(From Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis)
This is how I'm spending my time this fall.
As our cities' homicide rates rise, Missouri has gained national attention from the Washington Post on being the #1 State in People Being Shot by Toddlers. So far in 2015, 13 toddlers have shot and killed themselves, 18 more injured themselves, 10 injured others and 2 toddlers shot and killed others. Missouri leads the country with 5 toddlers this year pulling a trigger on a gun.
Where is the outrage from the legislature or calls for a special session or even the level of panic as we saw from the GOP last year during the Ebola scare?
On the flip side, Missouri's Planned Parenthood "Witch Hunt" continues at full steam. The 7th interim hearing took place this past Wednesday and ended up also making national news.
Guns and abortion. One we MUST address - and the other, just a political "witchhunt" in a highly charged campaign year.
For all of you who stayed home on 2014 primary and general election days ----this is the legislature you elected by default.
TOURING THE STATE WITH AURORA GUN VIOLENCE SURVIVORS, SANDY & LONNIE PHILLIPS
This week I had the honor of spending 53 straight hours with Sandy & Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter Jessi was shot and killed in the Aurora, Colorado theatre mass shooting in July 2012. Former San Antonio residents, they are dedicating their lives to keeping us from joining their growing club of gun violence survivors, rented their home and are now living out of a camper as they work nationwide. We have long been Facebook friends, connected through social media like many of us anti-gun violence activists across the country. When they offered to come to Missouri to help us, I jumped.
We began early Monday morning October 12th at KSHB Channel 41 TV-CBS studios for taped interviews - WATCH HERE. Listening to the Phillips tell the story of Jessi's shooting and subsequent four month excruciating trial in Colorado reminded me that most of us never think we will ever be in "their shoes". Jessi was one of the 12 people shot and killed (70 more were injured) while watching watching a movie in suburban Denver. Just weeks before, she had narrowly escaped a shooting in a Canadian shopping mall.
Then it was onto the 2nd annual Heartland Coalition Against Gun Violence forum at the Kauffman Conference Center near UMKC where Sandy & Lonnie were the keynote speakers. Over 200 community activists and leaders heard their story and plea for action. Lonnie explained their personal lawsuit and fight against the 2005 federal law pushed by the NRA - the Protection of Legal Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) which grants legal immunity against gun manufacturers and dealers.
With Judy Sherry, director of Grandparents Against Gun Violence and Lonnie & Sandy.
Afterwards we headed downtown to the Jackson County Prosecutors office where the Phillips and I spoke with over 60 assistant prosecutors over lunch in the Jackson County Courthouse jury room, part of a day long professional training helmed by Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker. Sandy and Lonnie spoke of their experiences with Colorado District Attorney George Brachler during the long trial and enlightened the group how best to work with gun violence victims.
With my former seat mate in the House, Jackson Co
Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker with the Phillips at the training
Afterwards we had the luxury of a long intimate talk with Kansas City Star editorial columnist Mary Sanchez - who wrote a beautiful piece on Sandy & Lonnie and their tireless work: "Don’t pity them, vote: How these parents are pushing gun reforms through grief, honesty."
Then the three of us hit the interstate for the afternoon drive to St. Louis and a four hour nonstop debriefing session on what must happen next in our country - how a state legislator and a husband/wife national victim advocate team can best work together to stop these nonsensical massacres. .
First up in St. Louis on Tuesday October 13th - a private meeting with St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis City Police Chief Sam Dotson at St. Louis City Hall. It was a joy on a gorgeous day to showcase our town, even if it was just during a quick jaunt down Highway 40.
Sandy had seen a recent CNN interview with Chief Dotson on gun violence in our city and had requested to meet him.
It was heartwarming for me to listen to four passionate citizens using the resources they have at hand - whether it be a national TV microphone, the attention of President Obama or simply hard work with community leaders - to stop this gun violence epidemic. I listened intently and was inspired by each of their convictions and relentless pursuit against the gun lobby's proposals to flood our communities with guns.
