House approves bill taking multiple approaches to opioid addiction fight

The Missouri House has voted to take more steps toward fighting opioid addiction, with more such efforts likely to come from the chamber before the session ends in May.

Representative Keith Frederick (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications – click for larger version)

House Bill 2105 has been sent to the state Senate for consideration.  The bill has a number of provisions.  Sponsor Keith Frederick (R-Rolla) said the overarching idea behind the bill is to see a shift in the response to opioid addiction from law enforcement and incarceration to treatment availability.

“That’s the thing that’s lacking so much now, is we don’t have enough health care providers to provide access to what’s called, ‘medication assisted therapy,’” said Frederick.  “It is basically using medications like buprenorphine and Suboxone that get rid of the craving for narcotics and it allows people to get back to a useful, functional, rewarding life, but they need the medication on an ongoing basis and for that we need healthcare providers to help provide access to that sort of treatment, and we don’t have enough of those now.”

Frederick said the main provision of HB 2105 would create the “Improved Access to Treatment for Opioid Addictions” Program (IATOA).  It would use assistant physicians – a position created by legislation passed in 2014 – to work in a collaborative way with licensed doctors to provide addiction treatment throughout the state.

Those assistant physicians will be supported by the ECHO program (Extension for Community Healthcare Options) – a program that uses videoconferencing to connect experts with providers statewide to help providers offer specialized care.  Frederick said a module has been created for ECHO that focuses on opioid addiction treatment.

“These assistant physicians will have to become waivered – so they have to take a course on addiction treatment, and then they submit that to the DEA – the DEA can then give them a waiver to prescribe this medication, then they have to work in a collaboration with an experienced addiction treatment specialist, and then they’re also supported by the ongoing education of the ECHO opioid addiction module,” said Frederick.  “It’s a wonderful, collaborative way to bring access to this really life-changing, life-saving treatment to people struggling with addiction instead of their ending up in prison.”

Frederick said this program would be among the first of its kind in the nation, and other states are already taking note of it and considering how to create their own.

Another of HB 2105’s main provisions would limit to a seven-day supply the amount of an opioid drug that could be prescribed to someone for acute pain.  Frederick said this is meant to keep people from becoming addicted while not limiting such drugs to those who rely on them for long-term pain management.

“The difference between somebody who’s addicted and somebody who’s dependent is a pretty big difference,” said Frederick.  “The idea is to prevent people like the high school athlete who has a knee injury and the doc gives him 150 Percocet or whatever – it’s to nip that in the bud; prevent new people from getting addicted, but while acknowledging that there are people in our state that have chronic pain and they’re getting along pretty well, thank you very much.  So, I don’t believe we should be going after that patient that is needing ongoing medication on a regular basis but their life is stable and they’re doing well.”

Representative Jay Barnes (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications – click for larger version)

The bill would also create the Prescription Abuse Registry – a registry a person could voluntarily add himself or herself to – for individuals who have struggled with addiction.  The registry would do no more than notify doctors who choose to check it that those on the list have had a substance abuse problem.  That language was added by Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City).

“I think a lot of times people with substance abuse problems, at some point in their life they try to get clean,” Barnes said.  “At that point in time … they’re in a position when they may want to put themselves on a list like this, but if they have a relapse … being on a list like this would give providers a tool that if they suspect the person of doctor shopping, to check the list and say, ‘What’s going on here?  I know that you’re on this list.  I know that you’ve had a problem with opioids in the past … what are we doing?’”

A person could petition to be removed from the list five years after adding her or his name to it.

Other provisions in HB 2105 would create a drug take-back program for disposal of unused prescriptions; and bar the Department of Corrections from preventing offenders from receiving medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse or dependence.

The bill would also discontinue patient satisfaction scores of doctors, to the extent allowed by federal law.  Frederick said this is to keep doctors from being giving low scores by patients with addiction issues to whom they refused to prescribe opioids.  Such false, punitive low scoring can hurt doctors’ reputations, and hurt them financially.

The House voted 128-4 to send HB 2105 to the Senate.  Representative Frederick is also handling HCB 15 which will also contain multiple provisions aimed at fighting opioid abuse.  That legislation could be coming out of the committee process and ready for debate in the full House in the next few weeks.

