On Wednesday of this week, the Missouri legislature is meeting for an override session. Unique to state legislatures, this is when the legislature has a chance to override any veteos issued by the governor.
The main fight on the docket is a right-to-work bill that embattled Governor Jay Nixon vetoed in June. The vote passed with a majority in both chambers, where Republicans hold a "super majority." Strictly along party lines, they have enough votes to override anything Nixon vetoes.
Though they have the votes, in theory, whether they can corral all their members to vote for the measure is up in the air.
And labor is fighting back. Hard. They've even tapped former Missouri House Speaker Steve Tilley, a Republican, to do their lobbying.
Teamsters President James P. Hoffa, KCUR reports, at a rally last week, said: "'Some people say unions have too much power,' Hoffa said as he raised his fists at the podium. 'I say we need a hell of a lot more.'" Phil Gruber, General Vice President of the International Association of Machinists, said at a rally (where he was wearing camoflauge) that "he was going to war (to fight 'right-to-work')."
Newly a part of the SEC, Missouri is unique: North meets South, East meets West. With St. Louis called the "Gateway to the West", the state is not easy to pigeonhole. Until recently, the state was a relaible Presidential bellweather, but since 2000, it has voted Republican in every presidential election.
The state has two major urban centers, St. Louis and Kansas City. The cities have seen their population decline over recent decades, with the outerlying suburbs growing. There are a smattering of small to mid-size cities in between, but they are the book-ends to a rural/small-town mix of cities.
Unions still have a fair amount of power in the Show-Me State, and this is mostly an urban vs. rural fight. But with the changing of Missouri's electorate, Republicans are hoping now is the time to give unions a crippling blow by joining the 25 other right-to-work states.
Sources close to the Missouri legislature tell THE WEEKLY STANDARD the votes are there in the Senate to override the veto, but the House, which is likely to act first on the override, is where things are somewhat uncertain. Quoted in the Washington Examiner, Rep. Bill Lant said "We are very, very close."
How close? Nobody will say on the record.
Rep. Chuck Basye told the Columbia Tribune:
“I have been told we have the numbers to override, and I have been told we are not even close,” Basye said. “Behind the scenes there is a lot of wheeling and dealing going on, but I am not part of it.”
Basye has heard from union members in his district that it will cost him support. “If this costs me the election, so be it,” he said.
This is what Republicans in Missouri are counting on. In recent years, Republican pushes for a partial-birth abortion ban and right-to-carry legislation have drawn warnings that they might suffer at the ballot box if they overstep their bounds. Yet, Republicans keep winning.
With incumbent Nixon on his way out, Missouri Republicans are seeking to put one of their own back in the governor's office, and the right to work fight has consequences for the next election.
That's the rub: Lots of the initial "no" votes from Republicans came from freshmen legislators. Others are on the fence because the unions, aided by former Speaker Tilley, are promising to give them money and endorse them.
Defeating Nixon on right to work in the veto session puts vulnerable suburban Republican legislators in a bit of a bind: Who would you like to have challenging you next election, the labor unions or the business lobby?