32 Days of 2017 Legislative Season

Bigotry, discrimination and anti-women sentiment is way too prevalant in the Capitol as of late. We are passing more and more bills from the House that protect and reward corporations with tax breaks, rather than do good for ordinary everyday people.

Today, as the House Progressive Caucus chair and with my vice-chair Rep. Bruce Franks Jr., sent out a statement denouncing the hate, bigotry and anit-semitism we are seeing in the Capitol (statement below).  We both have been very troubled by it and felt it was imperative to speak out as progressive leaders, as elected officials and frankly, as adults.

There is right and there is wrong.

Our job as elected leaders is to stand up and vote to protect everyone, not just those who can profit or to dance around racism & bigotry with our eyes averted.

You’ve sent us to the Capitol as your emissaries, to cast votes on your behalf on policies which may become permanent for a long time, not to guess how votes will be perceived in future elections for higher office. I take that responsibility seriously as does my friend and colleague, Bruce and am so pleased to be working closely with him as more comes our way.

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SOMETIMES LOVE COUNTERS HATE

Sometime over the weekend of February 18-19, the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City was desecrated with more than 150 gravestones either knocked over or severely damaged.  Believed to be part of a national wave of anti-Jewish attacks, the destruction alarmed and dismayed the entire St. Louis community.

When I first heard about it on the evening of February 20th, working late in my Jefferson City office, I was sickened as many were.  My first thought, as others who live throughout the country but have longtime Jewish family roots in St. Louis thought the same, was of our family’s graves.  My husband Burt’s maternal grandparents, aunts and uncles are buried there.  Immediately Tuesday morning, like so many others, he rushed to the cemetary to check on family buried there.  Luckily their plots were not harmed.

But many others weren’t as fortunate.

Knowing that my own House colleagues probably hadn’t heard the news that was reverberating nationally, I asked the Speaker for a moment of personal privilege on the House floor to inform and express my great horror & sadness, asking for a moment of silence from the entire House chamber.

Listen to my remarks HERE. 

The next day, along with Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty (Kansas City), Assistant Minority Leader Gina Mitten (Richmond Heights), House Caucus Secretary DeRon McGee (Kansas City) and Democratic State Reps Joe Adams (University City) Randy Dunn (Kansas City) and Gretchen Bangert (Florissant), hurriedly left Jefferson City to be part of the community cleanup and vigil at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetary.

I was deeply honored that my colleagues were there in solidarity and compassion as we stood with almost 3000 community members of all ages, faiths, backgrounds, sexual orientation, ethnicity and zip codes on a work day afternoon with little notice.  It warmed my heart as I’ve tried to reconcile the clean up photo-op staged by Governor Greitens and Vice President who attended.

(L) One of my favorite speakers at the cemetery vigil, Rabbi Moshe Shulman of Young Israel Synagogue of St. Louis. (R) What most of us saw as the Vice President & Governor Greitens cleaned up –as close as the Secret Service would allow us to be.

The real love?  Immediately several funds sprung up to cover the damage, including one which two New York City women initiated, Muslims Unite to Repair Jewish Cemetery, which raised over $20,000 nationwide in the first 3 hours.  Currently they have raised almost $158,000 and record donations have poured directly to Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery as well as to the St. Louis Jewish Federation.

Even though, as we’ve seen similar cemetery vandalism in Philadelphia and Brooklyn along with bomb threats called into numerous Jewish and Muslim community centers and schools, I have hope.

Seeing firsthand the diverse love in our community when faced with pure hatred is uplifting and inspirational.

I was astonished to see the news coverage go far and wide, including People Magazine.

I know severe hatred and anit-semitism is rising across the country but I also know there are way more good people who will not let it go unanswered.

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UGLY ANTI-WOMEN BILLS EXPLODE IN COMMITTEE

Last Tuesday we heard four extreme anti-women anti-science bills in my Children and Families Committee:

HB 182 – TRANSPORTING MINORS FOR ABORTION —Rep. Tom Hurst (R-Meta)

Criiminalizing those who transport minors to another state for an abortion
HB 194 – ABORTION —Rep. Diane Franklin (R-Camdenton)

Fetal disposal and inspections, ban on fetal cell research omnibus bill re 2016 anti- Planned Parenthood investigative hearings

HB 908 – PAIN CAPABLE UNBORN CHILD PROTECTION —Rep. Donna Lichtenegger (R-Jackson)  New restrictions on abortion re gestational age

HB 757 – ABORTION —-Rep. Phil Christofanelli (R -St. Peters) New restrictions on abortion re gestational age

See Planned Parenthood’s FACT sheets on each bill HERE.

