Friday, June 03, 2016
St. Louis Democrat offers thoughts on gun, voter ID legislation
I’ve caught up a bit on sleep, moved my Jeff City wardrobe back home but am still reflecting on the last week of session.
Not surprising, the GOP was able to pass most of their priorities to the Governor’s desk. The level of vitriol and lack of courtesy with the minority caucus however was unprecedented.
The Speaker refused to allow me to debate on the House floor the last two days of session, even though I stood at my microphone (for hours) and followed House rules. I was unable to advocate for my district, particularly on voters rights and gun violence, issues on which I take the lead in our Democratic caucus. In fact on one of the very last bills, a fellow retiring Democrat was allowed to speak ONLY if she promised not to inquire of me during her debate.
Good democracy? Really? Embarrassing? A little. I can only assume my arguments against their punitive bills are difficult for them to hear. Does it stop me from fighting for you? No.
OMNIBUS GUN BILL RAMMED THROUGH THE LAST DAY
Despite Missouri being #2 in the country in toddlers shooting guns (you read that correctly), gun deaths skyrocketing in St. Louis & Kansas City, and those in danger of being shot when filing an order of domestic violence protection, the GOP rammed through their omnibus gun bill, SB656, on the very last day.
The bill had been held by sponsor Sen. Munzlinger for several days with no knowledge of what was finally in it. As an appointed member of the bill's conference committee, his office notified me by phone at 7:45am Tuesday May 19th for a 8:30am meeting that same day. Never mind that our legislative offices are not staffed until 8am. The final bill wasn't produced until just moments before session began on the last day at 10am. With the aid of the minority leader’s staff, we scrambled quickly to decipher the bill before debate. Good government, right?
The worst of SB656? Sen. Kurt Schaefer’s (GOP candidate for Attorney General) “Stand Your Ground” – making it easier to claim self-defense to justify the use of deadly force. No other state has passed “Stand Your Ground” since the Trayvon Martin (was walking home) and 17 year old Jordan Davis (his music was too loud) Florida shootings in 2012. Some states have even considered repeals of the dangerous law.
White on black shootings because of "self defense" have tripled in states with “Stand Your Ground” laws, drastically putting minority young men in severe danger. Jordan Davis’ mother, Lucy McBath, now travels the country as a gun violence prevention advocate – she feels the responsibility to help others avoid her nightmare.
Several Democrats were allowed to speak on SB656, including Rep. Kim Gardner (St. Louis) LISTEN HERE and Rep. Joe Adams (University City). As a former prosecutor and as a former mayor/longtime history teacher, they spoke of being threatened by guns themselves, most notably “driving while black”. Their experiences made me furious. The majority party didn’t seem to care that lives, even those of legislators, would be at risk.
SB656 also contains expanded Castle Doctrine ("your father-in-law can shoot to protect his young granddaughter if an intruder enters your home in rural Missouri" ----the example given by the original bill sponsor, Rep. Joe Don McGaugh (R- Carrollton) which prosecutors say is not necessary under current law.
After very heated debate, the bill was Truly Agreed & Finally Passed by a House vote 113-36. (Democrats Anders, Harris, Webber voted yes with every GOP).
Gov. Nixon officially received the gun bill on May 26th and has up to 45 days to consider a veto or signing the bill. Please help me urge him to veto SB656 HERE.
VOTER SUPPRESSION COMING SOON TO YOUR BALLOT
The legislature passed Voter ID proposals (a constitutional amendment, HJR 53 and the enabling bill, HB 1631) in the last week. The Senate filibustered the resolution a short time and on Thursday, May 12th the House TRULY AGREED and PASSED the measures to Governor Nixon.
Voter ID proposals FIRST need voters to change the Constitution because the Missouri Supreme Court ruled it “unconstitutional” and “ a form of poll tax” in 2006. Last week Governor Nixon called for the amendment to be on the November 8th General Eleciton ballot. A voter rights coalition including numerous progressive and faith based organizations are asking Governor Nixon to veto HB1631 which contains the mechanics of how the Voter ID mandate, if approved by voters, would work.
THE MAIN PROBLEM? Over 220,000 current Missouri voters would not be able to vote if Voter ID goes into effect ---because they lack a Missouri drivers or non-drivers license. To me and every single Democrat elected official in the country, this is clearly voter suppression.
So, if the bill says the state will pay to give everyone an ID, what’s the Big Deal? The GOP forgot to tell you THE REST OF THE RULES. Many of these potentially affected voters lack the documents required to get a state-issued license, like an original birth certificate (may be in another state or never had one), a marriage license (with a name change documented) or a divorce decree. AND these underlying documents cost money ----therefore, the “form of poll tax” the Missouri Supreme Court referenced in its decision.
So, why is Voter ID Needed? IT ISN’T. The GOP references “voter integrity”. Making it harder for people to vote is NOT voter integrity to me. They used to talk about “voter fraud” ---but the problem is that they CAN’T point to ANY voter impersonation fraud in Missouri. What some think happened in “Missouri gangster days” in 1939 really has no bearing on 2016.
The REAL MOTIVATION of VOTER ID? Numerous GOP officials around the country have accidentally revealed the purpose behind their Voter ID laws = to reduce the number of Democrats being able to vote.
I AM FOR MAKING IT EASIER TO VOTE, NOT MAKE IT HARDER. Many have written me asking for automatic voter registration (like my bill, HB2280) or even mail-in ballots (like Oregon does). I believe people need MORE access to voting ---not return to the days of rampant voter suppression. Agree?
1) JOIN ME IN ASKING GOV. NIXON TO VETO THE BILL - Call Gov. Nixon’s Constituent Services Line today at: 573-751-3222
2) VOTE “NO” ON NOV. 8TH – AGAINST CHANGING THE MISSOURI CONSTITUTION FOR VOTER ID.