Day Seventeen: Moms Demand Action

This is a day late; I forgot to post. But here’s an article I wrote about Moms Demand Action, an organization dedicated to common-sense gun reform, responding to two bills that would allow conceal carry weapons on Missouri schools and campuses.

Over 200 volunteers from the national Moms Demand Action organization gathered at the state Capitol Wednesday morning to protest two new gun concealment laws.

The bills would allow students and teachers in public schools and campuses to carry concealed handguns.

The group’s Missouri Chapter head, Becky Morgan (a St. Louis-native) claims that among their supporters are several college campus stakeholders as well as university presidents and law enforcement leaders.

“I think we should listen to our experts,” Morgan says. “They understand the ins and outs of campus life best and so I agree with them that adding guns on a college campus or in k-12 schools will not decrease gun violence but will only make our students and staff members less safe.”

From their website, Moms Demand Action “was created to demand action from legislators, state and federal; companies; and educational institutions.”

Morgan says the organization supports “commonsense background checks for all gun sales” and claims that there are “big loopholes in that system for private sales, online sales and some gun shows” where background checks aren’t allowed.

One of the sponsors for the conceal carry bill, Republican Representative Andrew McDaniel, spoke with St. Louis Public Radio and said his initial reasoning for bringing about the bill was to benefit taxpayers.

“If you’re funding with your taxpayer dollars to go to certain facilities…you’re funding for it and your rights are being taken away,” says McDaniel.

McDaniel emphasizes that the scope is very wide and essentially wants to keep the conversation going about the second amendment.

“I’m a strong constitutionalist so I stand by it,” says McDaniel. “There’s no other amendment that gets more scrutiny than the 2nd.”

He says the bill is not his first priority and will agree to discuss more amendments in order to appease members on both sides.

Last year, during the 2016 session, Missouri Lawmakers overturned former-Governor Nixon’s veto to allow permitless carry and Moms Demand Action was present during that fight, as well.

Becky Morgan says the group will continue “working towards progress” and will be closely following this session’s legislation.

 

 

Day Sixteen: Voter ID

In the November General Election, Missourians voted 63 percent in favor of an amendment that would require registered voters to provide a government-issued ID in order to vote.

Missourians will see the law go into effect on June 1st, 2017 and Missouri officials must decide on a proper budget plan to implement the law.While Governor Greitens initially proposed the budget at $300,000, Secretary of State, R-Jay Ashcroft, estimates 1.5 million which is nearly 3 million below the previous administration’s estimate.

Ashcroft says the original budget “included some things that aren’t required under the law like sending multiple letters to every registered voter in the state of Missouri.”

Ashcroft plans on utilizing a system that will differentiate between registered voters that knowingly have a government-issued identification to save on publicized costs.

“We are currently going through and looking at voter registrations and comparing them to department of revenue records,” Ashcroft says.  “We don’t necessarily see the need to send them a letter telling them they can get a free driver’s license if we know they already have a driver’s license.”

The budget will include informing the public via letters and brochures but Ashcroft says television commercials will not be utilized due to lack of funds.

Democratic Representatives brought up issues regarding informing the public properly to ensure that all eligible voters will be able to vote. Representative D-Karla May raised concerns about how immobile seniors obtain their voter registration card.

May says she has one lady in her district “who was born in Jackson county, Mississippi…[they]said they no longer have those birth records because they had a fire…so I’m trying to figure out how does she get her ID.”

And May is not the only Missouri democrat concerned about stifling eligible voters.

Former Democratic Secretary of State, Jason Kander, was and remains in avid opposition with voter ID and recently implemented a new nonprofit organization titled “Let America Vote” aimed at fighting voter suppression nationwide.

Having lost the issue in Missouri, Kander has acquired a 27-member board that, according to Riverfront Times, includes “human rights activist Martin Luther King III, Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Cecile Richards, and former Obama press secretary Josh Earnest.”

The group claims to “lead a political fight” against the GOP and Kander says in an interview that he formed the group in response to “Republicans going into hyper-drive to suppress voting rights.”

“They don’t want people who don’t vote for them to be allowed to vote,” Kander says.

According to the Wichita Eagle, Kansas, which has been known to have strict voting regulations, lost over 13,700 provisional ballots during the November election. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says he was aware of a glitch that occurred during October which prevented citizens from registering to vote.

Kobach says the “vast majority” of those voters were not registered.

Other cases of voter ID registration issues were present in Michigan and Texas regarding the law but Missouri Secretary of State, Jay Ashcroft, assures Missouri House Members that this will not be an issue. Ashcroft explained several times that registered voters will be allowed to vote, even without proper identification, and if voters do not possess proper photo identification, it will be provided at the state’s expense.

“You may use any of the forms of identification that you’ve been able to use previously to vote,” Ashcroft says. “If you are a registered voter, if you go to your polling place on election day, you will be allowed to vote.”

Ashcroft reassures representatives that the statute requires that provisional ballots must be counted if voting conditions are met.