House approves bipartisan collaborative effort to extend Medicaid coverage for postpartum substance abuse care

A bipartisan, collaborative effort to extend Medicaid benefits for postpartum substance abuse treatment has been approved by the Missouri House.

Representatives Marsha Haefner, Martha Stevens, Cora Faith Walker, and Jay Barnes (photos; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications – click for larger version)

House Bill 2280 extends MO HealthNet benefits for pregnant women who are receiving substance abuse treatment within 60 days of giving birth for up to 12 additional months.  Any participating woman must follow the treatment in order to benefit.

Bill sponsor Marsha Haefner (R-St. Louis) said extended treatment has been proven necessary for success.

“Opioid and substance abuse during pregnancy is on the rise, with opioid use during pregnancy mirroring that of the general population,” said Haefner.  “The current time offered for substance use disorder treatment, which is 60-days for these new moms, does not allow for enough treatment for most women to experience success with recovery.  If a new mom is doing well then loses support and treatment for her abuse she will often relapse.  Another risk of pulling treatment too soon is after a period of non-use, women experience an increased risk of overdosing because their tolerance is low.”

HB 2280 was combined with similar bills filed by Representatives Cora Faith Walker (D-St. Louis), Martha Stevens (D-Columbia), and Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City).

Stevens told lawmakers she was glad that the bill will cover a full range of treatments.

She said that one thing that came out of the committee hearing on the bill was that, “new moms need not just substance use disorder treatment.  That we really need to have comprehensive, wrap-around services, and so I’m very pleased that this bill is full Medicaid coverage so that these new moms can get substance use disorder treatment, they can get mental health care, they can go see a primary doctor, and really support them that first year after giving birth.”

Representative Faith Walker commended the lawmakers involved in the legislation for the bipartisan effort that led to its passage.

“It is a very common sense, evidence-based approach to dealing with the opioid epidemic here in the State of Missouri and it will both save taxpayer dollars as well as save lives,” said Faith Walker.  “I want to encourage the body to look at this effort that was put forward by all the bill sponsors moving forward for the rest of the session.”

Representative Keith Frederick (R-Rolla) said the bill represents something the legislature should do to help the most vulnerable in the state.

“The bottom line is that if we have ladies that are pregnant and have the struggle of addiction, they are in a special, vulnerable situation, as is their child,” said Frederick.

The bill’s projected cost is more than $4-million dollars through 2021, but Haefner noted it would save the state money that would have gone to caring for children who could go to state care if their mothers aren’t afforded treatment, and other cost avoidance.  She said the budget the House is debating this week also includes money to pay for the projected costs to extend this coverage.

The bill has been sent to the Senate for its consideration.  If it becomes law, the state will have to seek a waiver from the federal government to allow for the program to be created and implemented.  Missouri would be the first state to seek such a waiver.

Haefner is hopeful the state could get an answer from the federal government by the beginning of 2019.

Missouri House votes to limit lawsuits against bankruptcy trusts in asbestos illness cases

The Missouri House has voted to limit the ability to file lawsuits against bankruptcy trusts in cases of asbestos-related illness.

Representative Bruce DeGroot (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Bruce DeGroot (R-Chesterfield) said plaintiffs who sue solvent companies for an asbestos-related illness and are awarded money by a jury often then file claims against bankruptcy trusts for the same health issues – what he called “double dipping.”  His legislation, House Bill 1645, would give plaintiffs 30 days from filing suit against a solvent company to disclose any potential claims against a bankruptcy trust.

DeGroot said the bill aims to protect bankruptcy trusts, which compensate those injured by defunct companies, and have finite resources.

“Once that money is depleted it’s gone, and if we are allowing the system as it currently stands to go on, what we’re doing is allowing those trusts to be depleted at a much quicker rate than what they should be,” said DeGroot.  “Who this of course truly affects is that guy standing at the end of the line … by the way, we don’t even who those people are at this point, but by the time they get up and they’re ready to make their claim against the bankruptcy trust, that money won’t be in effect any longer.”

Jefferson City Republican Jay Barnes said current law already allows defendants in these cases to prevent “double dipping” by claimants.  He argued that it could take claimants longer than 30 days to know whether they have a claim against a trust, and under DeGroot’s bill many sick with mesothelioma would die before they could get to a trial.

