JEFFERSON CITY | A pair of controversial bills that were vetoed last year by Gov. Jay Nixon once again cleared the Missouri House Thursday.
On an 89-68 vote, lawmakers approved legislation that would make it more difficult to prove discrimination cases against former employers. After that, a bill that would require voters to provide a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot passed on a 101 to 54 vote.
Both bills are legislative priorities for Republicans and have been fiercely opposed by Democrats. Neither passed with enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto.
The employment law bill would require workers who claim discrimination in wrongful-termination lawsuits to prove that bias was a “motivating” factor instead of a “contributing” factor. The intent, supporters of the bill say, is to align state law with federal law and cut down on frivolous lawsuits.
“Valid claims will survive,” said House Majority Leader Tim Jones, a Eureka Republican.
Critics argue that rolling back tougher state laws would make it easier for employers to discriminate. The Legislative Black Caucus last month vowed to fight the measure.
A similar bill passed the Missouri Senate Wednesday following a filibuster last week led by the chamber’s only three African American members.
The voter ID bill has been a priority of Republicans for years. In 2006, a version of the law passed but was eventually struck down by the state Supreme Court.
Democrats contend that the photo ID requirement will create a burden that would disenfranchise some voters. The secretary of state's office estimates that 253,496 registered voters do not have a government-issued photo ID on file with the Department of Revenue.
Republicans counter that the bill requires the state to cover the costs to provide a photo ID to anyone who needs one. And anyone who cannot produce a photo ID would be allowed to cast a provisional ballot.
The bill does not, however, cover the costs of underlying documents that would be needed to acquire a photo ID. And most provisional ballots are never counted, since they can be disqualified for numerous reasons, ranging from a signature not matching one on file to errors in how the ballot's affidavit is filled out. In the 2008 general election, nearly 7,000 provisional ballots were cast in Missouri but only 1,700 were counted.
In Missouri, voters are already required to provide some form of ID before casting a ballot, but the list includes some without a photo, such as a utility bill, bank statement or paycheck.