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Missouri legislators vote to block Kansas City from raising minimum wage

UPDATED AT 11:07 p.m.

JEFFERSON CITY The Missouri Senate voted to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that would forbid Kansas City and other local municipalities from increasing the minimum wage above the $7.65 an hour statewide rate.

The Senate vote was 23 to 9. The House voted 114 to 46 to override earlier in the day, meaning the bill will immediately become law.

In addition to the minimum wage provisions, the bill also prohibits local governments from banning plastic grocery bags or mandating benefits on employers such as vacation or sick leave.

“Today is a loss for accountable, local governing,” said Kansas City Mayor Sly James. “I hope when voters realize the state took away their ability to improve their cities and the lives of the people who live in them, they will use their frustration to take on the legislators who abandoned them.”

The Kansas City Council voted in July to gradually increase the local minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2020. The St. Louis Board of Alderman voted for an $11 an hour minimum wage last month.

In Kansas City, a group of civil rights and low-wage worker advocates gathered sufficient petition signatures to put a measure on the local November ballot calling for a $15 minimum wage by 2020.

The Kansas City Council voted to place the $15 an hour wage petition on the November ballot, but anticipating the Missouri General Assembly’s veto override, the Council also told election authorities to withdraw that measure and not put it on the ballot if the legislature overrode Nixon’s veto on the local control ordinance.

The council said the legislature’s action would nullify the city’s ability to increase the minimum wage, so conducting a special November election on a $15 minimum wage proposal would be invalid.

Democratic lawmakers argued Wednesday that because the bill started out solely focused on plastic bags (the minimum wage and benefits provisions were added as amendments in the Senate), the bill violates the state constitution’s mandate that legislation have only one subject.

Sen. Kiki Curls, a Kansas City Democrat, said those pushing the legislation need to understand the perspective of those living in poverty.

“Many of us can’t even imagine trying to raise a family off of $7.65 an hour,” she said.

UPDATED AT 8:40 p.m.

JEFFERSON CITY The Missouri House voted 114-37 to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill banning the state-funded A+ Scholarship from being awarded to undocumented immigrants.

The Missouri Senate voted to override the veto earlier in the day, so the bill becomes law.

UPDATED AT 6:40 p.m.

JEFFRSON CITY The Missouri Senate voted to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill banning the state-funded A+ Scholarship from being awarded to undocumented immigrants.

The bill now moves to the House, where 108 Republicans voted in favor when the bill originally passed earlier this year. That’s one shy of a two-thirds majority, although 11 Republicans were absent and did not vote.

At issue are students who qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. It was created by President Barack Obama in 2012 to stop the deportation of children brought to the country illegally by their parents.

Because these students were brought to the U.S. as young children and are undocumented through no fault of their own, DACA allows them to legally live, work and study in the U.S. It does not, however, create a path to citizenship.

In response to the federal government’s action, the Missouri Department of Higher Education established a rule last year stating that because the students were now lawfully present in the U.S., they were eligible for the A+ Scholarship.

As long as the students have attended a Missouri high school for three years and graduated with a 2.5 GPA, a 95 percent attendance record and 50 hours of tutoring or mentoring, they qualify for the state-funded scholarship.

Supporters of the bill say it’s unfair for students who are in the country illegally to receive the scholarship when money for the program is tight.

“I am protecting the citizens and permanent residents of this state right now,” said Sen. Gary Romine, a Farmington Republican who sponsored the bill.

Opponents say these students were brought to the U.S. as young children and are in the country illegally through no fault of their own. The students in question kept their grades up, volunteered in their community and stayed out of trouble, advocates say, most while learning English as a second language.

“Why are we punishing children for a fault of their parents?” said Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, a St. Louis Democrat.

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a University City Democrat whose district includes the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, said the Legislature’s priorities are out of whack.

”People are dying in my district every day,” she said, “and we’re arguing about who gets a scholarship?”

The House is expected to take up the bill tonight.

UPDATED AT 4:30 p.m.

JEFFERSON CITY Republican in the state House fell short of the 109 votes needed to make Missouri the nation’s 26th right-to-work state Wednesday, with 20 Republicans joining nearly every Democrat to oppose the measure.