He also said DeGroot’s bill would do the opposite of protecting bankruptcy trusts.

Representative Jay Barnes (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“Under current law a claimant is not required to file a trust claim … they don’t have to take any assets from a trust under current law.  And [Representative DeGroot], who says his bill is to protect trust assets, requires them to make claims from these trusts,” said Barnes.  “Under current law there is a situation where there could be zero claim against the trust and if this bill passes, every person who has a claim against a trust must make a claim against a trust it does the exact opposite of what [Representative DeGroot] says is the purpose of the bill.”

Representative DaRon McGee (D-Kansas City) said the concept that individuals who pursue claims against trusts after suing solvent companies is double dipping is a “myth.”

“If four defendants are responsible for an injury and you sue two solvent defendants and are forced to pursue the other two through trusts, this is not ‘double dipping.’  You’re getting the full dip that you’re entitled to,” said McGee.

Kansas City Republican Kevin Corlew said the bill would allow plaintiffs to pursue claims against trusts in a more efficient way while at the same time pursuing cases against solvent companies.

“It’s often not the plaintiff’s fault that this information isn’t brought forth, it’s the plaintiff’s lawyers who are trying to make sure that they get recovery here and then make sure that they get recovery later through the system.  All this is saying is seek recovery at the same time,” said Corlew.

The House voted 96-48 to send the bill to the Senate, which is considering its own version of the proposal.

Missouri House adopts resolution launching investigation of charge against Gov. Greitens

“We will do our best.”

Representative Jay Barnes presents a resolution that would launch the House’s investigation into a felony charge against Gov. Eric Greitens. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

That was the final statement to the House Thursday from Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) before the chamber adopted a resolution that launches its investigation of a felony charge against Governor Eric Greitens (R).  Barnes will chair the Special Investigative Committee on Oversight that will conduct that investigation.

A St. Louis grand jury last month indicted Greitens for felony invasion of privacy.  He is accused of taking, without consent, an intimate photo of a woman with whom he had an affair in 2015.

House Resolution 5565 authorizes the Committee.  It was approved 154-0.

Barnes discussed with other members how the investigation will be conducted.  He said the committee will close its hearings to the public when witnesses are giving testimony.

“The reason for that, if you think about legal process and the context of a trial where testimony is given, other witnesses in a case are excluded from the courtroom while a separate witness is testifying … lawyers call that, ‘invoking the rule.’  So we could ‘invoke the rule,’ but if we have a public hearing, invoking the rule means nothing because everything that a previous witness says would be reported to other potential witnesses and they could come in and that would color their testimony based on what they had heard previous witnesses have said, and I think the best way to get accurate information is to close those hearings so that other potential witnesses don’t know what previous witnesses said,” Barnes explained.

Barnes said the first witnesses the committee will question are individuals that were identified in publicly-available documents and documents that have been reported on, though he did not name them.  He said subpoenas would be sent to those witnesses.  Based on their testimony, more individuals could be called to testify.

House Speaker Todd Richardson (right) and Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo (left) talk with Representatives Jay Barnes (second from right), who chairs the Special Investigative Committee on Oversight, and Representative Don Phillips (seated), the vice chair of that committee. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Democrats expressed concerns that they would like more clarity about what possible actions will remain after the committee completes its work, but in the end they joined in supporting the resolution.

Columbia representative Kip Kendrick (D) said the situation with the governor has become a distraction for lawmakers.  He wished the committee well in conducting its investigation.

“It’s an embarrassment for everyone in this body, for everyone in this chamber, for the whole state,” said Kendrick.  “The charge of this committee to hold this investigation is very serious.  Outside of passing the budget this year it’s probably the most serious thing that’s happening … I hope that everyone in this chamber, on both sides of the aisle, don’t enter into the partisan bickering or partisan fights on this moving forward.  There are going to be attempts to make this a partisan issue and it’s not.  This should be a fair and thorough process that should be allowed to play out.”

House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City) asked Barnes about the process, and at the end of her inquiry told him, “We’re putting all of our trust in you to handle this properly.”

Barnes acknowledged to the chamber the levity of the job before him and the committee.

“This is a solemn and serious obligation.  Thank you for the trust that you have placed in me and the members of this committee and the trust that this body places in us.  We will do our best,” said Barnes.

