The Fight For Critical Reforms in Missouri Continues To Be Our Top Priority

At Empower Missouri, we subscribe to a daily political newsletter that lists who has recently registered as a lobbyist. A quick search on the Missouri Ethics Commission of “principles” shows that more than 2300 people and/or companies have someone lobbying for them.

This list is incredibly diverse. It includes organizations such as auto dealers, grocers, sports teams, hospitals, hemp producers and cities throughout our state. By hiring a lobbyist – or several lobbyists – these organizations want to guarantee that someone is looking out for their self-interest as it relates to their profits, their mission, and the regulations that will govern them.

But who looks out for the interests of families living in poverty? The one-fifth of Missouri’s non-elderly households that have incomes of less than $17,800 cannot afford to secure a lobbying contract.  Yet the decisions made by our General Assembly can make a vital difference in their lives –  by either creating the ability for them to survive or pushing them over the edge into hunger and homelessness.

That’s why Empower Missouri takes our mission so seriously: to secure basic human needs and equal justice for every person in our state through coalition-building and advocacy. We do this in service to our vision – that all people in Missouri will have food, shelter, and justice.

The 2020 Legislative Session came to an end on May 15th, amidst the special challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Legislative Spring Break, scheduled March 17-30, began a week earlier in the MO Senate and was extended until April 27th.

Despite having floor debate time reduced by about six weeks due to the public health emergency, 51 bills became “Truly Agreed and Finally Passed” (TAFP) during the abbreviated session. This included 13 budget bills, five supplemental budget bills, 16 House bills, 13 Senate bills, two Senate Concurrent Resolutions and one Senate Joint Resolution. Bill review has begun on these bills, and Gov. Parson must make decisions about whether to sign them by July 14th.

Today, we celebrate the successes that our advocacy network had in defending against bills that would have increased injustice in our state. Over the last five months, we were able to stop these pieces of legislation from reaching the governor’s desk. They include:

  • HB 1785 & SB 611 – to impose harsh new work-hour-documentation rules on SNAP recipients who are parents with young children, unless in an exempted category
  • HB 1708 – an attempt to ban access to cash at an ATM for recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
  • HB 1315 – to speed up the eviction process by five days
  • SB 824 & Senate version of HB 1450 – to create more adult certification hearings for juveniles charged with offenses
  • HJR 106 – to require work-hour-documentation for some on Medicaid
  • HJR 109 and HCS SB 552 – voter suppression via strict photo ID rules
  • HB 1721, HB 2051, HB 2210, SB 842, & SB 848 – anti-transgender bills (plus removing “gender dysphoria” amendments on the foster care bills, HB 1414 and SB 653)

However, the shortened session also meant that we could not get many improved public policies across the finish line. For example, we fell short in reforming Missouri’s outdated, cruel, and medically inaccurate HIV-specific criminal codes or securing automated expungement of some criminal charges and convictions. Rest assured, however, that Empower Missouri will be persistent and organize to win on these issues.

Empower Missouri will be sending official requests to Gov. Parson, asking him to sign several pieces of legislation. Our wish list includes foster care reform, support for sexual assault survivors, better rules for Community Improvement Districts and other local taxation, and the Fresh Start Act to help those formerly incarcerated have more options to gain professional licenses and registrations to increase their employability.

We will ask the Governor to veto the following – and invite you to join us in this:

  • HCS SCS SB 599 – advantages installment loan companies and could overturn local control by cities that wish to limit interest rates (this campaign is led by Missouri Faith Voices)
  • SS SB 600 – a “get tough on crime” package that would lead to longer incarceration, more plea deals, and less judicial discretion

Given the economic instability of our state, the General Assembly may be called back into one or more extraordinary sessions this year. We also must build the movement in Missouri to obtain needed relief through the federal government. Empower Missouri is committed to being there as a voice for the needs of those living in poverty, keeping you informed, and building strategic alliances. Please stand with us and support us with your actions and with the financial resources we need to stay staffed and equipped. We all do better when we ALL do better.

In solidarity,

Jeanette Mott Oxford
Director of Policy & Organizing

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