Legislative Column for the Week Ending March 27, 2015
Legislative Update

JEFFERSON CITY — It has been a turbulent, but promising, first half to the 2015 Missouri General Assembly, Regular Session. The session began in the wake of the unrest following the tragic shooting death of unarmed teen, Michael Brown, at the hands of a Ferguson Police Officer, and the ensuing grand jury decision not to prosecute.

To date, the State of Missouri has spent a total of $12.8 million in response to the events in Ferguson.  That entire amount was an unanticipated expenditure for the Missouri General Revenue. “That was money that could have be used for education. It’s money that should be going toward the future, not spent reliving the past. I understand the need for the funds, but we need to take steps now to avoid this kind of waste in the future,” said Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City.

Senator Nasheed sponsored and co-sponsored several pieces of Ferguson-related legislation that had already been pre-filed at the start of session. “I knew it was important to be focused and get out ahead of all the politics. That is why I was sure to pre-file several bills, so that they would be considered first. That preparation has proven valuable so far,” she said.


A triumph last week was the committee recommendation of Senate Bill 42, Sen. Nasheed’s “deadly force” bill. The bill was voted out of the Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and will be taken up by the full Senate in the coming weeks. Senator Nasheed worked with her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get a version of the bill to the Senate floor. “Right now in Missouri, our statute on police use of deadly force is unconstitutional and it quite simply needs to be fixed immediately. Police officers should not be able to shoot unarmed, fleeing suspects,” Sen. Nasheed said. The deadly force statute was at issue last fall during the ultimately unsuccessful grand jury proceedings against Ferguson Police officer, Darren Wilson.


 Senate Bill 155 would establish a Neighborhood Watch Fund for the creation of neighborhood watch organizations throughout the state.  During the committee hearing on Senate Bill 155, Sen. Nasheed testified about the Neighborhood Ownership Model program that has already been implemented in some communities with success.  The bill has been placed on the formal calendar for Senate bills for perfection. 

“It is so important that citizens have resources available to take responsibility for the safety of their own neighborhoods,” Sen. Nasheed said. “I am looking forward to debating Senate Bill 155 on the floor, and I am confident it will be well-received by my colleagues.”

Another bill that has received great attention is Sen. Nasheed’s “Ban the Box” bill, Senate Bill 44. This bill would prohibit employers in the state from considering the criminal records of applicants before making a conditional offer of employment based on the candidate’s merits. After a positive committee hearing on SB 44, Sen. Nasheed suffered what appeared to be a setback when the bill initially failed to pass through committee. The senator walked into the hearing with five votes, but at the last moment, one of her colleagues changed his mind on the legislation and cast what became the deciding vote against the bill. Later that day however, Sen. Nasheed took to the Senate floor on a point of personal privilege and appealed to her colleague to honor his word and make a motion to reconsider the vote. “Trust is all you have in this building,” she said. Her colleague was convinced by the argument and agreed to have the vote reconsidered in the near future.

Just last week, Sen. Nasheed reinforced her reputation as one of Missouri’s most tenacious legislators by proudly announcing that upon reconsideration, Senate Bill 44 passed through the Small Business, Insurance and Industry Committee. “It took me back to my first session in the Missouri House,” she said.  “One of the very first lessons I learned here in Jefferson City is that to get things done, you need to learn the rules, and use them to your advantage. That lesson pays off every day.”

In the education arena, Sen. Nasheed is pushing three bills through the Senate.  Senate Bill 334 would establish a wider selection of degree programs for students at Harris-Stowe University. When asked about this bill, Sen. Nasheed said, “It’s one of my top priorities to make as many educational opportunities as possible for the young men and women in my district, and the city of St. Louis.”  Senate Bill 334 was heard in committee and is awaiting a vote in the Education Committee.

Another education bill, Senate Bill 161, has already been recommended by the Senate Education Committee to the full Senate for floor debate.  This measure focuses on anti-bullying and eroding the culture of social promotion in Missouri schools, it garnered support from the entire committee with little hesitation. Senator Nasheed stated, “Our students don’t just deserve an equal education, they deserve a quality education. Senate Bill 161 is an important step in helping our children get the education they need to contribute positively to our communities.”

Senate Bill 270 gives charter school educators representation on a board that oversees their future retirement benefits.  That bill is already through the Senate and ready to be taken up by a Missouri House Committee.

In the coming weeks, Sen. Nasheed will be looking for an opportunity to debate her “expungement” bill on the Senate floor. Senate Bill 165 creates a petition process for the expungement of certain criminal records, and was received positively during a hearing in the Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee earlier this month. This bill is about recognizing when people have paid their debt to society so that they can rejoin the community.”