The committee, whose other members are vice chairman Don Phillips (R-Kimberling City) and representatives Jeanie Lauer (R-Blue Springs), Kevin Austin (R-Springfield), Shawn Rhoads (R-West Plains), Gina Mitten (D-St. Louis), and Tommie Pierson, Jr (D-St. Louis), is expected to begin holding hearings next week.

Missouri House creates committee to investigate felony charge against Gov. Greitens

The Missouri House has created a committee that will investigate the charge on which Governor Eric Greitens (R) has been indicted.

Representative Jay Barnes and House Speaker Todd Richardson (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Greitens was indicted by a St. Louis grand jury for felony invasion of privacy.  Greitens is accused of taking, without consent, a photo of a woman with whom he had an affair in 2015.

House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) and other Republican members of House Leadership said Thursday they would begin identifying the legislators that would investigate that charge.  On Monday Richardson announced the committee will be chaired by Jefferson City Republican Jay Barnes.

“This committee’s task is going to be to investigate facts.  We’re going to do so in a way that is fair, thorough, and timely, and we’re going to do it without any preordained results,” said Barnes.  “We are going to be asking questions of witnesses on both sides and hope to have a process with full involvement from everyone involved in this matter.”

Barnes, an attorney, has been tasked with heading other investigative committees including one into the state’s involvement in a fraudulent deal to bring to Moberly a sucralose producer under the name Mamtek.

He is joined on the committee by its vice chairman, Don Phillips (R-Kimberling City) and representatives Jeanie Lauer (R-Blue Springs), Kevin Austin (R-Springfield), Shawn Rhoads (R-West Plains), Gina Mitten (D-St. Louis), and Tommie Pierson, Jr (D-St. Louis).

Representative Pierson, one of two Democrats on the committee, said it’s unfortunate that the panel is needed but the process should be as prudent as possible.

“I did accept to be on the committee because I feel that I will be fair and honest and open to hearing and allowing the process to run its course,” said Pierson.  “That’s what I hope to see happen.”

Meanwhile, said Richardson, the House will continue its other work.

“We are going to continue to move forward with the substantive legislation that we have spent the bulk of this session working on,” said Richardson.  “Yes, Representative Barnes and his committee are going to have a big task but that is not going to deter us or limit our ability to move forward on priorities that the people of Missouri sent us here to do.”

The committee will hold its first hearing later this week.

House endorses new abortion provider regulations; sends bill to the Missouri Senate

The Missouri House has passed a Senate bill that proposes new restrictions on abortion.  The House made several changes to the bill, so it goes back to the Senate for consideration.

Representative Diane Franklin carried Senate Bill 5 in the House during the legislature’s second extraordinary session of 2017. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The bill would allow the attorney general to prosecute abortion law violations without first involving local prosecutors; repeal a St. Louis ordinance that bars discrimination in housing and employment against women who have had an abortion, use birth control, or are pregnant; and require annual, unannounced state inspections of abortion facilities, among other provisions.

“The bill that we received from the Senate, we thought, was a good framework but it did not really specifically meet the governor’s call, so we re-put in provisions that helped to provide for the health and safety of women,” said Representative Diane Franklin (R-Camdenton), who carried Senate Bill 5 in the House.

Democrats argue the legislation is not about women’s health and safety, saying it is about making it more difficult for women to get abortions in Missouri.

“For the entire last week the only word I’ve heard was, ‘abortion,’” said Representative Deb Lavender (D-Kirkwood)“It’s actually a scam that we think – we’re saying – that we’re protecting women when actually all we’re doing is putting additional hurdles in their way for them to access healthcare.”

Franklin said a key provision for her is language that would require that all tissue removed after an abortion is sent to a pathologist, rather than a sample as is required now.  A pathologist would have to account for all tissue and note any issues.  The Department of Health would follow up any inconsistencies with an investigation.  It would also report annually to the legislature all information it gathers regarding fetal tissue handling.

Franklin has carried various forms of such language going back several sessions, after a series of videos emerged alleging that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue after abortions.

“I think that especially important that I worked on have been the fetal tissue portion of that – the tracking of that – so that we have the assurance that it is indeed going where it should be going and that our department is able to keep track of that,” said Franklin.

