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05 February 2012

Oxford: Start Of House Session Disappointing, Bills Filed To Improve Quality Of Life

Op. Note: Senate Bill 592 is misidentified as Senate Bill 582. SB582 would reauthorize tax credits available to pregnancy resource centers.
More than a fifth of the 2012 Legislative Session is behind us as January draws to a close, and very little has been done to address the most crucial problems in our state. Almost all of our floor debate time in the House has been devoted so far to the following:
  • House Joint Resolution 43 which would place new restrictions on the General Assembly’s ability to increase state spending ----- as if Missouri legislators had a reputation of spending like drunken sailors. Instead Missouri's General Assembly is known to pinch a penny so tightly that Abe Lincoln (and universities, mental health agencies, and veteran's homes) cry for mercy. Our state is already $4 Billion below the existing Hancock caps. Overspending on our state's essential needs is NOT a problem in Missouri, so HJR 43 is yet another attempt to amend the Missouri Constitution unnecessarily.
  • Proposals to make it easier and cheaper for employers to escape accountability for wrongful discrimination. House Bill (HB) 1219 and Senate Bill (SB) 582 both attempt to undermine civil rights protections. They are the pitifully chosen priority of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other major business groups. "The Missouri Human Rights Act is neither onerous nor complex," said Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Steve Webb, D-Florissant. "Employers who treat their workers with fairness and respect have nothing to fear. But if an employer wrongfully discriminates, the law will hold it accountable for its actions. We do not feel that expecting businesses to treat all people with dignity is asking too much of them."
  • An attempt through HB 1104 to disenfranchise about 250,000 legal Missouri voters who do not have a government-issued photo ID (according to an estimate by the Secretary of State's Office) - mainly persons who are elderly, living with disabilities, or People of Color. Many, through no fault of their own, are unable to obtain an ID. The bill does nothing to address voter registration fraud (cases of which may be cited in MO) and focuses instead on voter impersonation fraud (which has not been found to be a problem in any study using empirical evidence). With 2012 being a presidential election year, the real reason for this legislation is painfully obvious. Here's more information:
I am deeply disappointed in the beginning of the 2012 Legislative Session. Our state deserves much better.

Bills Filed to Improve Quality of Life

As a member of the minority party in the Missouri House, I cannot control what comes to the floor for debate, but I can file legislation that addresses our states real problems such as:
  • the lack of high quality affordable child care
  • overcrowded classrooms
  • our outdated, inadequate, unfair income tax system
  • barriers to compassionate care for rape victims
  • exploitive practices at payday loan companies
During the past two weeks I have sponsored and co-sponsored a long list of high quality bills. I hope to have hearings scheduled in coming weeks and to finally see floor debate on these very important proposals. See the full list of bills that I have introduced or co-sponsored at:

Important Information About Petition Initiatives

Several petitions are being circulated to put measures on the November ballot (although sometimes such measures are moved to the August ballot). When presented the opportunity, I hope that you will sign these petitions:
  1. a petition to limit the interest rate on payday loans to 36%. This petition is being circulated by Missourians for Reponsible Lending.
  2. a petition to raise the minimum wage to $8.25 per hour. This petition is being circulated by Give Missouri a Raise.
Read about these petitions at:

Be especially careful about the payday loan petition, as the payday loan industry is circulating their own petitions that offer "reform-lite" instead of real reform. Make sure the petition you sign is the 36% one from Missourians for Responsible Lending.

I also urge you NOT to sign a petition on local control of the St. Louis Police Department hat is currently being circulated - even though I support local control of St. Louis Police. Here's what John Chasnoff, Program Director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri recently sent to elected officials about this petition - and I agree:

We are writing to let you know that there is strong and growing opposition to the Sinquefield ballot initiative on local control. This opposition originates from the very grassroots organizations that have pushed for local control for decades.

