Proposed Bylaws Update, 2017 Annual Meeting

Empower Missouri

Formerly: Missouri State Conference of Charities and Corrections [1901]

Missouri Conference for Social Welfare [1914]

Missouri Association for Social Welfare [1933]


~ BYLAWS ~

Proposed Updated


VOTE 1: 

Current Section 2. The management of Empower Missouri shall be vested in the Board of Directors composed of: the Officers of Empower Missouri; twelve directors-at-large, to be elected by the membership to terms of two years, six to be elected each year; the chairpersons or a designee of the chapters; the chairpersons or a designee of all standing committees; and the chairperson or a designee of the task forces.

(Suggested changes are bolded and italicized)

Proposed Section 2. The management of Empower Missouri shall be vested in the Board of Directors composed of: the Officers of Empower Missouri; ten directors-at-large, to be elected by the membership to terms of two years, five to be elected each year. the chairpersons or a designee of the chapters; the chairpersons or a designee of all standing committees; and the chairperson or a designee of the task forces.

Rationale for the Change: The Board of Directors of Empower Missouri sometimes has as many as 30 members, and, with successful formation of additional chapters, could grow even larger. Such a large board can cause challenges to efficient functioning (the time needed for decision-making and communication, expenses for meetings, etc.). A smaller board that focuses on governance, evaluation, and financial stability would serve our organization best as we build capacity to be effective in achieving our mission.

Chapters and task forces with their issue area focus are part of our programming. A committed Board will make sure effective communication is occurring and resources are provided to each part of our programming. Seats at the table by chapter chairs or issue area chairs are not necessary to ensure such coordination occurs.


VOTE 2:

Current Section 3. The officers of Empower Missouri shall be President, First Vice-President, Second Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and Immediate Past President. Together these officers will comprise the Executive Committee.

Proposed Section 3. The officers of Empower Missouri shall be President, First Vice-President, Second Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and Immediate Past President. Together these officers will comprise the Executive Committee.

Rationale for the Change: The Second Vice President position is redundant in that duties had been same as for the First Vice President.


VOTE 3:

Current ARTICLE XI: AMENDMENTS

These bylaws may be amended by a majority vote of the members present at any annual meeting provided that notice of such amendments has been electronically distributed to the members of Empower Missouri not less than fifteen days prior to the date of the annual meeting.

Proposed ARTICLE XI: AMENDMENTS

These bylaws may be amended by a majority vote of the members present at any annual meeting provided that notice of such amendments has been electronically distributed to the members of Empower Missouri not less than fifteen days twenty-one (21) days prior to the date prior to the date of the annual meeting.

Rationale for the Change: Making all distribution notices the same amount of days – 21 – is a simplification and allows one notice to serve multiple functions.

Train the Trainer | MO HIV Justice Coalition & SERO

August 3-4, 2017, the MO HIV Justice Coalition is hosting a Train the Trainer event in Springfield, MO. Tami Haught of the Sero Project will be leading the program along with input from other Missouri-based leaders. Tami Haught, Sero’s Organizing and Training Coordinator, was diagnosed in 1993 and lived with HIV in silence for 6 years, before embracing advocacy and HIV education. She managed the successful campaign to reform Iowa’s HIV criminalization statement.

The goal of this training is to equip people living with HIV (PLHIV) and allies to advocate for changes to Missouri’s outdated and stigmatizing HIV criminal laws. Register at this link.

Full training schedule can be found at bit.ly/MOHIVJCevents

Federal Budget Blueprint Slashes Food Assistance for Hungry Missourians

Note: Thanks to our national partners at Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy for the briefing documents that made the following analysis possible.

 

On July 19, the House Budget Committee “marked up” its 2018 Budget Resolution for the fiscal year that begins October 1. While this markup is just the first step in the budget process, we are alarmed that structural elements in the Trump Administration proposal match priorities of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Please join Empower Missouri in speaking out clearly and persistently: trillions of dollars in cuts to programs that support low- and moderate-income families cannot be tolerated.