The legislation would have made it a misdemeanor for anyone to be required to become a union member or pay fees to a labor organization as a condition of employment. These so-called “right to work” laws are the most contentious of disputes between management and unions played out in state legislatures around the nation.

Right-to-work laws have been passed in recent years in several states, including labor bastions like Wisconsin and Michigan.

Supporters say they strengthen the state’s economy and encourage businesses to grow.

Employees shouldn’t be forced to pay fees to an organization against their will, said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Eric Burlison of Springfield. Right-to-work laws “uphold the rights of the individual,” he said.

“It ensures that the worker has an individual liberty to choose where they want to work and what organization they want to belong to,” said Rep. Rick Brattin, a Republican from Harrisonville.

Opponents say the forces pushing right-to-work bills are motivated by politics, pushing to weaken unions who have historically supported the Democratic Party. They say allowing some employees to receive benefits of the contracts labor unions negotiate without having to contribute weakens unions and drives down wages.

“This is an attack on the middle class worker,” said Rep. Karla May, a St. Louis Democrat.

The issue was the most hotly debated of the veto session. Throughout the summer, both sides ran TV ads arguing their case to voters. But the focus of the summer was the 23 Republicans in the House who voted against the bill in May, with both opponents and supporters waging campaigns to sway the lawmakers one way or the other.

On Monday, Joplin manufacturer David Humphreys upped the ante by dropping $500,000 into a newly formed campaign committee allegedly aimed at challenging GOP legislators who refuse to support right to work.

But the looming threat of a primary didn’t sway enough Republicans to win the day for right-to-work supporters, pushing the issue into 2016 and the race to replace Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon, who is term limited and can’t run for re-election.

UPDATED AT 2:20 PM.

JEFFERSON CITY The Missouri House voted Wednesday to block Kansas City and other municipalities from increasing the minimum wage above the state’s level, now set at $7.65 an hour.

On a 114 to 46 vote, lawmakers managed to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of the bill. It now goes to the Senate, where it originally passed in May with 24 votes – one more than the two-thirds needed for an override.

The Kansas City Council voted in July to gradually increase the local minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2020. Proponents of a $15 minimum wage collected enough signatures to put the question to local voters in November, and opponents of the idea submitted signatures for a ballot measure rescinding the $13 wage law.

Last month, the St. Louis Board of Alderman voted to hike its minimum wage to $11 an hour.

If the Senate decides to follow the House’s lead and override the governor’s veto, those local wage increases would be put in legal limbo.

Proponents of the bill say cities are already prohibited under state law from raising the minimum wage. It’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Dan Shaul of Imperial, called the bill simply a “clarification” of existing law.

The bill “ensures a consistent and level playing field for everyone around the state,” Shaul said.

Critics disagree, saying the push was a clear violation of local control.

“This bill is by far the most anti-local control bill passed by this chamber in years,” said Rep. Jon Carpenter, a Gladstone Democrat.

Rep. Jay Barnes, a Jefferson City Republican, said the negative effects of a minimum wage increase in the state’s urban centers would ripple across the state.

“When Kansas City and St. Louis take action that kill jobs and cause the economic engines of this state to sputter, it hurts my constituents,” Barnes said. “When they do dumb things in St. Louis and Kansas City, it hurts my constituents.”

In addition to the minimum wage provisions, the bill also prohibits local governments from banning plastic grocery bags or mandating benefits on employers such as vacation or sick leave.

Democrats argued Wednesday that because the bill started out solely focused on plastic bags (the minimum wage and benefits provisions were added as amendments in the Senate), the bill violates the state constitution’s mandate that legislation have only one subject.

ORIGINAL STORY

JEFFERSON CITY More than a dozen bills vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon could get new life today if lawmakers can muster ther two-thirds majority needed for an override d

The marquee issues garnering the most attention include whether lawmakers will turn Missouri into a right-to-work state, if Kansas City can raise the minimum wage above the state level, whether the children of immigrants in the country illegally should qualify for a state-funded scholarship and if the lenght of jobless benefits should be tied to the state’s unemployment rate.

Among the other vetoed bills include changes to the controversial student transfer law, a sales tax exemption on equipment and electricity used by commercial laundries; and increased court fees to raise money for certain capital improvement projects.

Check back here throughout the day for updates.

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