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House committee tackles prevailing wage and paycheck protection

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A politician that uses taxpayer funds for personal political campaigns can be sent to jail.  Yet, current Missouri law allows thousands in taxpayers’ dollars to go to political campaigns every year unchecked, siphoned off of public employees’ paychecks in the form of union dues.

Rep. Holly Rehder

Rep. Holly Rehder

Legislation heard in the Workforce Standards and Workplace Safety Committee this week would end that practice.  House Bill 1891, sponsored by Rep. Holly Rehder, a Republican from Sikeston, would provide public employees “paycheck protection.” It would bar public employee unions from automatically withholding dues from employees.

“Many union leaders pursue agendas that their members do not support,” Rep. Rehder testified. “Because of this, Missouri workers would be better served by giving them an annual option to choose whether they want their dues spent on political purposes. “

This legislation would require public employee labor unions to get annual written permission from each employee before withholding union dues or using those dues for political purposes.

First responders are exempt from HB 1891 because of a compromise that was added during 2013 debate of similar legislation that was passed. Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed that bill.

Also heard in the same committee was HB 1700, sponsored by Rep. Bill Lant, a Republican from Pineville. The bill would allow public bodies to opt out of prevailing wage laws for the construction of public projects that would cost less than $750,000.

The Missouri Chamber has a long-standing position against prevailing wage mandates.  Brian Bunten testified on behalf of the prevailing wage legislation

“Prevailing wage is a product of a bygone era.  The policy mandates an arbitrary level of wage-setting on public projects,” Brian Bunten, general counsel for the Missouri Chamber, said.  “That mandate is costing taxpayers far greater costs for public projects. In some areas of the state, it could nearly double the wage level on taxpayer-funded projects compared to wages for other local construction projects.”

For more information on this issue, contact Bunten, Missouri Chamber general counsel, at bbunten@mochamber.com, or by phone at 573.634.3511.

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