Senate removes DEI ban from state budget

April 21, 2023


missouri news network

JEFFERSON CITY — The Senate Appropriations Committee struck a controversial “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” ban from the state budget on Wednesday.

The DEI wording, added to the budget in the House by Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, had broad language banning the use of any state funds for any “staffing, vendors, consultants, or programs associated with” any diversity, equity and inclusion plan.

In a brief announcement during the Senate hearing, the committee’s chairman, Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, said “it is the recommendation of the chair that the language be removed globally” from the budget, meaning it would be removed wherever it appears. He immediately moved on, covering the rest of the language changes to the budget proposed by the Senate.

After the vote, Richey said “this was expected.”

Because the Senate and House versions are different, negotiations to resolve those differences will take place. “I appreciate the fact that conversations are ongoing,” he said.

The amendment that was proposed by Richey has been opposed by 14 state departments. It has also been criticized by business owners and nonprofits that would lose government funding if this amendment passed.

The amendment would ban “any other initiative which similarly promotes: 1) the preferential treatment of any individual or group of individuals based upon race, color, religion, sex, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, national origin, or ancestry; 2) the concept that disparities are necessarily tied to oppression; 3) collective guilt ideologies; 4) intersectional or divisive identity activism; or, 5) the limiting of freedom of conscience, thought, or speech.”

If the language remains out of the final budget, DEI programs like one at the Missouri Department of Social Services will still receive government funding. According to previous reporting done by the Missouri Independent, the department began its “Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging” group in 2020 hoping to combat worker turnover. The group of 400 people had a turnover rate less than half that of the rest of the department, according to slides presented by the department head.

In addition to the budget, DEI programs face other opposition in the state House and Senate. SB 410, proposed by Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, would remove DEI requirements from state-funded universities and healthcare. Any institute that violates this rule would be forced to pay three times the amount of the funds that they received from the date of violation, to when the violation ends.

Richey has proposed a similar bill. HB 1196 applies specifically to university DEI programs or statements. Anyone in violation of this rule would be put on unpaid leave for an academic year and be ineligible for employment by another institution in the state for a first offense.