Legislative Column for the Week Ending March 6, 2015
Legislative Update

JEFFERSON CITY — In a week marked with lingering sadness over the untimely passing of Auditor Tom Schweich, the Capitol Building tried its best to conduct business as usual.  Many Senators, include Senator Jamilah Nasheed attended the funeral service on Tuesday morning in Clayton, Missouri. Former U.S. Senator Jack Danforth delivered the eulogy. He spoke of the importance of turning “politics into something better than its now so miserable state.”

“Those words resonated throughout the building,” Sen. Nasheed said. “And I think we all had some time to reflect on that message this week.”

Bills and Committees

Five of Sen. Nasheed’s bills passed out of committee this week:

  • SCS SB 270 would give charter school teachers and administrators in St. Louis and Kansas City a seat on the retirement boards in those two districts. SCS SB 270 was recommended unanimously by the General Laws and Pensions Committee. SCS SB 270 was placed on the consent calendar and will be taken up by the full Senate next week.
  • SB 155 is a bill that establishes a statewide, Neighborhood Watch Fund. The fund would be administered by the Department of Public Safety, and would give priority to communities with higher crime rates. SB 155 passed out of the Transportation, Infrastructure, and Public Safety Committee by a vote of 7-0.
  • Two additional bills in the Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee made their way onto the consent calendar. SB 156 names a portion of Natural Bridge Road in St. Louis the Theodore McNeal Highway, and SB 166 fixes the wording on a “Dare to Dream” specialty license plate, in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Both bills are expected to pass through the full Senate next week.
  • SCR-1, Sen. Nasheed’s Sex Trafficking Awareness legislation, took another step towards becoming law when it was recommended unanimously by the House Trade and Tourism Committee.

Sen. Nasheed also presented her three-part education bill, SB 161, to the Education Committee.  “Education is right at the top of my priority list,” Sen. Nasheed said.  “Bullying, personalized reading plans, and social promotions are all linked, and that’s why I decided to combine them in one bill.  Social promotions, especially in grades two through five, are killing our kids’ chances to become productive and confident members of our society.”

Education experts Kate Casas and Colleen Coble were among two of four who came to testify in support of SB 161. There was no testimony in opposition.  “I am happy to see that everyone seems to be on board with this bill.  We need to stop bullying, end social promotions, and ensure that our students are getting the individual attention they need. SB 161 is a common sense bill, and it’s good to see everyone rallying behind me on it.”

Other News

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice released its report on the Ferguson Police Department. In this report, it is revealed that Though African-American citizens make up a 70% majority of the city’s population, only 3% of the police department represents the black demographic. The black citizens of Ferguson are victim to 88% of the documented interactions where police officers used force, and 100% of documented police dog bites have been black citizens.

Though these statistics are appalling, they are not surprising to the people of Ferguson and in response to the events documented in the DOJ report, Sen. Nasheed said, “This documentation is extremely important because the events that happened in Ferguson will be in students’ history books in the coming years.”

Senator Nasheed then stated, “The only way to move forward from here is to dismantle the Ferguson Police Department. I suggest that another police department, one without a persistent culture of racism, be contracted to step in and provide policing for Ferguson.”

Sen. Nasheed held a press conference following the release of the report. She called for the Ferguson Police Department to be dismantled and for another police department to be contracted to step in and provide policing for the municipality. “This report comes as a shock to no one in the community. It confirms what we have known for decades.  The Ferguson Police Department needs more than some sensitivity training. To combat this kind of systematic injustice we need a fresh start. This kind of change happens only within hearts and minds, and I don’t think the Ferguson Police Department has demonstrated that it is capable of that kind of change.”

Sen. Nasheed did however caution against generalizations about police officers: “It’s important to understand that not all policemen are bad cops. But, we do need to focus on weeding out the bad apples.”

Because of the abbreviated schedule this week, the Appropriations Committee was only able to meet once.  The committee will pick up work on departmental review next week.