The Missouri General Assembly has a Legislative Session that goes from January to May. During those months, the capitol building in Jefferson City is in constant motion, with elected officials, lobbyists, and advocates all clamoring to pass laws that will shape our state. It’s an exciting time.
But then we hit Sine Die – the end of session.
June through December have a different feel to them. Jefferson City slows to a crawl, legislators go home to their districts, and advocates take a long, much deserved breath of summer air. What many people don’t realize, though, is that these “interim” months are the most important of all. It’s when organizations like Empower Missouri can lace up our shoes by focusing on growing the justice movement, visiting with legislators in their home districts, and turning neophytes into seasoned advocates through skill building. All of this work means we’re ready to hit the ground running as soon as the Speaker’s gavel hits the dias in January.
Normally, Empower Missouri holds our monthly Under the Dome, Around the State (#UDAS) briefing calls on the fourth Thursday of the month. We keep our advocates informed on what we’re working on, where we need help, and how they can stay engaged. We’re taking the month of August off from these calls, though. After a marathon like the 2019 legislative session, sometimes you need to take in a few more breaths of that summer air.
That does not mean that our work is done, however. Right now, there are still many ways that we’re trying to fulfill our mission to advocate for the well-being of all Missourians, and we need your help! Preparations are being made for our November 9 annual skill-building conference, so be sure to save that date. More urgently, we are collecting signatures on two petitions that defend the most vulnerable in our society and get Missouri moving in the direction of justice and equity for all its people.
First, we want to make sure that our hungry neighbors can still eat. Food insecurity is a major problem in the U.S., and we want families with low wages, people with disabilities and the elderly to keep putting food on the table without being hampered by harmful bureaucracy and unneeded regulation. The Trump Administration is currently trying through executive action to make it harder for low-income families to get SNAP benefits. They want to implement a benefits cut that Congress already rejected in 2018 during the Farm Bill debate. This is unacceptable as it would effectively eliminate SNAP benefits for 3.1 million individuals, take free school meals away from the children in those families, and punish people with even meager savings. We wrote a letter to the USDA telling them to take “NO” for an answer – to follow Congress’ lead and keep their #HandsOffSNAP. You can sign on to that letter here. Submissions are due September 23rd, so share widely with friends and family!
Special Committee on Criminal Justice
Second, we want more Missouri voices to be heard concerning the disturbing trends found in the annual Vehicle Stops Report and the unjust practice of civil asset forfeiture. Rep. Shamed Dogan, chair of the Special Committee on Criminal Justice for the Missouri State House of Representatives, held two interim hearings in St. Louis and Kansas City, and is considering holding additional hearings so that more Missourians can tell their story and help guide the committee toward effective legislation to fix these issues. We wrote a letter to Rep. Dogan and the entire committee, which you can sign on to here. The letter encourages the committee to schedule these additional hearings in Columbia, Jefferson City, and other parts of the state.
Yes, we must practice self-care and enjoy a break from the frenetic pace of Legislative Session, but the need for social justice does not take a summer vacation. By signing on to our two current campaigns, you’re helping to make our state and nation a more just and equitable place for all of its citizens. We’re counting on you to take action for justice today.