JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – State Representative Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City, recently filed four pieces of legislation in an effort to address the gender pay gap, reduce the amount of illegal search and seizures, educate citizens on their constitutional rights when interacting with law enforcement officers, and improve the ability of inmates to find employment after being released from prison.
Under House Bill 145, employers would be prohibited from discriminating against an employee in providing compensation for the same work based on gender. Additionally, the measure provides employees with protections against employers in the event of retaliation. Ellington filed identical legislation in the form of House Bill 2190 last session.
“I was extremely disappointed after offering my ‘Equal Pay for Equal Work’ amendment last session to learn that my Republican colleagues not only fail to recognize the pay disparities that exist in the workplace based on gender, but essentially believe that the idea of a woman being paid less for doing the same job as her male counterpart is her choice,” said Ellington. “I wanted to ensure that women who speak out against gender-based discrimination and this concerning idea that they are not deserving of equal pay are legally protected.”
Rep. Ellington filed two additional bills that seek to foster more productive interactions with law enforcement as well as educate citizens on their constitutional rights. House Bill 149, which was filed last session by Ellington as House Bill 1781, requires the Department of Revenue to include information outlining suggested guidelines for interacting with law enforcement officers in the Missouri Driver’s Guidebook. The guidelines range from incidents involving arrest, search and seizure, the retention of evidence, racial profiling and a civilian’s ability to file a complaint regarding unpleasant interactions with law enforcement.
The second measure, House Bill 150, states that in order for a law enforcement officer to search a vehicle or an individual inside of a vehicle for an alleged violation, he or she must recite the following statement and receive consent from the person subject to search:
“I am asking for your consent to conduct a search of the vehicle or your person. You have the right to refuse to consent to the search or you may knowingly, freely and voluntarily consent to the search. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you? Do you choose to waive your right to refuse my requested search?”
“Over the years, we’ve seen a substantial amount of growth in the amount of illegal search and seizures, which result in unwarranted arrests, inappropriate exchanges and fatalities,” Ellington says. “The issue we often encounter is the lack of knowledge on the part of the citizen and the inability of the law enforcement officer to follow proper protocol. The best way to prevent these issues and incidents from occurring is through proper education and communication. Both House Bills 149 and 150 will assist in bringing about change and fostering more positive and productive interactions between civilians and law enforcement.”
Under House Bill 153, the Department of Corrections would be required to participate in the United States Department of Labor’s Federal Bonding Program. The Federal Bonding Program’s functions include reviewing job availability and eligibility while an individual is incarcerated, and ensuring certifications are issued to those offenders who have completed the necessary requirements.
“The system we currently have in place is unacceptable and I believe we should be providing sufficient support and better resources for offenders who want nothing more than to be productive members of society,” said Ellington.
In the event of an offender working more than one job but not being eligible for certification, House Bill 153 requires the Department of Corrections to provide offenders with a workers certificate upon release. The workers certificate would indicate the number of hours spent in training or working for each job, specify the duties required for each job, and list the skills acquired or demonstrated on the job.
“House Bill 153 should not only assist in reducing the recidivism rate, but spark conversations about the opportunities we are depriving offenders of when we fail to follow-up or provide them the certifications they need to find adequate employment after serving their time.”