Don't misunderstand us. We are still strong advocates for local control and support SB 461, Senator Keaveny's bill in the Missouri legislature. But the ballot initiative has added language that does two things.

First, it makes effective Civilian Review of the police impossible for St. Louis. Any Civilian Review Board created here would be denied access to any disciplinary records unless the Board is created by the civil service commission. If the Board were created in this way, it would be designed solely by the appointees of the mayor and would not reflect the will of all citizens. Any Board created through input from all the stakeholders and passed by an ordinance by the Board of Aldermen would not be able to see the records it needs to be effective.

Second, the ballot initiative closes to the St. Louis public any investigations into allegations of criminal police misconduct. These records are currently open under the Missouri Sunshine Law.

We should not have to give up effective citizen input and transparency of records to gain local control. We urge you not to support the current ballot initiative petition drive.

For more information contact John at 314-652-3114 or john{at}aclu-em{dot}org.

Presidential and Gubernatorial Speeches Announce Priorities

Did you miss Gov. Nixon's State of the State Address or Pres. Obama's State of the Union Address? If so, they are archived online if you'd like to watch or read them:

Community Announcements

Presidential Primary on Feb. 7

Don't forget to vote this Tuesday, Feb. 7. As Alderman Craig Schmid said in an e-mail to the 20th Ward: "There are four candidates for the Presidency on the Democratic ballot, 10 candidates for the Presidency on the Republican ballot, one candidate for the Presidency on the Libertarian ballot and no candidates for the Presidency on the Constitution ballot.......Even though your vote will not directly determine which candidate will be selected, the vote totals could affect perceptions, and may even have an impact on the General Election in November." It is also important to know that, if you'd like to be a delegate at the national convention, voting in the primary is a prerequisite.

Are You Able to File Taxes Online for Free?

Before you spend money with a tax preparer in order to get back a refund this year, take a look online to see if you may qualify to use free online tools. Through IRS Free File, all taxpayers who made $57,000 or less in 2011 can visit to prepare and e-file their federal tax returns. IRS Free File provides free access to the industry’s top tax preparation software, as well as a comprehensive suite of online tax forms. Participating taxpayers can also have their tax refunds direct deposited in as little as 10 days. Now in its 10th year, IRS Free File is made possible through a landmark public-private partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, a coalition of leading tax software companies. To learn more about the program, please contact me, or visit or The Missouri Department of Revenue is also working with Free File, and the address to use is:

Congratulations to Sherrill Wayland of SAGE!

Recipients of the annual James M. Holobaugh Honor will be recognized at a reception Feb. 8th, 2012 in Holmes Lounge. The James M. Holobaugh Honor recognizes individuals and organizations that promote Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) equality, perform direct advocacy and service to the St. Louis metro community and incorporate education and dialogue as part of their practice.

The honor was named after WUSTL alumnus Jim Holobaugh (B.S., engineering, 1990), who was a cadet in the campus Reserve Officer Training Corps program. In 1989, after coming out as gay to his squad commander, Holobaugh was removed from the program and ordered to repay the U.S. Army for his scholarship. Eventually succumbing to pressure from campus groups and LGBT rights organizations across the country — in addition to an impassioned response from WUSTL administrators — the Army reversed its decision. Holobaugh went on to travel across the country, engaging diverse groups in dialogue on issues of service and citizenship.

Among winners this year is Sherrill Wayland, MSW, who has worked 12 years in the fields of disability advocacy and education. In 2004 Ms. Wayland became actively involved in LGBT equality issues including the 2004 Missouri Marriage Amendment, PROMO, & was a founding member and secretary of the Gateway Stonewall Democrats, which led to her desire to use her professional advocacy skills within the LGBT community. Ms. Wayland returned to academia and received a Master of Social Work degree in 2008 from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis, where she used this time to research LGBT aging issues and started the St. Louis LGBT Aging Task Force. Upon graduation, Ms. Wayland became the founder and current executive director of SAGE Metro St. Louis (Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders) and co-authored the article, "Older gay, lesbian, and bisexual adults: Tools for age-competent and gay affirmative practice" which was published in the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Service. Ms. Wayland resides in St. Louis, MO with Kim Kopff, her life-long partner of 17 years.