Budget reconciliation instructions to several House committees require $203 billion in mandatory spending through “savings and reforms” (read more accurately as cuts) over the next 10 years. That includes:

  • Reducing funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps) of $10 billion over the next 10 years
  • During that same period, cutting the School Meal Community Eligibility Provision by $1.6 billion
  • Directing trillions in further cuts to SNAP, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and low income tax credits

 

For SNAP, the budget committee identified harsher time limits for unemployed and underemployed adults to find work and increased flexibility. As you may recall, Missouri’s majority party passed Senate Bill 24 in 2015 on a largely party-line vote, and tens of thousands of unemployed Missouri adults have since lost the ability to receive food stamps for longer than three months out of every three years – even if they live in high unemployment counties. With our current ranking of second in the nation in hunger and seventh in the nation in food insecurity, we tremble to think of the strain on Missouri’s community food pantries and helping agencies if even harsher restrictions go into effect.

 

The committee also recommends that states be given the authority to administer SNAP (akin to block grants). This is a step away from the American commitment that we would like to see – that no child goes hungry in this country and that struggling families, including the unemployed and low wage workers, are still able to put healthy food on their tables.  In block grant systems, when funds run out, those in need are turned away or help is rationed as funds grow low. This is especially dangerous in a state like Missouri where our revenue system is so anemic that a supplemental program from the state is likely to be an impossibility at a time when federal caps are reached.

Here are additional proposals regarding SNAP in the budget blueprint that we, FRAC and CBPP consider ill-conceived:

  • Shifting 25 percent of the costs of SNAP benefits (now financed 100 percent by the federal government) to states;
  • Allowing states to cut benefits to meet their share of costs (SNAP already averages less than $1.40 per person per meal in Missouri);
  • Severing the connections between SNAP and heating assistance
  • Eliminating the minimum monthly SNAP benefit (now $16) that many struggling seniors receive;
  • Cutting SNAP benefits for larger size households; and
  • Charging retailers fees to apply and be certified to accept SNAP at their stores (which may undermine the public-private partnership that has made SNAP a cost efficient and mainstream transaction).

 

We believe these cuts to SNAP and other poverty-reduction programs in the House budget would pull the rug out beneath the most vulnerable in our society, including children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Meanwhile the wealthiest Americans and profitable corporations get huge tax cuts under the proposal. To see the breakdown for Missouri, go to: https://itep.org/trumpprelimmo/. The richest one percent in Missouri, households with incomes over $480,200 and averaging $1,587,000 annually, would receive more than half of all the tax cut benefits (50.3%).

 

Please join other civic leaders from Empower Missouri in urging Missouri’s U.S. House and Senate members to reject this cruel and skewed vision for our nation. Hunger is a bi-partisan issue and both sides of the aisle should work together to craft a bipartisan plan that protects SNAP and other poverty-reduction programs.

 

To see a letter to Congress about hunger and nutrition assistance that we signed with hundreds of other justice-seeking organizations nationally, go to:

http://frac.org/wp-content/uploads/naho-signers-list-2017.pdf

 

Our Homes, Our Voices: the National Week of Housing Advocacy

As state partner with the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Empower Missouri’s Affordable Housing and Homelessness Task Force is participating in Our Homes, Our Voices: the National Week of Housing Advocacy from July 22-29.

We started preparing for this at our June 14th meeting, recognizing that the House Budget Committee would be preparing to debate its budget blueprint for FY18 and tax reform in July. As anticipated, the details were released on July 19. Here is a summary of some of our deepest concerns from budget and tax information put forward by the Trump Administration for the next ten year period:

  • Defense spending would increase nearly $1 trillion.
  • Domestic programs would be decreased by $1.3 trillion — to its lowest level since before the Great Depression.
  • Mandatory programs that ensure basic living standards for low income families, including Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps), would be slashed by $4.4 trillion.
  • The first $200 billion in cuts are put on a fast-track schedule to help pay for tax cuts.
  • More than 50% of those tax cuts would go to the wealthiest one percent in Missouri according to additional budgetary information received from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
  • The House Financial Services Committee, which oversees affordable housing and community development programs, is ordered to find at least $14 billion in savings.

Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee moved forward with its FY18 spending bill for affordable housing and community development programs. NLIHC estimates the bill would result in the loss of more than 140,000 housing vouchers. For more detailed information, see NLIHC’s analysis and updated budget chart.

Here are Our Homes, Our Voices events slated for July 22-29 in Missouri:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Meeting with one of Sen. Blunt’s district office directors. Space is limited. If you would like to be considered for inclusion on this leadership team, email Jeanette@EmpowerMissouri.org.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017, noon

Press conference at Wilkes Blvd United Methodist Church

702 Wilkes Blvd, Columbia, MO 65201

You are welcome to attend to show opposition to housing budget cuts. If you would like to make signs, find ideas at https://www.ourhomes-ourvoices.org/resources. Speakers will include those who met with Sen. Blunt’s staff earlier that morning.

