Republican ban on diversity & equity in Missouri's budget will be removed, lawmakers say
JEFFERSON CITY — The bills outlining Missouri's annual state operating budget span dozens of pages and hundreds of line-items, but lawmakers in the House spent much of the past week debating one paragraph.
A Republican-led amendment bans all corners of state government from using money for "staffing, vendors, consultants or programs associated with" diversity, equity and inclusion efforts — an effort that Democrats say is "racist" and could have a "catastrophic" impact on how government, schools and contracts function in Missouri. Republican leaders in the Senate, however, say the language will be stripped out during negotiations across the building.
"I think attaching that to all those budget bills is problematic for a number of reasons," said Sen. Lincoln Hough, a Springfield Republican who chairs the Senate's budget panel. "I think it gives a number of our colleagues over here considerable concern, and I don't think that's going to survive."
Hough said he "absolutely" believed that if left intact, the language could spur a number of lawsuits against the state.
Friday morning, the head Senate Republican said although he believed the amendment was "well intentioned," it was also "overly broad and would result in billions of dollars in cuts."
"My office will be working with the governor and other interested parties to find language that will incentivize institutions within this state to encourage environments of merit, fairness and equality that will truly benefit the people of this great state and unite us behind a forward-facing set of ideals motivated by common sense and not by identity politics," Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden of Columbia wrote on social media.
Democrats expressed fury at the language in a final debate Thursday, after its Republican sponsor framed it as a step to preserve "Western civilization."
"There are times when we have to stand and say enough is enough," said Rep. Doug Richey, an Excelsior Springs Republican. "Western civilization is just that important."
More: MO House debates child care, schools and diversity in budget. Here's what was cut, added
Black Democrats called the amendment, as well as the framing of "Western civilization," problematic and racist, during another multi-hour debate that grew tense as Black members described discrimination and obstacles they faced. Rep. Marlene Terry of St. Louis, the chair of the Black caucus, said the amendment was "dangerous" and "hurtful."
"What hurt me most was to sit in my chair and look on the other side and see the smirks on individuals' faces, unconcerned as to the damage that some of this is causing," Terry said.
House Republicans cancelled their previously scheduled end-of-week news conference following the debate.
Conservative members of the Senate vowed to fight to keep Richey's language within the budget if it does get stripped out during committee negotiations.
"We predict we will take roll call votes on the Senate floor to add the provisions back in," tweeted the account for the former Senate Conservative Caucus.
Galen Bacharier covers Missouri politics & government for the News-Leader. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @galenbacharier.
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: GOP ban on DEI funds in Missouri appears likely to be rolled back