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10 February 2012

Newman: Two Discriminatory Bills Pass House, Third On Its Way, Progressives Introduce Job Creation Counter

Sad to say but I’m not proud of the actions of the Missouri House this past week.

We passed out both of the Discrimination bills…to date (HB1219 and HB1104), as the Democratic caucus refers to them. Yesterday, our entire Democratic Caucus stood strong with 4 hours of rigorous intense arguments to protect Missouri workers and voters. My Democrat colleagues argued loud and passionately, some standing at the mikes for over an hour to be recognized - in efforts to remind the body of potential serious civil rights rollbacks and the consequences.

Arguments made in favor of these were misleading and inaccurate which I believe does not serve well those who trust in us. I was reminded of the quote yesterday…”You are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts”.


In what has become an annual ritual, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday that would require voters to show government-issued photo identification at the polls as a condition of ballot even though the Missouri Supreme Court in 2006 ruled that such a requirement violates the voting rights provision of the state constitution.

The bill, HB 1104, was sent to the Senate on a straight party-line vote of 101-54, with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed, after Republicans cut off debate.

As I have been promising you, I argued loud on the floor against voter suppression based on non-existent voter impersonation fraud. I said:

“There is a tidal wave of assault on the right to vote nationwide – last year 34 state legislatures considered limiting voting rights. When voting rights are attacked, they are done to facilitate attacks on other rights: workers, basic women’s rights and labor rights which we’re seeing done here today. This voting rights assault threatens to undermine political participation by blocking access to people of color, the poor, the elderly and the young. Why? Because they simply don’t “vote right”.


According to the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office, an estimated 250,000 legally registered Missouri voters don’t have a government-issued photo ID.

Many of those people, through no fault of their own, are unable to obtain a photo ID because the supporting documentation needed to get one, such as a birth certificate, can’t be located by state and county officials because the documents were lost or destroyed or, in the case of many elderly voters, never existed because of record-keeping standards decades ago were spotty in some areas of the state. Many too would have the hardship – time and expense - of locating these required documents with seals including marriage licenses (for those who have changed last names) if they are out-of-state or even out-of-country.

Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed a similar bill in 2011 and likely would do so again. The General Assembly last year approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would give lawmakers the authority to impose a photo voter ID requirement, but it doesn’t go on the statewide ballot until November. Until and unless Missouri voters ratify the amendment, a photo voter ID requirement remains unconstitutional and unenforceable in Missouri.


The Senate and House of Representatives have traded legislation to make it easier for employers to escape legal responsibility for engaging in workplace discrimination. The Senate passed its discrimination bill, SB 592, on Feb. 8, while the House followed suit and approved its version, HB 1219, on Feb. 9. The bills now switch chambers.

Both bills would substantially raise the legal bar for bringing claims of unlawful workplace discrimination based on race, gender, age disability or religion. For cases that still manage to make to court, the bills would severely limit the amount of damages victims could recover. Weakening Missouri’s workplace discrimination laws is a top priority for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the state’s other major business groups.

The Senate bill passed on a straight party-line vote of 25-8, with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed. In the House, Republicans had to cut off debate in order to bring the bill to a vote. The bill passed 89-68, with a handful of Republicans joining unanimous Democrats in opposition. Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed similar legislation last year and has indicated his intent to do so again this year.

And a quote from Majority Floor Leader Rep. Tim Jones –“Missouri court decisions in the last decade have swung the pendulum too far in favor of employees”.


HB1541, sponsored by Majority Floor Leader Rep. Tim Jones was heard this week in the House Healthcare Policy Committee which I sat in during a break in my Appropriations Hearings.

This bill specifies that any medical professional, including an individual who may be asked to participate in any way in a medical service, or health care institution where medical services are provided, has the right not to participate in and cannot be required to participate in a medical service, including any phase of patient medical care, treatment, or procedures, that violate his or her conscience including his or her religious, moral, or ethical principles. In addition no medical progression or healthcare institution can be civilly, criminally, or administratively liable for declining to participate in any medical service that violates his or her conscience.

As you can imagine, this proposed legislation is far reaching and could cover a multitude of medical situations where we rely on medical professionals to be ethical.

I thank Dr. Ira Kodner of Washington University, nationally known medical ethics specialist and Dr. Ed Weisbart, retired chief medical officer of Express Scripts for testifying against HB1541 Wednesday in Jefferson City. I truly appreciate that they (accompanied by Ira's wife Barbara) were willing to make the trek from St. Louis to the state Capitol on a work day. They both gave compelling and even chilling arguments why Rep. Jones bill would be detrimental to Missourians who depend on physicians and medical entities to provide care.

You should be watching this legislation (as I will) as it is predicted to move quickly through the House. Did I mention Rep. Jones is the Majority Floor Leader who determines which bills we hear and is slated to become the Speaker of the House in 2013?


Progress Missouri this week announced the launch of, a new high-tech website to monitor the success of our legislative leaders in passing legislation to create more good-paying jobs for Missourians and advance our economic recovery.

At, concerned citizens, advocates and media can find an exhaustive list of legislation passed by the General Assembly to address the number one issue for Missouri families. The website also includes an advanced, dynamic counter to provide an up-to-the minute summary of how many jobs the Republican leadership is creating.

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