Legislative Column for the Week of Monday, Jan. 19, 2015
Legislative Update

JEFFERSON CITY — The 98th Missouri General Assembly’s First Regular session began two weeks ago under the shadow of the events of this past summer and fall. The tragic shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson Police Officer has divided the nation and emboldened those who seek justice and change in our legal system.   

Senator Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, was among those demonstrating in the streets and in the meeting halls around St. Louis throughout the past few months. But. Sen. Nasheed has now returned to the State Capitol with several pieces of legislation that will address some of the systematic problems plaguing the justice system in Missouri.

“Let’s not continue to look back, but instead strive to move forward by focusing on the people and accomplishments in our community. We have a lot to be proud of in St. Louis and I believe my work at the Capitol this session will promote those points of pride and help us to emerge from this dark, but important saga in our state’s history,” Sen. Nasheed stated.

A few of those ‘points of pride’ were on display recently as the Neighborhood Assistance Program, which is offered by the Missouri Department of Economic Development, announced five St. Louis organizations as its Tax Credit Awardees. The organizations ‘A Million Stars,’ ‘Gene Slay Boys Club,’ ‘Places for People,’ ‘Gateway Greening,’ and ‘Doorways,’ will split a total of $781,979 in tax credits. The tax credits are awarded to organizations whose specified program outcomes focus on distressed communities and individuals throughout the state.

On the legislative side, Sen. Nasheed pre-filed several bills, including at least three focusing on criminal justice issues that were assigned to committees last week. Senate Bill 42 would redefine when police officers can use deadly force, and imposes on officers a duty to de-escalate dangerous situations when possible. Senate Bill 43 would establish a written policy for police departments statewide to document deaths where police officers are involved. The bill will also give the Attorney General discretion to investigate all such incidents and mandate that any officer involved in the death of an unarmed victim at more than 20 feet away shall be immediately suspended without pay, pending a full investigation. Senator Nasheed is also sponsoring legislation that would prevent background checks from being used to unfairly discriminate against applicants for new jobs (Senate Bill 44).  

Senator Nasheed is also excited about reintroducing her minimum wage legislation, this year’s Senate Bill 215. The law, which would establish the state minimum at $10.00 per hour, gained some traction during last year’s session and was recommended for adoption by the Small Business, Insurance, and Industry committee. This year, Sen. Nasheed will be pushing for the bill to get to the Governor’s desk.

Senator Nasheed is also looking forward to filing legislation mandating that all police departments in the state’s major cities require their officers to wear body cameras when interacting with citizens. “There are a lot of moving parts with this one,” she said. “But I am confident that we can get this done.”

Senator Nasheed is currently co-sponsoring two bills. The first is Senate Bill 2, which would impose individual contribution limits on candidates for state offices and would bring about much-needed campaign finance reform in Missouri. This bill has been referred to committee, but has not been scheduled for a hearing. The second is Senate Bill 5, legislation that would reduce the percentage of revenue a municipality derives from traffic fines from 30 percent to 10 percent. Senate Bill 5 was heard in committee this week. 

Among the other issues on which Senator Nasheed hopes to address this year are education and the student transfer policy and human trafficking. “I look forward to touching upon all the issues on my legislative agenda this session. We have our priorities, but I will always be looking first at what I can do to make life better for my constituents,” she declared.