News from JMO
Just received this special session email update from State Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford. Very illuminating.
Sept. 21, 2005
Friends and allies,
I was very active in the recent Extraordinary Session called by Gov. Blunt in that I sit on the Children and Families Committee that heard both House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1. These so called "pro-life" bills focused on making it possible to file a lawsuit against any one who assists a minor in crossing a state line to have an abortion without parental consent. The bills also prohibited doctors from performing abortions unless they have clinical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their practice.
Rep. Beth Low and I are the only pro-choice members of the Children and Families Committee so ours were the only no votes against HB1 and SB1 as they came out of committee. In the hearing on SB1, I offered a strike and replace amendment in order to try to substitute in the language of Rep. Robin Wright-Jones' House Bill 6. HB 6 focused on improving sex ed, offering care to rape victims, protecting the right to birth control, and offering family planning services. The amendment was ruled out of order.
During floor debate on the bill, Democratic representatives and one Republican representative tried to make a number of improvements, but all amendments failed. Rep. Connie Johnson attempted to tighten the language of SB1 so that the vague "cause, aid, or assist" was changed to "transport" since Sen. Louden claimed the bill was about helping minors cross state lines, not private counseling by a social worker, mentor, or clergyperson. When Johnson's amendment failed, I offered a Religious Freedom Amendment to exempt pastors and other clergy from prosecution under the bill. I spoke as persuasively as I could about the need to honor the the freedom of religion language of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Unfortunately only 37 representatives voted Aye with me, so the Amendment failed.
In the end, SB1 was truly agreed to and finally passed by the MO House by a vote of 115-35. Gov. Blunt quickly signed SB1 into law, but a federal judge blocked the new law's implementation the next day. I believe SB1 will be found unconstitutional on several grounds. I will continue to stress that the best way to reduce abortions is through education, family planning, and respect of women.
I voted to override Gov. Blunt's line item vetos on many important items including Alzheimer's Research and restoring funds to the Office of Public Counsel which represents consumers agsint the powerful utility companies. Unfortunately there were not enough votes to overturn any of his unwise cuts to key programs. (Gov. Blunt's approval rating currently stands at about 36% according to a poll from last week.)
I have written an editorial called "Learning the Lessons of Hurricane Katrina," and I have attached it here as a Word document. I hope you are able to download it successfully.
Two important special elections are being held this fall. Democrats can pick up a seat in the 94th District where Jane Bogeto is running for the seat that had been held by Rep. Richard Byrd who died in May. To help Jane win, call 314-909-6676 to volunteer or mail checks to:
Friends of Bogeto
417 Gill Avenue
Kirkwood, MO 63122
Bobby Simpson is running for the seat vacated by Frank Barnitz who won the special election to become Senator when Sarah Steelman became state treasurer. To support Simpson, call 573-729-6583 or mail checks to:
Citizens for Bobby Simpson
Route 5, Box 443
Salem, MO 65560
Today newspapers throughout the state reported that Missouri is now 50th in the nation in terms of eligibility guidelines for childcare subsidies. See for example:
This is an issue that I tried to address by having HB 683 drafted this spring. (See http://www.house.mo.gov/bills051/bills/HB683.htm.) I had the bill drafted and then asked Rep. Cathy Jolly to be sponsor of the bill because I recognize that as a freshman Democrat from the most progressive wing of the party, I do not have much clout at present, and I wanted this bill to move. Unfortunately it did not receive a hearing. I guess the chair of Children and Families was much more interested in abortion bills this year. Rep. Jolly and I will bring this legislation back in 2006 and will press hard for its passage.
Finally, if you are interested in buying a house, learn how to do so with no down payment, closing costs, or fees at a workshop hosted by Rep. Wright-Jones on Saturday, October 1, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Salvation Army Dining Room, 2740 Arsenal (at California).
Jeanette Mott Oxford
State Representative - 59th MO House District
Jeff City Phone: 573-751-4567; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Citizens to Elect Oxford," P. O. Box 19112, St. Louis, MO 63118
And here's the aforementioned Commentary on Hurricane Katrina:
September 16, 2005 For more information: 314-772-0301
Learning the Lessons of Hurricane Katrina
In the first weeks after 9-11, media commentators constantly talked about how the USA had been forever changed by that terrible tragedy. They said our nation had grown up, sobered up, was weaned from its fascination with celebrities and frivolous preoccupations. Yet within a few months we returned to a steady diet of vulgar television shows and over hyped sporting events.
Now as we weep at the suffering and death, destruction and chaos left behind by Hurricane Katrina, we again face a crucial moment of decision. A new conversation has started about how racism and poverty impacted on who survived and who did not as well as the life circumstances of hurricane victims before the flood.
It is essential that we not fall into the mistakes that followed the collapse of the Twin Towers. Following 9-11 Pres. Bush called for vigilance, but not mutual sacrifice, instead giving hefty tax cuts to the wealthiest among us, while tightening the eligibility guidelines on safety net programs for our most vulnerable citizens. Likewise in Missouri, Gov. Blunt slashed Medicaid, adoption subsidies, and many other helping programs, saying this was our only alternative if we were to live within our means.
Hopefully now, after Katrina, our eyes have been opened. Let us take on the shared moral responsibility to act for the common good and address poverty with justice, not just charity
Low-wage workers do some of the most important tasks in our nation ---- bathing sick bodies, laundering nursing home sheets, tending our children while we are at work, seeing that food is stored, prepared, and served in sanitary conditions, and so much more. Yet neighbors in these low-wage jobs constantly struggle with eviction and utility disconnection notices, even if working full-time and more than one job.
Let us make the public policy changes needed to see that no worker lives in poverty. All workers should have the simple dignity of decent housing, access to healthcare, safe and affordable childcare, and a high quality public education for their children.
These goals are not pie in the sky dreams. Other industrialized nations have instituted public policies to achieve these aims. If we focus on the common good, we could achieve these goals in the U.S. as well.
Yes, that may mean sacrifice. Remember sacrifice? It was something our government called upon us to do in the Depression and World War II, and it is often the key to survival for the most vulnerable among us. It is the underlying value behind Social Security and progressive tax systems where those most able to pay bear the largest burden instead of the smallest as is current policy.
Another needed response is to tell the truth with the numbers we use. The federal poverty level that is the basis for eligibility guidelines for many helping programs is out-dated and undercounts the poor by as much as half. Instead of 37 million Americans living in poverty, the true number of neighbors who cannot afford the basic necessities of life exceeds 70 million. But using current eligibility guidelines, families in poverty lose needed supports long before they can afford shelter, clothing, heat, food, medicine, or a doctor’s care.
Wouldn’t it be great if Missouri played a leading role in honoring the victims of Hurricane Katrina by winning this step toward justice? What if we ask Sen. Bond, Sen. Talent, and the Missouri Congressional delegation to lead a national movement to correct the inaccuracy of the federal poverty level? They could seek legislation to base this important measurement on the true cost of living instead of spending patterns from the 1950’s that no longer hold true.
A strong house depends on a foundation of truth. Hurricane Katrina shows us that we can no longer afford to keep skewing the numbers to hold down social service caseloads or poverty counts. When we fail to provide services to those who need help, we simply shift costs to other places. For example, when our neighbors cannot access mental health, they wind up in emergency rooms, police cars, and courtrooms. That increases the cost of private insurance, law enforcement, and prisons.
So many are opening their hearts to others and pitching in to rebuild New Orleans and other Gulf communities. Let us do even more. Now is the time to right old wrongs, build a more inclusive community, and knit ourselves into a stronger and safer nation where liberty and justice for all is a reality.