Lobby Day 2017
On February 28, CURE members traveled to the capitol in Jefferson City to lobby our legislators. A van from St. Louis held eight of us: Deborah Burch, Angela Bell, Denorce Starks, Billy J. Ford, Michelle Smith, Florence Kilbert, Kim Guest and Hedy Harden. Those from Kansas City included Joe Graves, Maureen Flynn, Jeff Humfeld, Tadar Wazir and Keith Brown El. After gathering in the capitol rotunda, teams dispersed to visit individual representatives and senators.
Joe Graves handed our copies of a brochure written by his son, Joseph Williams, entitled “Ten Ways to Break the School to Prison Pipeline.” Keith handed out a brochure that included CURE’s letter to Anne Precythe and Keith’s treatise on current legislation.
My handout explained where relevant bills are and what needed to be done to help move them along. Three of the bills we support are in the Judiciary Committee. We spoke to Rep. Don McGaugh, chair of that committee, asking him to schedule the following bills for hearings: HB 38, HB 474, and HB 490. HB 38 removes mandatory minimums and makes sentence terms discretionary except for murder and certain sex offenses. HB 474 proposes to raise the daily amount of compensation a wrongfully imprisoned person may receive from $50 to $128. HB 490 changes the laws regarding arrearages and the expungement related to criminal nonsupport. Arrearage of 12 months currently creates a felony; would change it to 24.
Rep. McGaugh told us he expects them to have hearings within the next 2 weeks. We visited the office of House Speaker Todd Richardson with our request that HB 407, HB 477, HB 507 and HB 639 be referred to committees. Although we weren’t able to meet with Richardson himself, we left material and messages with his legislative assistant.
A highlight of the day was our meetings with Rep. Brandon Ellington of Kansas City and Rep. Bruce Franks of St. Louis. Rep. Ellington has sponsored several of our bills. Rep. Franks is on the Corrections Committee as well as a member of the task force charged with investigating the DOC. Some of our members spoke with him about incarcerated family members. The ACLU Lobby Day was held the same day, and buses from St. Louis and Kansas City brought citizens to the capitol. They expected a turnout of 400 people.
A committee hearing was held that afternoon on several bills, including two that we support: HB274 would require children under 18 to be prosecuted in juvenile court unless certified as adult. Also heard was HB351, which addresses detention and shackling of juveniles and shackling of pregnant women.
I believe this was a productive day’s work. For some of us, it was the first time visiting the Capitol. Others of us have varying degrees of experience. Each time we lobby, we learn more about the process and what it takes to make a difference. Hedy Harden, Chair, Missouri CURE