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Black Senators Say Discrimination is Rampant in the Senate

May 8, 2003
By: Missy Shelton
State Capital Bureau

African-American senators have leveled charges of discrimination against Republican senate leaders.

Missy Shelton reports.

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Democrat Mary Bland says it's obvious to her why she and other black senators were excluded from the budget committee charged with crafting a compromise between the House and Senate.

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All senate members of the conference committee are white males.

Bland says she has seniority and would have brought a different viewpoint to the discussion.

But Senate President Pro Temp Peter Kinder says he doesn't use any sort of quota system when he evaluates committee appointees.

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Kinder's position on the issue drew sharp criticism from Mary Bland.

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But does Kinder think race and gender should be a consideration in choosing conference committee members?

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Though Kinder signs off on conference committee memibers, it's up to John Russell, the chairman of the senate appropriations committee to pick senators to serve on the committee.

Russell says even though the five white men were the senate's voice on the conference committee, they represented the interests of all Missourians.

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Senate democrats get two slots on the conference committee.

Bland challenged the selection of St Louis democrat Pat Dougherty, a white man whose constituents are mostly black.

Dougherty says he respects Bland's feelings but maintains he's able to represent the interests of the minority community.

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Bland says she respects Dougherty as a lawmaker who is sensitive to the needs of those in his district.

Bland says it's unfortunate senate republicans have created this situation.

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Again, Republican senate leaders defend the senators they chose to serve on the conference committee.

As for the House of Representatives? Both women and ethnic minorities were appointed to work on various budget bills in conference committee.

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