Democrats ask Greitens to veto discrimination bill

Rep. Mark Ellebracht reads his letter asking Gov. Eric Greitens to veto SB 43 May 10, 2017. (Travis ZImpfer/MISSOURI TIMES)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – House Democrats made one final, desperate attempt to defeat SB 43 Wednesday morning by gathering outside of Gov. Eric Greitens’ office to deliver letters urging him to veto the bill.

Each representative wrote their own letters stating their opposition to the legislation. Rep. Mark Ellebracht read from his own letter, elucidating on his decision to not vote on the measure Monday night. Several Democratic representatives declined to vote on the bill.

“Though some may believe this position is naive, many of us are not so corrupted by the insinuating and intoxicating allures of power that we are compelled to forget our oath,” Ellebracht said. “We are put more in the humble respect and awesome admiration for the honor and responsibility that has been placed in us.”

Ellebracht added he found the legislation “self-serving” because the Senate sponsor of the bill, Sen. Gary Romine, is currently facing a lawsuit due to alleged discriminatory practices at one of his businesses. That sentiment was echoed by other members present.

“Gov. Greitens campaigned on being a non-traditional politician and campaigned against corruption,” Rep. Crystal Quade said. “I know people of my district that went in his favor were very excited about the possibility of a governor that would stand with the people against corruption and self-dealing legislation.”

The House debated the measure for nearly six hours Monday. While Republicans contend the legislation would help bolster the legal environment for businesses in the state, Democrats believe the bill’s changes to the Missouri Human Rights Act makes it much easier for businesses to evade discrimination lawsuits.

Greitens’ office did not immediately respond to requests for comment. However, some of the representatives present have some measure of hope Greitens will not put his signature on the measure, given his opposition to last year’s SJR 39, another controversial measure that would have allowed vendors to not have their services used for same-sex weddings.

Rep. Bruce Franks also said he hoped the Governor who responded quickly to the desecration of a Jewish cemetery would be the one behind the desk when the bill arrived.

“That’s the governor we’re looking for, the governor that stands against racism and discrimination,” Franks said. “We’re not looking for the Missouri Chamber governor, we’re looking for the governor that protects the people.”

However, the Missouri Chamber has been one of the main proponents of SB 43 and famously opposed SJR 39. Greitens has signed several other big-ticket policies this session, like right-to-work and the adoption of the Daubert expert witness standard, that the Chamber has pushed.

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