By the way, you can support SAGE by attending the film Gen Silent on March 10, 2012, doors open at 6:15 p.m. with a 7 p.m. show time. It's at Metropolitan Community Church of Greater St. Louis, 1919 South Broadway, St. Louis MO. Advance Tickets: $12 online at www.SageMetroSTLorg. Order by snail mail at SAGE Metro St. Louis, 2710 S. Grand Blvd., St. Louis MO 63118. Or tickets at the door are $15.

Five Star Senior Citizens Holding Four February Fundraisers

Here's what happens when the state of Missouri fails to fund senior citizen centers adequately --- they have to scramble to stay open in order to provide absolutely crucial services. Help our friends at Five Star, 2832 Arsenal, St. Louis City, by attending any of these please:
  • February 18th - Texas Hold-em Doors Open@ 6:00 p.m. Game Starts@ 7:00 p.m.$50.00 Buy-In
  • February 19th - Roast Beef Dinner 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Adults $8.00 Child $4.00
  • February 25th - Trivia Night Doors Open @ 6:00 p.m. Trivia Begins @ 7:00 p.m. $20.00 ea $140.00 table of 8
Here is a chance to help out as the center is looking for table sponsors, round sponsors, silent auction items, and lots of players. If you don't have a table center director Mike Howard and friends will hook you up with others to make a table. If you have questions or have donations, please call the center at 314-664-1008 or e-mail fstrivia{at}yahoo{dot}com.
  • March 17th - St. Patricks Day Corned Beef & Cabbage Dinner 1:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. Dinner $7.00 Sandwich $4.00

More Upcoming Events In Brief

  • On Friday, February 10, 2012, from 6:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at all participating Hardee's locations in the Bi-State area, the annual Rise and Shine for Heat-Up St. Louis is being held. Through the sales of Sausage & Egg Biscuit sandwiches for the special price of $1.00, this event raises money for Heat-Up St. Louis, Inc., a regional nonprofit energy assistance and advocacy charity. Cash donations will also be accepted.
  • A variety of Parent/Caregiver workshop offerings are being held from now until March 2012 through the St. Louis Arc. These workshops are designed to increase the knowledge base of families who care for individuals with developmental disabilities. If you, your colleagues, families or constituents you serve could benefit from any of the workshops included, please see the list at: The workshops are open to the public.
  • The spring CHARIS concert this year is "We Can Do It" - A USO Show. Hold these dates: April 20th and 21st, 2012, Friday at Lafayette United Methodist Church,
  • In case you missed Mardi Gras by just a smidgen, here's another shot at New Orleans cuisine, a Gumbo Dinner Fundraiser, Saturday, February 25, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Epiphany United Church of Christ, 2911 McNair in Benton Park; $8 adults, $5 for 4-12 year olds; children under four eat free. Funds raised help the church pay winter heating costs and other basic expenses.
And a P.S. about Epiphany UCC - my thanks to the many on this list who attended the fantastic Mayor Taylor concert at Epiphany on Jan. 21, featuring Lydia Ruffin, Mike Tiefenbrun, and Charlie Pfeffer with special guest artist Pete Ruthenburg. Almost $1900 was raised for the nursery care program, plus another $250 for our general fund through the food sales. The music was uplifting, and the conversation during intermission was lively and joyful. If you meant to attend, but something came up, you are still welcome to send a check to Epiphany UCC, 2911 McNair, STL MO 63118. Put nursery fundraiser on the memo line to have your gift credited to that account. If you managed to leave without buying one of Lydia's excellent CD's and now wish you had done so, you may order through her website: Some photos of the event are posted at the Epiphany United Church of Christ Facebook page.

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