The bill also aims to bar laws that would interfere with the operations or speech of alternatives to abortion agencies.  Representative Hannah Kelly (R-Mountain Grove) says those agencies do a lot to help pregnant women.

“They offer pregnancy testing; ultrasounds – I’ve heard many, many, many stories directly from young mothers who … were in a place where they didn’t have any other options.  They needed alternatives and they needed help, and coming back to me, in particular, and saying, ‘I saw my baby.  I saw my baby move,” said Kelly.

Democrats are critical of information given out at alternatives to abortion agencies, saying it is medically inaccurate and skewed toward discouraging a woman from having an abortion.  Republicans say the agencies give women information with which they can form their own decisions.

Representative Cora Faith Walker offered an amendment that would have required quarterly reporting from alternatives to abortion agencies, but it was voted down. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Ferguson Democrat Cora Faith Walker also questioned the effectiveness of those agencies.

“In total there are about 70-plus alternatives to abortion agencies that exist here in the state of Missouri and yet we still have issues with infant mortality rates and maternal mortality rates that surpass national averages,” said Walker.  “In specific areas of Missouri where there seem to exist several alternative to abortion agencies that are supposed to be providing healthcare and other services to women as an alternative to abortion, we still have these very, very high infant mortality rates.”

The legislature returned to Jefferson City in a special session to consider abortion legislation at the call of Governor Eric Greitens (R).  Democrats used debate of SB 5 to criticize the governor for what they said was a stunt meant to help him politically.

“Make sure we’re not letting a governor bring us back to special session for political gain,” said St. Louis City Democrat Bruce Franks, Junior“I know how passionate you (Republicans) all are about this issue.  I would never take that away from you.  I know how passionate we (Democrats) are.  But we’re not paying attention to how we’re being played … Now just because this is one of our particular issues that we feel so strongly about doesn’t mean it’s right that we’re here.”

Republicans called the session an important opportunity for the state to reaffirm a commitment to protecting unborn children and making sure women receive proper care from abortion providers.

House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff), when asked about lawmakers’ attitudes toward the governor, said, “I think we’ve been focused here in the House on issues, and I think the issues that we’ve worked on back in regular session and through these two special sessions are issues that are of particular importance to the House, and they’re of particular importance to members of the Senate as well, so the fact that we’ve got a governor that’s willing to engage on these issues has been positive and helpful.”

Representative Jay Barnes (left) talks with House Speaker Todd Richardson. Barnes offered several amendments that contributed to the final form of Senate Bill 5. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Democrats note courts have ruled against laws that placed similar restrictions on facilities that provide abortions, and say this legislation will likely be thrown out as well.

“You already know this is going to straight to litigation once it goes into effect, and you also know the [financial cost to the state of defending it],” said St. Louis Democrat Stacey Newman.

Richardson believes if the bill the House passed is challenged in court, it will be upheld.

“This is obviously a very highly litigated area of the law.  It will continue to be a highly litigated area of the law in every state, but I’m very confident that the state of Missouri, if this law is challenged, will prevail,” said Richardson.

The state Senate is expected to debate the House’s changes to SB 5 in the coming days.

Despite Governor’s call, House postpones utility modernization debate to another day

The state House has worked to answer Governor Eric Greitens’ (R) call to an extraordinary session on one of the two issues he set before it, but not the other.

Representative Jay Barnes (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Jay Barnes (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

It sent to the Senate on Wednesday a bill that would let the Public Service Commission (PSC) consider lower rates for new facilities that use more than 50 megawatts of electricity per month.  It was prompted by two companies – one looking to restart an aluminum smelter near Marston; the other saying it will build a new steel mill at New Madrid.  Both are in Southeast Missouri where lawmakers agreed jobs are needed badly.

Earlier story:  House uses special session to pass bill aiming to bring jobs to Bootheel

The House did not include language that would give utilities more leeway to set new rates ahead of new infrastructure investments.  That was part of Greitens’ call, but the issue is considered controversial and lawmakers in the House thought including it would keep the rest of the legislation from passing in the Senate.

Some lawmakers, however, said the issue is one that needs to be discussed.

