If you read the Empowering You! newsletter that we released on 01/31, you had a chance to meet the dynamic four interns who are working with us this semester. As a supervisor of some of these interns, I’ve found one of the most frequent questions that I am asked regarding the General Assembly is “Can they do that?!” with a certain amount of shock and disgust registering on the intern’s face.
There’s a lot of unfairness to observe in our Capitol Building – and there was when the current minority party was in charge in the 1990’s as well. It appears that people with power are prone to abusing it at times.
I fear that on Feb. 6, I will again be explaining to one of our interns that “yes, unfortunately, they can do that.” You see, on January 30, about twenty organizations went on record in opposition to Senate Bill (SB) 4, a proposal that would create a massive and expensive work-hour tracking requirement for families helped by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). According to the fiscal note, tens of thousands of Missouri families would lose access to SNAP if the bill is implemented.
Only one organization testified in support of the bill in addition to the sponsor, Sen. David Sater (R-Cassville), chair of the Senate Committee on Seniors, Families and Children that heard the bill. That lone voice was from a contract lobbyist hired by a Florida-based think tank. Yet in all likelihood, SB 4 will be voted out of the committee 5-2 within a week or so and be placed on the Senate calendar.
The organizations opposing the bill were diverse and respected. For example, food banks Operation Food Search (St. Louis) and Harvesters: The Community Food Network (Kansas City) opposed the bill. The American Heart Association and the Missouri Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics opposed the bill. Social service organizations like the Missouri Community Action Network and Catholic Charities of St. Louis were in opposition, and then there were faith groups like the St. Louis Chapter of National Council of Jewish Women and the Missouri Catholic Conference.
We have been taking the responsibility of keeping advocates across the state informed about all movement by this bill and two similar ones that may be heard in the House soon (House Bills 474 and 475). Last year we created a micro-website to educate about four very dangerous proposals impacting SNAP and posted a sign-on letter that eventually included more than 150 organizations. By working together, we were able to stop all four of those bills. It appears a comparable struggle is shaping up for 2019.
How sad to allow time in committee or on the floor for bills that would increase hunger and add stress to the lives of families that are already struggling to survive. Our passion for justice compels us to try to stop this bill in committee, so please click on this link to send an email to legislators that will vote on whether the bill progresses. We will keep you informed about SB 4 and other crucial bills and the actions you can take that will make a difference as the 2019 Legislative Session continues to unfold.
Jeanette Mott Oxford,