Day Fifteen: Right-To-Work Step Two Complete

Missouri House Representatives met today, Thursday, Febuary 2nd (or better known as Groundhog Day) to discuss and vote on the Right-To-Work Act and Republicans rejoice as the bill was finally approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives this afternoon with a 100-59 vote count (16 of those 59 being republicans, mind you).

It was the number one goal of Republican legislators upon the inauguration of Republican Governor Greitens. Previously, Jay Nixon had vetoed all efforts to make the Show-Me State right-to-work and now with a conservative majority in the executive and legislative branches, Republicans now have the upper hand in this issue.

As of January 2017, every Missouri bordering state with the exception of Illinois currently allows employees to choose whether or not they want to join a union and, according to Speaker of the House, Todd Richardson, are doing better in regards to wages and unemployment than Missouri is.

“If you look at Missouri’s economy, while we’ve seen improvement in the unemployment rate, we have not seen wages growing in this state at a rate anywhere near what they’re growing in the rest of the country,” Richardson says. “The growth is happening in right to work states.”

Among other things, Right-To-Work was a law that now-Governor Greitens promised to place priority on for the future of Missouri. Shortly following this topic will likely be other union-related issues such as prevailing wage which the House discussed early last week.

Democrats have notoriously opposed this issue.

“This bill is wrong for workers,” says Democratic Representative Cora Faith Walker from St. Louis County. “Workers have the right to organize…You expect other people to come in a facility… and benefit and not pay dues. We call that freeloading.”

Walker claims that working conditions are poor. “Companies are greedy and they’re still greedy,” she says.

Before the passage of the bill, Representatives opted to add additional amendments vying to subject the act to a ballot of the people rather than legislature which was overturned in a vote of 91-64.

Representative Rowland, who is a republican, opted for a five-year sunset of the bill which would enact Missouri as a Right-To-Work state until 2022 where future legislators could determine the success rate of the bill and vote again at a later date.

The House failed to adopt the notion.

With the House accepting and voting in favor towards the terms and conditions of SB-19, the bill will be sent to Governor Greiten’s desk and Missourians will likely see their state as the 28th state in the U.S. to become Right-To-Work.

On a more federal level, there’s every chance that a national Right-To-Work law will come into effect in the near-future.

According to the Huffington Post, U.S. House Republicans intend to introduce a countrywide Right-To-Work law this coming Wednesday that, if passed, would become a moot point for Democratic Legislators currently fighting in their states.

Republicans now control both Houses of Legislature as well as the White House for the first time in at least eight years making the law that much easier to enact.

Regardless, Governor Greitens is making good on his campaign promises to keep government out of business. His proposed Hair Braiding Freedom Act passed through its first committee this week and, next week, doing away with prevailing wage will be next on the agenda.

Day Thirteen: Separating Govt. and Business

Missouri Legislature is taking advantage of this conservative majority by going after labor unions. Last week, Missouri Senate enacted their own version of a Right-To-Work bill following a House bill that was approved last week. Today, the House Committee for Economic Development met to discuss abolishing Prevailing Wages which would allow companies to set their own costs for labor workers.

Currently, they are to adhere to a set wage established by each county and this is all in an effort to benefit both small and large companies, as conservatives are obviously in support of a smaller presence of government in corporations.

It was an issue that Governor Greitens was originally passionate about, as well as Right-To-Work, and intends to make it a priority. In all likelihood, with a republican majority in the legislative and executive branches, labor workers will see a more competitive pay rate sometime in the near-future.

 

Day Eleven/Twelve :: Hair Braiding and Uber

In Governor Greiten’s State of the State address last week, he spent a decent portion of that time talking about braiding hair, and I do mean that literally. He suggested that citizens in Missouri who want to become hair braiders have to become licensed cosmetologists which requires 15,000 dollars and 1500 hours in school. Just to braid hair.

Greiten’s assured that he would be reigning down on this issue within the first month.

And he kept to his word.

Missouri House Representatives had their first committee hearing on Wednesday to discuss HB 230, titled the Hair-Braiding Freedom Act (and I’m not kidding). The bill would essentially allow those only interested in a hair-braiding business to go ahead and do so without the added hassle of a cosmetology license.

There were many positive testimonies regarding this bill, mainly owners, workers, and patrons of African American salons, who stress that all they would be doing is braiding hair. Nothing else. Of course, representatives had a few comments to say in regards to being educated to comply with health and sanitary regulation. A part of what comes along with a cosmetology degree is to learn how to safely deal with someone else’s hair and an incident of hair herpes was brought forward.

Anything that had to do with heating or cutting a hair would have to be done by a separate party, essentially.

Positive testimonies claimed that the only people currently allowed to braid hair are not trained whereas there are hair-braiding professionals that are more knowledgeable and many of them do not need 1500 hours in training.

The bill was not voted upon and will see executive session likely sometime next week.

Now, TODAY, being January 26th, I sat in on the House session to place an official vote on HB 130 to regulate Transportation Networking Companies as well as making them statewide in Missouri. Currently, Uber only operates out of Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia (and St. Louis, technically, although not legally as I understand it).