Friday, July 28, 2017, 9 a.m.

Tour of the Salvation Army Veterans Residence, 2933-35 Locust Street, St. Louis, MO 63103. This is a 48-unit low-income housing tax credit project that provides permanent and transitional supportive housing for Veterans. The housing is located in a campus-style community in the Locust Business District. Supports include on-site case management and our local Midtown health clinic for counseling, healthcare, and addictions treatment. Federal, state and local elected officials are invited to tour the site and hear a brief presentation of budget concerns. Please RSVP to Nicole McKoy at nicole_mckoy@usc.salvationarmy.org.

Please join us for these events or contact Jeanette@EmpowerMissouri.org if  you’d like to host a rally, letter writing party, press conference or additional Our Homes, Our Voices event in your community July 22-29.

Governor’s Commission Deletes Vital Tax Reform Proposals

By Jeanette Mott Oxford
Executive Director, Empower Missouri

On January 25, 2017, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens issued an executive order creating the Governor’s Commission on Simple, Fair and Low Taxes. The commission was to hold at least four public hearings and issue a final report by June 30, 2017.

The commission held several meetings at which testimony was taken, mostly in Jefferson City, and I testified for Empower Missouri and our Missourians for Tax Justice sub-committee of the Economic Justice Task Force at the May 23 meeting. The four public hearings were held in May and June, and none of these was set for an urban area.

On June 30, the commission did indeed release a final report. The report followed expectations by various political pundits, proposing that tax credits be subjected to the appropriations process, that the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program be converted to a low interest loan program and that a lower cap be established on the Historic Preservation Tax Credit.

But a curious thing happened on the way to the publication of the final report. A draft version of a much longer commission report was leaked to the media and published by the Missouri Times newspaper on June 28. That draft included several recommendations that Empower Missouri made in our May 23 testimony and suggestions from our allies at the Missouri Budget Project as well.

Why Is Missouri’s Revenue System In Such a Mess?

On the same day that the commission’s final report was released, Gov. Greitens announced $251 million in new withholdings due to revenue shortages. This is a common story, occurring whether a Democrat or a Republican occupies the governor’s mansion, because, expressed simply, Missouri’s revenue system is a mess. There are multiple factors that have created a perfect storm for Missouri’s revenue system. Among these are:

1) The Hancock Amendments

Voters in our state helped to create our repeated budget woes by passing the Hancock Amendment in 1980. This established that total state revenues cannot exceed 5.64% of Missourians’ personal income or tax dollars have to be returned to Missouri income tax payers. (This provision was triggered more than once in the 1990’s.) A second revenue-limiting amendment was passed in 1996, forcing the General Assembly to take most revenue-producing ideas to the voters for approval.

According to the most recent audit from May 2017, we are now $4.1 billion below the point at which Hancock refunds would be triggered. We believe this is an indication that our General Assembly is not providing a maintenance of effort related to the common good in Missouri.

2) Tax Cuts

The General Assembly has repeatedly cut taxes over the past twenty years – with cuts totaling approximately two billion dollars cumulatively, according to testimony given by Jim Moody at a hearing on Senate Joint Resolution 12 on February 21, 2017.

Cutting taxes is popular, but history shows us that it does not cause prosperity to break out all over as promised. Pres. Reagan raised taxes after cutting them. The “Taxpayers Bill of Rights” cuts in Colorado had to be changed because of damage done to their state, especially educational institutions, by those cuts. The Kansas Legislature has now overturned part of Gov. Brownback’s cuts.

3) Our System Is Outdated

The General Assembly has not updated our graduated tax table since 1931 – leaving our state with an outdated, unfair and inadequate revenue system – and one that is harder to fix with every year that passes. Our top tax bracket starts at $9,000 of taxable income, a lot of money in 1931, but poverty-level in 2017. (In 2017 dollars, $9,000 equals $143,786, yet we have not adjusted our tax brackets for modern realities.)

4) Our System Is Unfair – In More Than One Way

Right now, a Missourian making less than $18,000 annually pays 9.5% of their incomes in sales, excise, property and excise taxes, while a Missourian making more than $407,000 annually pays 5.5%. This is a function of our state’s essentially “flat tax” due to lack of modernization of the 1931 progressive brackets, combined with the deduction for federal income taxes paid.