“I think our state needs to have a conversation about energy policy for the next 40 years and not just the next four months,” said Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City), who brought the infrastructure-related language to the floor in order to have legislators discuss it before he withdrew it.

Barnes said the language that was originally in House Bill 1 was too broad, and instead supports legislation that would allow the PSC to consider increasing rates ahead of improvements to power grids and other infrastructure in order to pay for those improvements.

“At least for one utility in this state there are four coal plants that are on average at least 50 years old.  Some of those need retrofitting and there are those in American society who would want those closed down altogether,” said Barnes.  “Half of the substations for the utility company that services my area are over 40 years old … much of the electrical infrastructure underground in St. Louis that supports our state’s biggest city is 80 to 100 years old.  As a state we are living on the investments of our grandparents … there are tough decisions to be made about how to modernize that infrastructure.”

Critics like St. Louis Democrat Tracy McCreery say what Barnes is discussing would give a “monopoly utility” the chance to get “extra money.”

“That’s what grid modernization is.  It’s the ability for them to get money ahead of time and faster in order to do things that I think they should be doing already,” said McCreery.

Representative Tracy McCreery (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Tracy McCreery (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Barnes said he hopes the legislature will revisit the discussion of grid modernization incentives.  House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) agrees.

“I think the State of Missouri needs to have a longer-term conversation about energy policy and what that needs to look like.  The status quo with energy policy right now isn’t working particularly well,” said Richardson.  “Our ratepayers in Missouri are seeing significant increases almost every 12 to 18 months.”

Richardson said the House in this week’s special session was focused on passing the other issue called for by the governor so those two companies would not pull out of plans to come to Missouri.  Barnes noted grid modernization legislation in the past has been “stymied” in the Senate.

Missouri Legislature proposes tougher standard for employment discrimination

The legislature has sent Governor Eric Greitens (R) a bill that would make it harder to prove discrimination in the workplace.

Representative Joe Don McGaugh (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Joe Don McGaugh (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Senate Bill 43 would require a former employee to prove that his or her age, race, gender, disability or ethnicity was the main reason he or she was fired rather than one among other reasons.  Republicans said the bill is needed because the courts have allowed too many cases of alleged workplace discrimination to proceed.

The House’s handler of SB 43, Representative Joe Don McGaugh (R-Carrollton), said the legislation responds to Supreme Court decisions that lowered the standard in employment discrimination cases.

“Senate Bill 43, in my opinion, isn’t even tort reform.  It’s undoing judicial activism,” said McGaugh.  “So what’s the effect of the court playing legislature?  Even the most meritless cases have to be decided by a jury.  Employers are required to spend thousands of dollars defending completely baseless claims brought by lawyers arguing anything that can contribute.”

The bill also places limits on the damages that can be awarded to successful plaintiffs, exempts from liability supervisors and managers who are not employers, and limits protections for whistleblowers.

The legislation cleared the House on a Republican-led 98-30 vote, but it had Republican opposition.

Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) spoke against the measure’s whistleblower section.

“The proponents have not identified a problem with whistleblower law in the State of Missouri.  There is not a spate of whistleblower cases in this state,” said Barnes.  “The whistleblower portion eliminates protections for the employees most likely to know about illegal activity in their employer.”

Democrats said the legislation would make it easier for workplace discrimination to occur and go unpunished, and argue it represents a conflict of interest because its senate sponsor, Senator Gary Romine (R-Farmington), is the owner of a business that is the subject of a pending discrimination lawsuit.

Representative Bruce Franks, Junior (left), talks about SB 43 with Republican colleague Nate Tate (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Bruce Franks, Junior (left), talks about SB 43 with Republican colleague Nate Tate (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

St. Louis Representative Bruce Franks, Junior, read a series of racial slurs cited in that case and called the bill unacceptable.

“We’ve heard time and time again how this sets us back.  All of the forward movement we’ve done, this sets us back,” said Franks.

McGaugh said the legislation has been filed for years, long before there was a case against Romine’s company.

“If you’ve been in this body more than one year you’ve voted on this multiple times,” said McGaugh.  “Everything that we’re going to talk about today this body has seen before and we’ve talked about before.”

The House debated the bill for more than five hours Monday, rejecting five amendments, before voting to pass the bill the Senate had proposed.  It’s now up to Governor Grietens whether it will become law.