Missouri House Speaker Calls for Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training for Legislature
October 23, 2015

AP) – Missouri’s House speaker on Friday called for mandatory annual sexual-harassment training for members and staff after a state senator and the former speaker resigned amid allegations they harassed interns and exchanged sexual texts with them.
GOP Speaker Todd Richardson also wants to ban romantic relationships between House members, staff and interns. He recommends requiring an outside investigation for any sexual harassment complaints involving House members, and is proposing additional oversight for intern programs.
“These proposed policy changes are not a cure-all,” Richardson said in a statement, “but they do take significant, substantive steps toward improving the work environment in the Capitol so that interns, staff and members can have a workplace where they are treated with respect and free from harassment.”
Richardson has said review of current House policies would be a top priority since colleagues picked him to succeed Republican former House Speaker John Diehl of Town and Country, who resigned on the last day of the legislative session in May after admitting to exchanging sexually suggestive text messages with a Capitol intern.
Former Sen. Paul LeVota, an Independence Democrat, resigned months later. One intern had accused him of sexual harassment, and the July release of a Senate investigation into that intern’s complaint led another intern to come forward and claim LeVota made unwanted sexual advances toward her in 2010.
LeVota has denied the allegations

RTW Override Fails, Others Vetoes Overifden
September 16, 2015

AP) – Missouri’s Republican-led House took the first step Wednesday toward enacting a ban on local minimum wages but fell significantly short in an attempt to override a veto of a right-to-work bill that would have barred mandatory union fees in workplaces.

The employment bills were the prime focus of Missouri’s annual veto session, which drew hundreds of union members and business leaders to the Capitol to see whether Republicans are able to succeed in their long-sought attempt to make Missouri the 26th right-to-work state. Union supporters cheered in the Capitol halls when the vote failed.

The Legislature also could consider overriding vetoes of bills that would cut Missouri’s jobless benefits to one of the shortest periods nationally and block certain immigrants from receiving college scholarships.

Veto overrides require a two-thirds vote in each chamber. Republicans hold the supermajorities to make that happen, as long as they don’t have more than a few dissenters. Earlier this year, for example, Republicans stuck together to override Nixon’s veto of a bill removing several thousand families from the welfare rolls by shortening how long they can receive cash payments.

But the right-to-work bill got just 96 House votes – well short of the 109 needed for an override – as some Republicans sided with Democrats and unions.

Tax Breaks for Rams Stadium Deal Getting Blitzed
August 26, 2015

(AP) – Missouri’s legislative budget leaders said they oppose spending taxpayer money on a new St. Louis football stadium, casting serious doubts on whether supporters can cobble together enough money for the facility before an approaching NFL vote on whether to relocate the Rams.
House Budget Chairman Tom Flanigan sent a letter Wednesday to Gov. Jay Nixon warning that he will block any effort to put money in the state budget for payments on a new stadium unless the Legislature or voters first approve the additional debt.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer told The Associated Press he doesn’t believe there is legislative support for using taxpayer money for a new St. Louis stadium.
Their reluctance further complicates an already fragile plan that requires buy-in from a number of public and private entities to pay for the estimated $998 million stadium.
Nixon, a Democrat, and the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority are working to piece together money for a new stadium as a counterproposal to efforts by Rams owner Stan Kroenke to move the team to the Los Angeles area.

Judge Rules- No ‘ Right to Record’ State Senate Meetings
July 1, 2015

(AP) — A Missouri judge dismissed Tuesday an advocacy group’s lawsuit that challenged restrictions on filming Missouri Senate committee meetings.

Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem dismissed the petition brought by Progress Missouri, which claimed decisions by Senate committee chairmen to prohibit filming by the group violates the state’s open meetings law. The liberal advocacy group also said the prohibition infringes on its freedom of speech and association.

The state’s Sunshine Law allows public bodies to establish guidelines on recording to minimize disruption, but the lawsuit said Progress Missouri’s filming wouldn’t have been disruptive. Senate rules state that cameras may be allowed with the permission of the committee chairman “as long as they do not prove disruptive to the decorum of the committee.”

The attorney general’s office, which represented the Senate, wanted the case dismissed because the Missouri Constitution gives the Senate the authority “to determine the rules of its own proceedings,” including rules on recording meetings.

Beetem agreed, saying the Senate was within its constitutional powers to establish its own rules that don’t violate other provisions. Beetem also said a state legislature’s authority to set up rules for its own proceedings “is a political question not subject to judicial review.”

“The inquiry ends here,” Beetem wrote in the nine-page decision.

The judge also said there is no constitutional right to record open public meetings.

Sean Soendker Nicholson, executive director of Progress Missouri, vowed to “continue this fight.”

“We don’t think that the Senate should be able to ignore the Sunshine Law just because they find it inconvenient,” he said.

Several senators, including Senate Leader Tom Dempsey and Majority Floor Leader Ron Richard, said in a joint statement they were pleased with the judge’s decision.

Senate Passes RTW, Now Back to House
May 13, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Missouri Senate Republicans used a rare procedural motion Tuesday to shut down debate and pass a right-to-work measure – a move Democrats say will bring business to a halt as this week’s deadline to pass bills nears.

The Senate voted 21-13 to approve the bill that prohibits workplace contracts in which union fees are collected from nonmembers. Supporters say it would attract more businesses to Missouri and improve the state’s economy.

The motion to force a vote hadn’t been used since 2014, when it was employed to override Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a measure tripling the waiting period for abortions. Prior to that, it had not been used since 2007.

The right-to-work legislation, which opponents say could lead to lower wages and make training more difficult, now goes back to the state House, which passed a similar version earlier this year. A final House vote would send the bill to Nixon, who has indicated he likely would veto it.

Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, a Joplin Republican, had said the right-to-work issue was a priority of his and would be handled before anything else as Friday’s deadline to approve bills approaches. But Democratic Sen. Scott Sifton of St. Louis County called Republicans’ use of the motion “the nuclear option.”

“This session has already gone badly enough for working Missourians. We can’t allow it to get any worse,” Sifton said.

He and other Democrats, in an attempt to block any other moves by the Republicans, were forcing roll-call votes on multiple motions on Tuesday.


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