Jun 4, 2015 – Weekly Capitol Update

NIXON VETOES SO-CALLED ‘RIGHT TO WORK’ LEGISLATION

Gov. Jay Nixon on June 4 vetoed legislation that sought to make it a crime punishable by jail time for businesses to negotiate labor agreements that require employees to pay dues for the union representation they receive. Nixon was joined by United Auto Workers members when he vetoed HB 116 during a ceremony near the Ford Motor Company’s Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo.

Under HB 116, company officials could be jailed for up to 15 days and fined $300, as well as being subject to civil lawsuits, for negotiating “closed shop” provisions, which currently are common at Missouri businesses with union representation. Supporters of the legislation call it “right to work.”

“House Bill No. 116 would represent a significant step backwards for Missouri,” Nixon said in his veto message. “It would reduce wages, limit training opportunities, undermine business owners’ autonomy, and expose employers and others to the threat of state criminal prosecution and unlimited civil liability. This is not a path Missouri should follow. I stand with the workers of Missouri and reject this wrongheaded legislation that will hurt our economy, our families and our businesses.”

The Republican-controlled General Assembly will have a chance to overrule Nixon, a Democrat, at its annual veto session in September. However, when HB 116 won final legislative approval last month, supporters were unable to muster the two-thirds supermajorities necessary for an override in either chamber, falling 17 votes short in the House and two shy in the Senate.

 

REPORT AGAIN SHOWS POLICE STOP BLACKS AT HIGHER RATE

The disparity at which black motorists were stopped by Missouri police last year hit its highest level since the state began compiling racial data on traffic stops in 2000 according to the annual report on vehicle stops issued on June 1 by Attorney General Chris Koster.

According to the report, black drivers were 75 percent more likely than white drivers to be pulled over by police in 2014 based on their respective proportions to Missouri’s driving age population. The racial disparity in stops has gotten significantly worse since 2000, when blacks were 31 percent more likely than whites to be stopped by police.

In another continuing trend, Missouri police were more likely to search Hispanic and black drivers than white drivers, even though white drivers were more likely to be found with contraband.

The latest report was the first issued since the August 2014 shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by a white Ferguson police officer helped focus national attention on a variety of law enforcement practices, including racial profiling. Democratic lawmakers filed legislation this year to require officers to undergo additional training aimed at reducing racial bias in policing, but the proposal didn’t advance in the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

 

SEQUICENTENNIAL OF MISSOURI’S SECOND CONSTITUTION

With the Civil War entering its final days, Missouri voters narrowly ratified the state’s second constitution 150 years ago on June 6, 1865. The new constitution passed with 51.8 percent support on a vote of 43,670 to 41,808. Given the close vote, the outcome likely would have been quite different if not for the fact that as many as one-third of the state’s voters were excluded from participating in the election because they were accused of being disloyal.

The 1865 Constitution, which replaced the original 1820 state charter, was widely known as the Drake Constitution after its primary author, St. Louis attorney and Radical Republican Charles Drake. It was also dubbed the Draconian Code for its harsh treatment of former Confederates and southern sympathizers.

Missouri had been a slave state but remained in the Union primarily because it had been conquered by federal troops before its staunchly pro-Confederate state government had a chance to secede. The remnants of the General Assembly eventually approved an ordinance of secession during an on-the-run session in Neosho in October 1861. But by that time, a pro-Union provisional government backed up by federal troops had replaced the elected state government in Jefferson City.

As a Union state with a sizable pro-Confederate population, Missouri endured considerable violence during the war, not just on the battlefield but from countless armed conflicts between neighbors on opposing sides. As a result, Drake and other Radical delegates to the convention that drafted the new Constitution were influenced in part by a desire for vengeance against those deemed disloyal.

In addition to disenfranchising former Confederates and their supporters, the Drake Constitution also required anyone seeking to hold public office to take an “ironclad oath” swearing that they had never supported the Confederacy. Those who couldn’t take the oath were also disqualified from serving as clergy members, attorneys or teachers.

Although an ordinance enacted by the convention on Jan. 6, 1865, had abolished slavery in Missouri, the Drake Constitution also banned the practice. Convention delegates, however, refused to include a provision extending voting rights to freed slaves. An amendment granting universal male suffrage was ratified in November 1870, months after the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution secured voting rights for black men at the federal level.

The Drake Constitution proved short-lived as Missouri voters dumped it in favor of the state’s third constitution just 10 years later. The 1875 Constitution removed the punitive provisions that had prohibited former Confederates from voting, holding public office or engaging in certain professions. The 1875 Constitution lasted for 70 years until replaced by the 1945 Constitution, which remains in place today.

 

NIXON MAKES APPOINTMENT TO STATE COURT OF APPEALS

Gov. Jay Nixon on June 3 appointed James Dowd of Webster Groves to the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District. Dowd replaces Judge Glenn Norton, who retired in February after nearly 13 years on the bench.

Dowd has practiced law for more than 20 years and is the principal attorney at The James M. Dowd Law Firm in St. Louis. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

Dowd was one of three nominees for the post selected by the Missouri Appellate Judicial Commission. The others were Erwin Switzer of St. Louis and Jefferson County Circuit Judge Lisa Page. Dowd will have to stand for a retention election in November 2016 for a full 12-year term on the court.

 

NET STATE REVENUE UP 7.5 PERCENT SO FAR IN FY 2015

With just one month left in the 2015 fiscal year, net state general revenue collections were up 7.5 percent compared to the first 11 months of FY 2014, going from $7.32 billion last year to $7.87 billion this year. Net general revenue collections for May 2015 increased 5.7 percent compared to those for May 2014, going from $614.4 million to $649.6 million.