The Missouri House of Representatives has passed its version of employment discrimination legislation, following the most heated debate so far this session. House Democrats, lead by the Black Caucus, spoke at length in opposition to the measure each time it came to the floor, saying it will make discrimination easier in Missouri workplaces.
Republicans fired back against those comments in debate on Thursday. Lee’s Summit representative Jeff Grisamore said, “I frankly find it abhorrent and offensive that there has been such gross misrepresentations of this issue that members of the minority would imply that anybody on this floor, in this chamber, supports bigotry and discrimination.”
Minority Floor Leader Mike Talboy (D-Kansas City) re-iterated his party’s stance that the bill makes it easier to discriminate against the disabled, cancer patients, minorities and other groups. He told Grisamore, “You can own that. I’m not calling you a racist, I’m not calling you a bigot, I have never done that, nor will I … if you’re upset about it then you have some introspection to do on your own. Don’t blame me.”
AUDIO: Hear the exchange between Representatives Mike Talboy and Jeff Grisamore.
Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones (R-Eureka) defended the bill, saying it is a return to fairness and justice. He says it returns Missouri law to what it was for nearly 50 years before the current standard was enacted. “During that time, when the Missouri law was identical to the federal law and the minority party controlled this chamber for nearly that entire time, I don’t believe I heard anyone say that we needed to change the law … that Missouri law was racist, that it was unfair to employees, that we were being mistreated in the courts, that people were not having their due process rights shown and were not being protected fairly and equally under the law.”
Jones spoke for 11 minutes before calling the previous question, cutting off debate and forcing a vote on the bill.
Representative Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) called on her fellow Democrats to relax and just let measure pass, saying she was confident it would be vetoed by Governor Jay Nixon. She said, “What really makes me happy, Mister Speaker, is to know that those who are pushing House Bill 1219 will not have the override votes that they need to enact this horrible piece of legislation.”
The measure passed 89-68, with 13 Republicans voting with Democrats against it. Such a margin would fall short of a veto override, which requires a two-thirds vote in each chamber.
The Governor vetoed the measure last year. When asked if he will indeed do so again, he said he has not yet seen this year’s language, but added, “My position on those measures hasn’t shifted.”
AUDIO: Mike Lear reports (1:01)