Missouri is one of only six states allowing a deduction on state taxes for federal taxes paid. The wealthiest 40 percent of Missourians receive 83% of the benefit of this tax feature (sometimes called the FIT Deduction), and the tally of funds not collected due to it in the most recent year for which we have data was nearly $600 million, according to data shared by the Department of Revenue with the Missouri State Tax Study Commission in autumn, 2016.

Improvements That Could Be Made

Taken in combination, Missouri’s voters and General Assembly have structured our state to fail to provide essential programs and services and destined Missouri governors to face withholdings repeatedly. But there are solutions that could be implemented:

We could update Missouri’s tax brackets to match modern economic realities. They are so outdated that it is almost impossible to do this while reaching even tax revenue neutrality since they are so badly out of date. Loss of revenue is apt to happen without a new higher rate for some bracket (hopefully at the top incomes) or reform of some tax feature like elimination of the FIT Deduction described above.

A state-level Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is one of the best ways to help these families. It is structured to reward work and to avoid “cliff effects.” It is simple to administer because it is based on the federal EITC. There are families in every Missouri county who would receive much needed help from a state EITC, and those families would also spend much of the funds received in their home counties on the basics, stimulating local economies. .

Participating in The Main Street Fairness Act (Streamlined Sales Tax) would also level the playing field between bricks and mortar businesses in Missouri and online shopping venues in other states. Many avoid paying sales taxes currently by shopping by Internet. Our Missouri stores are disadvantaged.

In Conclusion

We agree with the concluding paragraph in this July 6, 2017 editorial by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board.

Given the political influence of big tax credit recipients, those reforms aren’t likely to pass, either. Tax reform is hard work and fraught with political peril. It requires more courage than Missouri’s politicians have been able to summon.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, courage is “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Fear does not have to disappear to be courageous; one just must be able to withstand it. Missouri’s General Assembly should gather the courage to undertake reality-based tax reform work as our state’s future health and well-being depends upon it.

NLIHC Report: Affordable Housing Out of Reach of Many Low Wage Workers in MO

AFFORDABLE HOUSING IS OUT OF REACH FOR MANY LOW WAGE WORKERS IN MISSOURI

(Jefferson City, MO)………In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent in Missouri, renters need to earn $15.67 per hour. This is Missouri’s 2017 Housing Wage, revealed in a national report released today. The report, Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing, was jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a research and advocacy organization dedicated solely to achieving affordable and decent homes for the lowest income people, and Empower Missouri, a statewide not-for-profit advocating for basic human needs and equity.

Every year, Out of Reach reports on the Housing Wage (the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford a modest and safe rental home without spending more than 30% of his or her income on housing costs) for all states, counties, and metropolitan areas in the country. The report highlights the gap between what renters earn and what it costs to afford rent at fair market value.

“Hundreds of thousands of our neighbors cannot afford stable housing on the wages they make,” said Jeanette Mott Oxford, Executive Director of Empower Missouri. “That housing instability is one of the primary reasons so many children do not complete high school. Frequent evictions and lack of affordable shelter causes erratic school attendance, and they also cause toxic stress, impacting a child’s brain development.”

The federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 an hour without an increase since 2009, not keeping pace with the high cost of rental housing. In no state, even those like Missouri where the minimum wage has been set above the federal standard, can a minimum wage renter working a 40-hour work week afford a modest two-bedroom rental unit at the average Fair Market Rent. Working at the minimum wage of $7.70 in Missouri, a wage earner must have 1.6 full-time jobs or work 64 hours per week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment.

The typical renter Missouri earns $13.65 which is $2.02 less than the hourly wage needed to afford a modest two-bedroom unit. Difficulty affording housing was cited by St. Louis City workers who organized to win a higher minimum wage through the St. Louis Board of Aldermen in 2015. That raise was first held up in court due to a lawsuit over a bill that sought to preempt local minimum wage increases. The Supreme Court struck down that law, but a different wage law preemption bill was passed on the last day of Legislative Session in 2017 and is now on the desk of Gov. Eric Greitens.

“Missouri workers need a raise, and we urge Gov. Greitens to veto Senate Substitute # 2 for House Committee Substitute for House Bills 1193 & 1194,” Oxford said. “In a decent society, workers would be able to afford basic human needs like food and shelter.”

