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Politically Speaking: Rep. Burlison discusses the future of 'right to work' in Missouri

Rep. Eric Burlison
Scott Harvey I KSMU
Rep. Eric Burlison

On the latest edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome state Rep. Eric Burlison to the show (with some generous assistance from our friends at KSMU).

Burlison is a Springfield Republican who was first elected to the Missouri House in 2008. Since then, he’s carried a number of high-profile bills – including “right to work” legislation. That bill passed both chambers of the Missouri General Assembly for the first time this year before succumbing to Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto. Missouri House members failed to override Burlison’s bill by a fairly wide margin.

In addition to his right to work prepotency, Burlison chairs the House Professional Licensing and Registration Committee. While that committee doesn’t attract a lot of attention, it often plays a big role in determining regulations for specific industries.

Burlison also handled legislation restricting damages for medical malpractice cases. After some failed swings at the issue, Nixon signed Burlison and Sen. Dan Brown’s bill into law earlier this year.

Here’s what Burlison had to say during the show:

  • When Burlison’s predecessor – state Rep. B.J. Marsh – was having heart problems, Republican activists asked him if he would consider taking his place in the legislature if Marsh passed away. Marsh, R-Springfield, pulled through and finished his term, and Burlison subsequently won an open race for his seat.
  • When Burlison was first elected, he was told the Professional Licensing and Registration Committee was “the number one committee you want to get on – it’s extremely important.” He added the committee is responsible for regulating everything from “doctors and nurse and cosmetologists to professional wrestlers.”
  • Burlison harbors no animosity toward Republicans who voted against “right to work” legislation. “If they think that voting no is in their best interest or especially the best interest of their district, then I respect that,” he said. “I’ve not been one to twist arms. I don’t have the clout to twist anyone’s arms on an issue. From the very beginning, I felt my role in this is not to be the person keeping a whip count – but really the person that’s there to provide as much policy information and education as I possibly can.”
  • He says the upcoming gubernatorial contest could be “game changer” on the issue of right to work, especially since all of the major GOP candidates are in favor of the policy.
  • Burlison is philosophically opposed to providing state funds for a riverfront football stadium in St. Louis – and is especially against doing it without a legislative or statewide vote. “I think it is the height of arrogance to assume that they have carte blanche access to taxpayers,” he said. “Not only that we have today, but for future generations to pay.”

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Eric Burlison on Twitter: @EricBurlison

Music: “All the Rage Back Home” by Interpol  

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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