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03 September 2011

Newman: What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Friends, neighbors and constituents keep asking me what I'm doing with my time since the 2011 legislative session ended this past May in Jefferson City. A few aren't sure if I work in Washington D.C or the state capitol so I wanted to bring you up-to-date. It feels like I haven't slowed down all summer!

My biggest joy since adjournment has been watching our youngest graduate from high school and prepare for her next chapter. After wonderful celebrations with family and friends, our daugher is now a freshman at the University of Missouri - quite thrilling for her father, a double Mizzou alum. This summer I have been busy spending time with her and all the preparations required for freshman orientation/moving her into her tiny dorm room in Columbia. I'm pleased to report the empty nest transition is going well as Tiger fever completely envelopes our family.

Hope you have a safe and relaxing Labor Day weekend.


Although I'm working fulltime back in the district with the aid of my legislative assistant, Carla Leubbert in my Capitol office, constituent concerns and legislative research is ongoing. My days include meetings with various constituents, community events, talking with the media often on short notice and sorting through the mountains of files that came home with me.

The week following session I had fun working with the 21st Century Leadership Academy fellows through the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life at UMSL. I co-hosted a dinner with a group of young college women who already are leaders and learned way more from them than they know.

In addition I was excited and proud to see my former seat mate and close colleague, Rep. Jean Peters Baker sworn in as the new Jackson County Prosecutor. Her swearing in ceremony at the county courthouse in Kansas City mid-May was packed with her family, supporters and numerous elected officials. I will miss her in the legislature but we need her more where she is - pursuing criminal justice and making our lives safer.


I presented my annual post-legislative updates to the Richmond Heights and Clayton City Councils (Maplewood - stay tuned) and at various events with N.O.W./PROMO/St. Louis Women's Political Caucus and the Jewish Community Relations Council. It's vital that our local community and groups stay in tune with bills that have passed, those which didn't and our efforts.

I made my first trip back onto the floor of the House of Representatives since adjournment working with over 150 high school juniors and seniors (from all parts of the state) at the annual Missouri Girl's State on their mock legislative day. I have worked with MO Girls State since 2002 so it was invigorating to see how professional the girls were in arguing with passion on many serious issues. Can you find Rep. Mary Still and me here?

Occasionally my events involve theatrics. No really! I was a special guest at the original performance of the "Big Fat LGBT Show" at Monsanto's Creve Coeur campus in recognition of equality month. Monsanto was designated a "Best Place to Work for LGBT Equality" by the national Human Rights Campaign in 2010. The show, created by local award-winning director Joan Lipkin, is designed as a new tool for diversity training specifically for corporations, which include Brown Shoe and Ameren Corp.

And occasionally my life involves parades. I joined with colleague Rep. Tishaura Jones in riding in the 31st annual St. Louis Gay Pride Parade. The festival drew record crowds (it was hot of course) and a record number of supportive companies, religious organizations and elected officials.

At left: Me and a couple of green Energizer Men at Pride Fest in Tower Grove Park in St. Louis following the parade.


I was fortunate to escape St. Louis' intense summer heat as my work took me on the road. With a small bipartisan group of legislators, I spent several days in San Jose CA at Cisco's Executive Briefing Center, EMC and VMware headquarters. We were given extensive tours and thorough presentations regarding the future of telecommunications as it affects Missouri. I saw tech communications of the future and learned that our state already is a leader as we bring our state communication systems into the 21st century and beyond.

A day later I flew to Washington D. C. where I was selected to participate in a strategy session hosted by the Center for Women Policy Studies. With 18 women state legislators representing 15 states (including Alaska, Hawaii, Arizona and Kansas), we developed collective strategies (and terrific friendships) to combat future legislative assaults on women's rights.

At right: My bipartisan "sister" women legislators from all parts of the United States.

With little time to unpack, I then participated in a day long summit on state revenue at Lincoln University in Jefferson City hosted by Jobs With Justice. The summit involved almost 100 statewide activists who are concerned with the decline of state revenue as it impacts many programs and services our citizens dependt on, particularly with disasters and high unemployment in Missouri.

However the highlight of the month was my first in a series of "Farm to Table" dinners as personal research for my Urban Agriculture Committee. I created, shopped for and cooked an entire meal with as many local products/produce as possible to determine how accessible local foods are.

At right: Hands down, the best local organic fried chicken this side of the universe,compliments of Thomas Keller's "Ad Hoc at Home" recipe


Hot days of summer continued with a 2 day House Democratic Caucus Summer Caucus in Jefferson City. We met with statewide officials and various issue representatives as we worked on 2012 agendas and enjoyed being together as "family".

St. Louis ALIVE magazine called and wanted to photograph my home office for a feature series on local professionals and their offices. I wasn't allowed to clean up much (what do you think I did?) but their beautiful photograph actually made me want to spend more time working at home.

I participated in my first appearance on "Capitol Dialogue" with fellow legislators. A monthly series by the capitol communications staff, it was fun to rehash the previous session as we look towards special and veto session.

The month continued with the Springfield venue for our interim joint Urban Ag committee statewide hearings. We toured a local food market, elementary school and even an urban farm (just blocks from downtown Springfield) prior to the three hour public hearing with fascinating testimony. And just a few days ago I was a panelist at Congressman Russ Carnahan's well-attended 2012 Farm Bill event hosted by Maplewood-Richmond Heights high school. MRH high school will also host the Urban Ag Committee St. Louis hearing on October 4th - so mark your calendars for a truly fascinating community event.

At left: With commmitte members at Adam and Melissa Millsap's Urban Roots Farm in Springfield. Their children provided a precious unrehearsed photo op.

This month I celebrated the 91st anniversary of women gaining the right to vote at the MO Women's Network luncheon and presented a governor-signed copy of the new 2011 domestic violence law to executive director Susan Kidder of Safe Connections (women's equality/issues are major issues for me), but my most favorite activity was working with a very young activist.

Maddie Goldberg, a 5th grader at Reform Jewish Academy in St. Louis and I are working together on new legislation to help those with epilepsy be able to adopt children. Maddie works closely with the national Epilepsy Foundation, has lobbied Congress /the Missouri State Legislature and is at her age an expert on what she advocates. Our collaboration promises great things for next session - including perhaps my future replacement in the State House.


Summer is almost behind us as Special Session begins on Sept. 6 with Veto Session following on Sept. 14 in Jefferson City. I will be involved this week as a member of the Elections Committee on the bi-partisan presidential primary bill and also working to keep the Missouri Film Office/state film industry alive during the assuredly lively committee and floor discussions on economic development and jobs.

Yes, a woman's work in the House is never quite done.

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