During a NAACP event today at the Missouri Capitol, House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) said “the House was not at its best yesterday.” He’s responding to state Rep. Bill Lant (R-Pineville), who refused to let NAACP leader Nimrod Chapel finish his committee hearing testimony Monday on proposed changes to employment discrimination laws.
About 100 people attended the Tuesday event in the rotunda.
“This is a place in this Capitol where we ought to always welcome the free exchange of ideas,” said Richardson. “This is a place where, more than anywhere else, we are supposed to respect the times we disagree with each other but still have that dialogue. Mr. Chapel, I want to tell you personally, on behalf of the Missouri House, that you are always welcome to present your views and your thoughts and you are most certainly always welcome to present your views of this great organization to our members.”
Chapel also spoke at Tuesday’s event and thanked Richardson for his support.
“If we as people can’t come to the Capitol and articulate concerns on a policy level and at least be heard, I think that our democracy is broken. I think we have a long way to go but we made some exciting exchanges today,” said Chapel. Senate bill 43 that was introduced would legalize discrimination. That is a person who harasses or discriminates against another human being would not be held legally liable for the harms that they create.”
Lant is the chairman of the House’s special committee on litigation reform. During that Monday hearing, Chapel testified in opposition to bills that he said
would make it more difficult for employees to sue for discrimination.
Lant asked Chapel to speak on the bill. Chapel responded by saying his comments were related to the bill. He told the committee “this (legislation) was nothing but Jim Crow.”
Jim Crow laws were state and local laws enforcing racial segregation in primarily the Southern United States until the mid-1960s.
Chapel’s microphone was turned off. Lant then thanked Chapel for his testimony. Chapel attempted to continue, but was not allowed to.
Lant has not returned Missourinet’s request for an interview by the time this story was posted.
Richardson has asked Lant to hold a second public hearing about the legislation. According to a statement from Lant, his committee will honor that request.
“It is my responsibility to keep the discussion in our hearings focused on the bill under consideration,” said Lant. “At the same time, it’s vitally important that our public hearings provide a forum for a free and open dialogue on the issues. In my effort to keep discussion in our Monday hearing germane to the bill, I prevented the exchange of ideas and viewpoints that is essential to our legislative process.”
House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City) has requested that Richardson replace Lant as the committee’s chair.