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05 February 2012

Schupp: Workplace Discrimination Bill Returns

While we have ended each of the last two weeks a day early in the Missouri House, don’t get the impression that short means sweet. Two bills that were vetoed by the Governor last year are in the process of being heard once again on the house floor.

One caps damages paid to victims of discrimination and makes proving discrimination harder (some would claim almost impossible.) It lessens protections for whistle blowers who should be protected when they step forward to expose fraud or less-than-ethical behavior.

The second bill will require a state-issued photo ID from registered voters at the polls. This requirement will create hurdles for those who don’t have such items as a driver’s license, or an official birth certificate needed to prove identification to purchase a photo ID. Some seniors, and certainly the poor and disabled who might find it challenging to purchase the new form of ID can easily be deterred from exercising their rights to vote. The “solution” is aimed at a problem that does not exist. Voter impersonation at the polls has never been demonstrated.

This week, interns Drew Stiehl and Nora Geary have helped craft portions of the newsletter. I am hopeful that going forward they will continue to contribute regularly to provide you with updated information about what is going on in our office and in the legislature.

Please remember to vote in the Presidential Primary on Tuesday, February 7. You will be asked to name your political party preference. This is standard procedure, required in order to give you the appropriate ballot. Missouri does not keep track of your party preference going forward.

Hope you enjoyed the Super Bowl!


Healthcare and Our Seniors

an update by Nora Geary

Where did the month of January go?! Time is flying, since I started working with Representative Schupp!

A priority issue I’ve been working on is ensuring quality care of older adults who are left in the trusting care of nursing homes. As a country, and a state, we will continue to see a dramatic increase in the number of older adults in the coming years. In St. Louis County, adults over the age of 65 make up approximately 15% of the total population, which is close to 150,000 individuals.

Individuals and their families will begin making important decisions about retirement, housing, health care, and places where they can receive the best quality of care. A natural part of getting older is a higher need for medical care. Some are fortunate to experience good health with few medical complications. However, for those who need medical attention finding trustworthy places to provide care and support recovery from injury or illness is important. We have a responsibility to ensure that individuals who have given over 65 years of their experience, talent, and work are guaranteed the best quality of care. I am working with the Department of Health and Senior Services to get a better understanding of how conditions in nursing homes are addressed and if current policies and regulations are effective in enhancing the quality of life for older adults. I am also researching models of care that support and improve the quality of long-term care in nursing homes and assisted living environments.

A special thanks to a constituent who shared his concerns about regulatory policies and the quality of care older adults are receiving. He brought this issue to our attention because he and his family have been affected by it, but also because this issue may affect other families as well.

I will keep you updated on this and other health related policy issues going forward.

Drew Stiehl on the "Workplace Discrimination"'s back again

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An important and controversial bill (HB 1219) regarding discrimination in the workplace has made its way onto the house floor. If this sounds familiar, Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a similar bill last year in a ceremony held in front of the Historic Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis, the same courthouse that once heard the historic Dred Scott trial.

Proponents of HB 1219 say it will protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits and excessive fines by bringing Missouri’s civil rights legislation more in line with the federal Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991. Under the proposed legislation, burden of proof would fall upon the claimant, who would have to meet a new and higher standard of proof: that the discrimination was the motivating factor in firing or lack of promotion, rather than a contributing factor.

As many civil rights groups across the state have pointed out, however, Missouri’s civil rights legislation and informal standards have continued to improve beyond the standards of federal mandates. Passing HB 1219 would very well represent a giant step backwards for civil rights in Missouri by rescinding the progress made in protecting minorities from discrimination. Additionally, protection for “whistleblowers” would be reduced under HB 1219. This legislation will diminish the level of accountability from within Missouri’s businesses. It discourages both those who have been discriminated against, and those who believe the company is engaging in illegal or unethical behavior, from speaking out.

It may indeed be time to update our legislation regarding discrimination in the workplace if one agrees that lawsuits are filed frivolously. But discrimination is a serious matter, and it deserves genuine concern whenever someone feels it is a real issue. HB 1219 reduces protection for Missouri workers, discourages victims from seeking justice, and is, on the whole, not the answer to the problems of workplace discrimination policy.

A similar bill, SB 592, has been filibustered in the Senate. Strong and unanimous opposition is expected to continue from Democratic caucus members in the House. If this is déjà vu, then here’s to hoping Governor Nixon continues the trend and leads the state by vetoing this legislation again.

About Nora Geary

Nora Geary is currently pursuing dual masters degrees in Public Health and Social Work at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University. While interning at the Capitol, Nora will focus on health related policies that ensure quality care of older adults as well as policies that will facilitate the health and well-being of all Missourians.

I am grateful to Washington University and Professor Tim McBride for allowing Nora to work with me as we craft and advance good health policy legislation.

About Drew Stiehl

Drew Stiehl is a senior Sociology and Psychology major at The University of Missouri. Originally from Wildwood, MO, Drew has a passion for environmental issues and workers' rights. He has already demonstrated great skill and sense in office management while working on substantive issues. This experience will support his efforts to gain additional leadership and public speaking skills.

About Nicholas Arroyo

Nicholas Arroyo will complete a finance degree this semester at the University of Missouri and will be participating in a variety of capacities working with the Missouri Veterans History Project, founded through my office. In addition to his enthusiasm for working with Veterans, Nicholas has developed a passion for supply chain/logistics in the past year working for a trucking company, and will enter an Operations Management Trainee program upon graduation with PepsiCo in Saint Louis. He hopes to gain insight into the legislative process while also reaching out to our Missouri Veterans by coordinating interviews to capture their stories of service.

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