We were prepared. Numerous medical students and real life OB-GYNS sat through the 3.5 hour hearing last week in order to present testimony based on SCIENCE and MEDICAL EXPERTISE along with Planned Parenthood-Missouri, NARAL Prochoice Missouri and ACLU of Missouri.

For many it was their first time at a hearing in the State Capitol, including a young father who spoke of his painful loss of a recent much wanted pregnancy gone horribly wrong.

But those testifying and in the audience got more than expected.

A young male pro-life protestor testified by equating abortion with the Holocaust. Extremely offended, I demanded the Chair cut him off in light of the current anti-semitic hate.

That was not the only comment which was highly inappropriate and plain wrong.  Rep. Mike Moon (R-Ash Grove) addressed the bills by equating abortion with slavery.

And then to top it off, Rep. Elaine Gannon (R-Bonne Terre) loudly admonished the audience for “being disrepectful to the process” by reacting too much to the extreme testimony.

I’m extremely grateful this year to work with reproductive rights champion, freshman Rep. Cora Faith Walker (D-Ferguson) – sitting side by side with her on this committee as we do our darndest to fight back against political ideology, anti-science and anti-reality as we stand up FOR women and the medical community.

The bills are scheduled to be voted out of committee this week and are up to the Speaker how far they will advance.

This committee is EXACTLY why elections matter.  Rep. Gannon came to me the next day on the floor to apologize for the anti-semitic comments in the hearing but then also referred to the Washington University students and physicians who were there for “their kind of science”.

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AND WHEN YOU THINK IT CAN’T GET ANY MORE WRONG

Last week my friend, NAACP President Rod Chapel attempted to testify against HB552 before the new House Special Committee on Litigation Reform which meets every Monday at 1pm.  This bill severely alters the Missouri Human Rights Act and makes it more difficult for someone to prove discrimination on race, gender and religion (just one of similar bills moving to make discrimination easier for corporations).

Rod, an African American attorney, a former director of Missouri Department of Labor and former administrative law judge appointed by Gov. Matt Blunt, who has testified numerous times, had his testimony cut short by the chair, Rep. Bill Lant (R-Pineville).

This is what Rod told Tony Messenger of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Rod protested and tried to continue speaking.  The Democrats on the committee protested.  But they were not successful.

THIS again is why elections matter.  

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Our Statement as House Progressive Caucus Chair and Vice Chair:

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#GOV101 – FOURTH ONE AT CLAYTON HIGH SCHOOL & STILL MORE!

Last Thursday evening 275 people from 3 Congressional districts, 7 State Senate districts and 40 House districts spent almost 3 hours at Clayton High School learning how to become involved with the Missouri State Legislature and be an active part of democracy.

FEEL THE ENTHUSIAM AND ENERGY JUST BY LOOKING AT THIS PHOTO?

I was overwhelmed!  Our fourth #GOV101 across the state included panelists: Rep. Joe Adams (D-University City), Rep. Cora Faith Walker (D – Ferguson), Joel Foster, National Political Director with NARAL Prochoice America (who happened to be in town so we snagged him), Angie Postal with Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region/Southwest Missouri, Jessica Risenhoover with Moms Demand Action – St. Louis, Daniela Valezquez with ACLU-Missouri and our favorite, Rod Chapel, NAACP – Missouri. We also featured our real life star tesifier, Dr. Colleen McNicholas, OB-GYN.

Sponsored by ProgressWomen.com, over 1200 people throughout Missouri (and some from Kansas and Illinois) have registered to attend a #GOV101 the past few months and we’re still scheduling more.  I absolutely love putting these together —but have to keep reminding some that I do have a day job!

KNOW ANYONE IN MID OR SOUTHERN MISSOURI?

OUR NEXT #GOV101 IS COMING TO SPRINGFIELD ON APRIL 6TH

Thursday evening, April 6th- 7pm, registration opens at 6:30pm.

National Avenue Christian Church, 1515 South National, Springfield, MO 65804

YOU MUST REGISTER HERE.

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LAGNIAPPE (Louisiana French meaning “extra gift”, one of my all time favorite words)

87th District constituents lobbying me on “I Love the Arts” Day.  And I said I do too.

My new addition in my Capitol office. Woman Cards to remind me to keep at it…the Joker cards at the bottom are of Betty White and Eileen Degeneres.  

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