Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel is praising the House Speaker for criticizing the decision of a fellow Republican to cut off Chapel’s microphone at the Statehouse in Jefferson City this week.

Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel speaks at the Statehouse on February 14, 2017 (Brian Hauswirth photo)

State Rep. Bill Lant (R-Pineville) would not let Chapel finish his testimony on Monday.

House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) apologized to Chapel in front of about 100 people, during this week’s St. Louis County NAACP legislative day in Jefferson City.

“That was incredible,” Chapel says. “Very gracious, a man of integrity (Richardson) who takes his position and not just his position but his role in democracy seriously. And I think he has that same expectation for those who are in control of the House.”

Chapel says he’s never had his microphone cut off during testimony, until Monday night. Chapel testified before Chairman Lant’s House Special Committee on Litigation Reform.

“And it was so weird, because you anticipate a lot of things, maybe questions from the committee,” says Chapel. “Never before have I ever had a microphone that has been shut off like that. And when it happened, I addressed the Chair (Lant), and I asked him, ‘is my microphone off’, and he said yes.”

Chapel was testifying against a bill to change workplace discrimination standards in Missouri. Chapel says the bill would make it more difficult for employees to sue for discrimination.

Richardson tells the NAACP that we should “always welcome” the free exchange of ideas in the Capitol. Richardson says Chapel is always welcome to present his views and the NAACP’s views to the Missouri House.

Lant plans to hold a second hearing. Here is his statement, in its entirety:

“As a committee chairman, it is my responsibility to keep the discussion in our hearings focused on the bill under consideration. 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. I believe strongly that everyone should have the opportunity to be heard on this, or any other, issue. My committee will hold a second public hearing to ensure all sides are able to voice their opinions.”

The date of the next hearing has not been set yet.

The keynote speaker at Tuesday’s NAACP event was Missouri Governor Eric Greitens (R). While they disagree on right-to-work and on paycheck protection, Chapel says he and Governor Greitens respect each other.

Chapel appreciates Greitens for being the keynote speaker.

“As governor, the head of our state, I think it’s important that we hear loud and clear that this State Capitol is for everybody,” Chapel says. “And if nothing else we’re going to have fair and civil discourse, because without it we don’t have a democracy. And I think that he (Greitens) really stands for that.”

Chapel agrees with Greitens, who says that today’s unemployment rate in many Missouri African-American communities for young men is 40 percent higher than in other communities.