Most cities and states in the U.S. have statewide TNC laws where rideshare drivers can legally operate anywhere; Missouri doesn’t have that. And, of course, there were issues brought up such as a chauffeurs license, which is honestly a valid point. One of the representatives mentioned that a taxi cab driver and even a pizza deliver worker needs to have a chauffeurs license while a uber driver does not.

A simple ‘rating’ of whether or not a driver is creepy, or smells nice, or is a safe driver, etc. is not a reliable depiction of whether or not you should get in that car. While it is more affordable than cab drivers, you will also be presented with a much more organized and safe system in regards to taxis.

One of the representatives mentioned a lady who had a sexual assault claim against an uber driver and it took the St. Louis Police Department three weeks to get the required information from Uber regarding who drove her. It’s a disorganized system.

However, having said that, approving Uber statewide will create hundreds and possibly even thousands of more jobs and increase revenue for the government.

The bill house with an overwhelming majority of nearly 90% and now proceeds to the Senate.

Day Ten: Let’s talk about Real ID

Okay, this is a day late but I had a rather busy day.

Fifteen years ago in 2005, President George Bush passed federal ID regulations to further monitor travel documents and, currently, all U.S. states have adhered to this law with the exception of Minnesota, Washington, Montana, Maine, and, of course, Missouri.

About a month ago, there was something filtering through my entire Facebook feed that in January of 2018, a new law would be passed that Missouri citizens would be forced to obtain a passport in order to continue flying or to be granted access to a military base. Well, surprise, it’s not a new law. That regulation is only just now circulating because Missouri had been granted an extension in 2009 after Nixon refused to comply with the federal act. That extension was, of course, until January of 2018.

So, in a nut shell, these are the Real ID regulations that 90% of the country currently abides by. In order to be able to fly under FEDERAL law, citizens must apply for a national ID that would be different from that of a regular drivers license. Now, currently, Missouri actually abides by around 34 of the 39 current Federal ID registrations. Among the five that we do not comply with are the more controversial requirements such as facial recognition and finger printing. Essentially, your picture would be filed in a federal database for who knows how long and this is all because of the terrorist threat; however, statements have been made extremely limiting who has access to the database. Of course, this brings up concerns of identify theft and basic privacy rights stated in the 4th amendment.

Now, Missouri has until January of 2018 to comply with this law; otherwise, missourians will need to have a passport to obtain access to flight travel and, if I’m not mistaken, they will either be completely denied from visits to military bases or they will need a passport for those, as well.

Essentially, Missourians will have to apply for a new identification regardless to travel; however, passports are notably expensive and have been known to take a long stretch of time to completely be processed. Therefore, Missouri either complies with federal law or passports will essentially be forced to purchase making your time at the airport more extensive due to citizens being unaware of the law and holding up the line (as they are 100% sure to do and I’m sure terminal employees are not looking forward to 2018 should this law be rejected).

Day Eight: Greiten’s State of the State address

Yesterday, Governor Eric Greitens held his State of the State address, building off of and emphasizing the importance of the points he originally campaigned with. He started off his speech by alluring to corruption in politics. Early last week, Greitens signed his first executive order barring lobbyists gifts from his administration and, on the day of his address, representatives voted on a lobbyist gift ban (HB-60) regarding members of legislation which passed 149 to 5 (I think it would have been interesting to have had a quote from someone who voted against).

“Too many good, strong public servants have come here only to see the will of the people obstructed and corrupted by insiders and lobbyists,” says Greitens. “I come bearing a simple message from the people of Missouri: They want a government that fights for them, and I come as an outsider ready to lead that fight.”

Before becoming elected, Greitens had not held any senate or representative office position which he utilized as one of his primary campaign strategies. He vowed to put an end to the lobbyist corruption and, later, also touched on topics such as the criminal justice system of Missouri noting that three out of the eleven most violent cities in America were in Missouri: St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield. According to wallstreet, that is accurate. Springfield is #11; Kansas City is #10; and St. Louis is, naturally, #1. St. Louis, Missouri, according to 247wallst.com, had a total of 5,762 violent crimes in 2016. That number increased by 7.7% from the previous year, which is wildly higher than the national increase of 3.9%.

Greitens brought up the idea of the Ferguson Effect, keeping Missouri within those top high-danger cities, and claimed it’s getting harder to be a policeman given that they consistently have to closely evaluate their actions due to the threat of their life and, potentially, their families.

Senators met early this morning to discuss and hear testimonies regarding abortion issues. The first bill proposed regarded protecting the rights of alternatives-to-abortion agencies which was met with scrutiny. Witnesses claimed, given the bill references its first amendment rights, that the bill is irrelevant and already a part of the constitution. Senator Chappelle-Nadal, a democrat, emphasized America does not have a one-size-fit-all world and that furthering abortion laws would only hinder the state.

“We have literally generations of people who have ended up having children prematurely, not making the right decisions, and ultimately end up costing the state more.”

The Senator went on discuss the hypocrisy of pro-life given that proper alterations are not discussed in regards to miscarriages due to contaminated environments. Chappelle-Nadal is an avid environmentalist and regularly hosts meetings regarding radioactive landfills.