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Politically Speaking: Sen.-elect Burlison on why he wants right to work on the books

Sen.-elect Eric Burlison records an episode of Politically Speaking at KSMU studios in Springfield.
Megan Burke I KSMU
Sen.-elect Eric Burlison records an episode of Politically Speaking at KSMU studios in Springfield.

Sen.-elect Eric Burlison, the latest guest on Politically Speaking, talked about the upcoming legislative session  — including his bill that would implement a right-to-work law in Missouri.

The Greene County Republican served for eight years in the Missouri House, before hitting his term limit. He successfully ran for a state Senate seat this year that includes part of Greene and all of Christian County.

Burlison is a computer programmer who has been active in GOP politics for some time. He first ran for the Missouri House in 2008, winning a seat that took in part of the city of Springfield with about 57 percent of the vote.

During his tenure in the Missouri House, Burlison became chairman of the House Professional Licensing and Registration Committee. While that committee doesn’t attract a lot of attention, it’s arguably one of the most important legislative committees because it places regulations on a host of industries.

Burlison was the chief sponsor in the House of a right-to-work measure, which would have barred unions and employers from requiring workers to pay dues. That measure ended up passing out of the legislature, but did not survive Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto. Ultimately, right to work was signed into law in 2017 — but was subsequently repealed this year with more than two-thirds of the vote.

Since he was barred from running again for his House seat, due to terms limits after 2016, Burlison had a two-year hiatus before successfully seeking the 20th Senate District seat.

Here’s what he had to say during the show:

  • He attracted some attention this month when he filed a right-to-work bill. Some opponents of the policy harshly criticized Burlison for trying to overturn “the will of the people.” Burlison said: “I believe this is the right issue not because it’s popular, but because it’s the right issue. It’s morally the right thing to do. Issues that I hold dear in that regard should not change based the vote of the people.”
  • Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz said this year he didn’t expect right to work to be a major agenda item for Republicans this year. Asked about that, Burlison replied: “I’ve faced certain difficulties from people that did not want this issue to be brought to forefront. And so, for me this isn’t about if it makes me popular with my colleagues or my peers in Jefferson City.”
  • Burlison also sponsored legislation that would require more signatures for initiative petitions — and mandate that a proposed constitutional amendment receive two-thirds of the vote before its enacted. A number of other GOP lawmakers have proposed a similar measure, which would need voter approval before going into effect.
  • Like other GOP lawmakers, Burlison said he was disturbed by a series of St. Louis Post-Dispatch articles detailing how people across the state have been affected by rural courts. He said he’s studying a legislative response to the issue, especially when it comes to private probation companies.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Eric Burlison on Twitter: @EricBurlison

Music: “Streaks in the Sky” by Thursday

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.