Our final stop was the Chancellor's home at Washington University- St. Louis for an intimate luncheon and conversation with 24 community activists, physicians, faith leaders and students - part of their ongoing year long initiative, "Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis".
The Phillips and I with Risa Zwerling Wrighton, wife of the Wash U chancellor.
With Burt Newman, WU Law adjunct professor; St. Louis City Public Safety Director Richard Gray; Tricia Roland-Hamilton, E.D. of Magdalene House; Barbara Finch of Women's Voices Raised for Social Justice; Risa Zwerling Wrighton; Rabbi Susan Talve, Central Reform Congregation and Clayton Mayor Harold Sanger - just a few of the attendees at lunch.
Next on the agenda...the Democratic Presidential Debate in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nope, not for me.
The Phillips had been invited to be guests of presidential candidate Governor Martin O'Malley on behalf of their work against the gun lobby and PLCAA. So we sped to the airport so Sandy & Lonnie could immediately be whisked to the Las Vegas Wynn Hotel for the debate. It was thrilling to hear their names and their work mentioned during the debate but I can't imagine how they had any energy left to deal with more media and press conferences during their 24 hour stay in Las Vegas.
Sandy and Lonnie became a permanent part of my family during their short time in Missouri and I am extremely inspired by their tireless work. Their story will remain forever part of my own efforts to fight this madness.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD WITCH HUNT HEARING - #7
One day guns. The very next day abortion.
On Wednesday October 14th the joint committees of the Children & Families and Ways & Means committees met in the Capitol for #7 of the legislature's Planned Parenthood investigative hearings. Yes, for the seventh time since May.
Committee Chair Diane Franklin (R- Camdenton) ignored my official requests for the Oct. 14th hearing agenda and who had been invited to testify. Even though Attorney General Koster officially found no evidence of any wrong doing by Planned Parenthood in Missouri and with the knowledge that no Planned Parenthodd affiliate in our state offers fetal tissue donation programs, chairs Franklin and Andrew Koenig (R-Manchester) decided to hold yet another hearing.
I have been as perplexed as you at the fiscally irresponsibility of the GOP in charge of these shenanigans. My office calculated that one joint House committee hearing has cost the state approximately $5000, just in legislator travel expenses.
The hearing began with Rep. Franklin boasting that she and other GOP women met with MU System Tim Wolfe following Veto Session last month and took credit for the decision to end "refer and follow" physician privileges at Missouri Health Care.
That decision directly impacts the abortion provider at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia ---and jeopardizes healthcare choices of hundreds of mid-Missouri women. See the Columbia Tribune story HERE.
Rep. Franklin continued by questioning Dr. James Miller, the owner of Pathology Services, Inc. in St. Louis which includes Planned Parenthood as one of their clients. His testimony lasted over an hour as GOP legislators asked him to teach them how he does his work as a pathologist, including what size of jars his lab uses to collect specimens. The next testimony was by phone from Abby Johnson, a disgruntled former office manager who left a Texas Planned Parenthood clinic in 2006. Ms. Johnson has no medical background, no knowledge of Missouri statutes or had not been to any Missouri Planned Parenthood clinics. Texas Monthly in 2010 disputed many of her claims HERE.
But it was the end of the hearing that made national news as several GOP members suggested legislation for 2016. Rep. Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville) wants to require Planned Parenthood build a state memorial to honor aborted fetuses.
You read that correctly - I could not make this stuff up. Read the story HERE.
"Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrison, said Newman was wrong.
"This is absolutely not a witch hunt. We are fighting for human life. These pieces of fetal tissue are being sold on the black market."
Brattin also said that the attorney general needs to "stop playing political games." More from KOMU TV8 HERE.
Meanwhile, several on the committee stated they want to meet YET ONE MORE TIME before we go back into session in January, but of course, did not say why.
This is your state legislature hard at work, at taxpayer expense, on completely ridiculous harmful notions ---because???