About two dozen House Democrats delivered individual letters to Governor Eric Greitens office Wednesday morning asking him to not sign a controversial bill.
The legislation – Senate Bill 43 – alters the threshold for proving workplace discrimination. A person would have to demonstrate their protected status was “the motivating” factor in their being fired or harmed.
Currently, the person’s status only has to be a contributing factor. The Missouri Human Rights Act, which the legislation would modify with Governor Greitens signature, prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability, and familial status.
The legislation also only allows for the employing company to be sued, not individuals.
House Democrat Bruce Franks Jr. of St. Louis addressed reporters before the group entered the governor’s office to drop-off their letters. He reiterated thoughts he shared on the House floor before abstaining from voting on the bill.
“You’re making it easier for these types of actions to go on in the workplace, and you’re making it harder for folks to go about suing” said Franks. “That’s an issue within itself. We’re talking about blatant discrimination. We’re not talking about anything else. It shouldn’t be written into legislation. We shouldn’t even have this in front of us.”
Many of the Democrats bringing letters to Governor Greitens were part of the group of representatives who, along with Franks, chose not to vote on the legislation.
Representative Mark Ellebracht, D-Liberty, was one of them. He took aim at Senator Gary Romine, the Farmington Republican who sponsored the bill., and who owns a business that has a workplace discrimination suit pending against it.
“He seeks to change the law to suit his own personal advantage and to twist the arch of public policy to suit his personal benefit” said Ellebracht. “There can be no doubt that this legislation is the result of a corrupted and self-dealing individual who no longer honors the oath of the office he once took.”
If Senate Bill 43 passes into law, it won’t retroactively affect the suit facing Romine’s business, Show-Me Rent to Own.
When the group was asked why Greitens would sign the measure when he’s so strongly supported by business interests, Franks said the governor has another side.
“The governor also stood up when the atrocity happened with the Jewish cemeteries. That’s the governor we’re looking for. The governor that stands against racism and discrimination. We’re not looking for the pro-business governor, the Missouri Chamber’s governor. We’re looking for the governor that’s going to fight with the people.”
Representative Crystal Quade of Springfield noted Greitens ran on a platform to eliminate corruption and self-dealing legislation.
“For me personally, that’s the governor that I’m looking for when we deliver these letters” said Quade. “Someone who will stand by the promises that he made during the campaign to the Missourians.”
A day before the House Democrats action, Senator Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, delivered an open letter asking that Greitens not sign the bill.
She said that if he did, then legal action against the measue would be the appropriate next move. “I am of great belief that if it happens where the governor signs this into law, that it will go into the courts” Nasheed said.
House member Ellebracht responded differently Wednesday morning. “It’s sort of a dereliction of duty to expect the courts to fix something that we were entrusted to do properly the first time.”
When Senator Nasheed announced her open letter, she was joined by most all of her Democratic caucus. House Democrats chose to let their freshmen representatives, including Franks, Jr., Ellebracht and Quade, take the lead role with their letter effort.