that’s higher than the state minimum.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said he and fellow Republican Dan Hegeman of Cosby are negotiating with Democrats to come up with a compromise version of HB 1194/1193 that won’t get filibustered.
“For right now, I think it’d be best to say that we’re … doing a very good job of just trying to understand people’s concerns, find out if there’s common ground,” Kehoe said.
But Walsh says they’re united in making sure St. Louis, Kansas City and other local governments can exercise local control when it comes to how much money workers should make, as well as preserving Missouri’s prevailing wage and stopping the paycheck protection measure.
“These are three issues that affect working Missourians one way or another, and that’s who my caucus represents,” she said. “They don’t represent people who have deep pockets.”
Walsh and her fellow Senate Democrats are blocking the paycheck protection bill, which passed the House last month.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.