“The Out of Reach 2017 data shows why millions of low income renters are struggling to afford their homes. The federal minimum wage has stayed the same since 2009 but the national Housing Wage has increased to $21.21 for a two-bedroom rental home, more than 2.9 times higher than the federal minimum wage and $4.83 higher than the average renter’s wage,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “We have the resources to solve the affordable housing crisis by realigning federal tax expenditures and reinvesting the savings in rental housing programs that serve our nation’s most vulnerable. We lack only the political will to do so.”

For additional information, visit: http://www.nlihc.org/oor

NLIHC (www.nlihc.org), based in Washington, DC, educates, organizes and advocates to ensure decent, affordable housing for everyone.

 

Tell Secretary Carson and Congress that President Trump’s budget is unacceptable

The National Low Income Housing Coalition, Empower Missouri’s national partner, has asked us to share with you that HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson will testify before the Senate Appropriations Transportation and HUD (THUD) Subcommittee on June 7 at 2:30 pm ET (1:30 Central) on the administration’s FY18 budget.

The president’s budget proposes to slash federal investments in affordable housing at HUD by 15%, or $7.4 billion, compared to FY17. If enacted, more than 250,000 people could lose their housing vouchers. The budget would also impose punitive measures that would jeopardize family stability — increasing the financial burdens they face through higher rents and ending support to help cover the cost of basic utilities, like water and heat. The proposed budget slashes funding for public housing and many other vital programs and eliminates funding for the national Housing Trust Fund, the HOME Investment Partnerships program, and the Community Development Block Grants program. Read NLIHC’s analysis of the president’s budget and our top questions for Dr. Carson.

Twitter Storm Tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. Central

Please join the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding to tell Secretary Carson and Congress that President Trump’s budget is unacceptable during a Twitter storm tomorrowJune 7 at 1:30 p.m. Central.

Sample Tweets:

  • #TrumpBudget puts struggling families under more financial strain by ^ rents to 35% of their gross income (avg is $12K/yr)
  • #TrumpBudget takes hsg assistance away from 250K families, putting them at immediate risk of eviction & homelessness. #CutsHurt
  • #TrumpBudget cuts resources to keep public housing developments up and running by 2/3rds. #CutsHurt
  • Tell Congress to lift the unfair budget caps for a stronger and more prosperous America. #CutsHurt
  • #CutsHurt the most vulnerable in our communities: low income seniors, veterans, ppl with disabilities, those who are homeless.
  • Families thrive bc of housing & community development investments at HUD and USDA. Now is not the time to cut funding #CutsHurt
  • Congress must lift spending caps & increase $$ to protect #affordablehousing for low income families and communities. #CutsHurt
  • We should not balance the budget on the backs of low income families struggling to get by. #CutsHurt
  • America is stronger and prosperous when we have decent, affordable homes & stable communities. #CutsHurt
  • Families thrive bc of housing & community development investments at HUD and USDA. #CutsHurt
  • With an affordable home, families can climb the economic ladder and kids do better in school. #CutsHurt
  • Affordable housing is linked to better health. Cuts will only make our communities less healthy. #CutsHurt
  • Learn more about why housing matters to health, education, and economic mobilityhttp://bit.ly/2ljnEed
  • HUD investments led to half a million jobs in 2015, on top of providing homes to 5 million families. http://bit.ly/2ljnEed
  • Thanks to HUD, 5 million families have a place to call home. http://bit.ly/2ljnEed
  • Find out the economic impact of federal investments in affordable housing in your state.http://bit.ly/2ljnEed

Important Twitter Handles

  • Secretary Ben Carson: @SecretaryCarson
  • Senator Susan Collins: @SenatorCollins
  • Senator Jack Reed: @SenJackReed
  • Senator Richard Shelby: @SenShelby
  • Senator Lamar Alexander: @SenAlexander
  • Senator Roy Blunt: @RoyBlunt (our U.S. Senator)
  • Senator John Boozman: @JohnBoozman
  • Senator Shelly Moore Capito @SenCapito
  • Senator Steve Daines: @SteveDaines
  • Senator Lindsey Graham: @LindseyGrahamSC
  • Senator John Hoeven: @SenJohnHoeven
  • Senator Patty Murray: @PattyMurray
  • Senator Richard Durbin: @SenatorDurbin
  • Senator Dianne Feinstein: @SenFeinstein
  • Senator Chris Coons: @ChrisCoons
  • Senator Brian Schatz: @brianschatz
  • Senator Chris Murphy: @ChrisMurphyCT
  • Senator Joe Manchin: @Sen_JoeManchin