Sen. Nasheed has also secured passage of several other bills she is sponsoring all the way through the Senate:

  • Senate Concurrent Resolution 1 would establish January as Sex Trafficking Awareness month in the state of Missouri. “It’s not an issue we like to talk about, but sex trafficking is a silent killer of children in our state.  There is a long way to go, but awareness is a huge first step.” SCR 1 is awaiting debate by the full House.
  • Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 would designate the month of November as Pica Awareness Month in Missouri. A constituent brought some challenges of this dreaded condition to the 5th District office in Jefferson City, and Sen. Nasheed has taken up the mantle of awareness for this misunderstood condition. SCR 2 is on second reading in the Missouri House and is waiting to be referred to committee.
  • Senate Bill 156 would name a stretch of Highway 115 the “Theodore McNeal Highway” in honor of Missouri’s first African-American State Senator. During her testimony, Sen. Nasheed said “I think it is extremely important that we are doing this during Black History Month.” SB 156 is waiting to be referred to committee on the House side.
  • Senate Bill 166 would secure language for special Missouri license plates in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The “Dare to Dream” plates allow citizens to honor Dr. King, and will also generate revenue for the state of Missouri. SB 166 is also awaiting referral to a House committee.




Early in the session the full Senate took up the much anticipated Senate Concurrent Resolution 8 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 9, bills that provide funds for much needed improvement projects throughout the state. District 5 and the City of St. Louis were among the largest recipients of the money.  Senator Nasheed made a special point of ensuring that Prince Hall Family Support Center and Harris-Stowe State University were near the front of the line to receive this money.  “Prince Hall and Harris-Stowe especially needed this money for improvements,” Sen. Nasheed stressed.



Senator Nasheed and other members of the Minority Caucus have worked for weeks to block Senate Bill 24 which attempts to cut TANF and SNAP benefits for families. The legislation would establish harsh limitations on the ability of citizens who have fallen on hard times to obtain assistance.

“The Majority Caucus continually pushes, so-called, ‘reform’ measures on safety net programs that are, in reality, thinly disguised attempts to gut services that support the neediest families in our state. If other legislators were serious about ending the cycle of poverty, they would focus their efforts on job creation, quality education, and reforming a criminal justice system that is systematically balanced against the poor,” stated Sen. Nasheed.

She also joined her Democratic colleagues in proposing amendments to SB 24 to make it more reasonable. The amendment proposed by Sen. Nasheed would make the state’s jobs search web site (www.jobs.mo.gov) available those who are facing the elimination of their TANF benefits and are looking to find work.  “Hopefully, the amendment will help make a bad bill better,” said Sen. Nasheed.


On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2015, the Senate Appropriations Committee began holding hearings on the FY16 budget.  That hearing would be the first of nine weeks of hearings, covering close to 50 hours.

Sen. Nasheed reflected on her first few weeks as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee: “From that first hearing to being able to secure $400,000 for Math and Science tutoring for St. Louis schools, it has been quite an education.  Thankfully, I’m a quick study.”

One focus of the Senate Appropriations Committee work this session has been drug courts. “Drugs are the root cause of so many issues, the specialty courts giving full service to defendants to help keep them clean and employed - and hopefully out of the criminal justice system.  Recidivism rates of 10 percent for those in an alternative court were compared to 50+ percent for regular courts,” said Sen. Nasheed.

A perennial sticking point for healthcare advocates during the appropriations process is funding for Medicaid (MoHealthNet). An issue of particular interest for Sen. Nasheed is adult dental care funding through Medicaid, which was expanded last year, but then withheld by the governor.  The FY16 budget does not carry forth the expanded budget.  Senator Nasheed worked to help secure a potential source of funding when the Senate Appropriations Committee heard and passed the tax amnesty bill, HB 384.  The House had included the estimated $60 million in General Revenue, where the Senate committee amended the bill to direct the proceeds to adult dental care only. 

In February, the committee heard testimony on proposed money for capital improvements in higher education.  Senator Nasheed was happy to report keeping two important St. Louis area projects in the budget:

  • St. Louis Community College: $5.2 million – repair/update 19 science labs;
  • UMSL: $13 million – Benton Hall update and repair.

Last week, the Appropriations Committee began the ‘mark-up’ process.  “Mark-up is where the rubber meets the road.  Final decisions are made.  Which is why I spent my spring break studying up on the budget,” Sen. Nasheed said.  The mark-up period continues the week after break and then the budget will be ready for debate on the Senate Floor. 


Floor debate during the second half of the session will likely feature consideration of two proposals that Sen. Nasheed has adamantly opposed in the past: so-called Right-to-Work,” and Voter ID.

The Right-to-Work bill, now passed through the House, would exempt certain employees from paying dues to a union, allowing many to passively enjoy the benefits of union membership. This creates what economists call a “free-rider” problem, and has resulted in lower wages in many of the states where it has been adopted. “Ultimately, it’s an effort to completely eradicate unions in Missouri, removing one of the few means employees have to bargain for fair wages, benefits, and treatment. I will fight to kill this measure, as I have with past Right-to-Work bills,” Sen. Nasheed declared.

So far, voter ID legislation has already been considered on both sides of the building. “This topic is not new, nor is my stance against it,” said Sen. Nasheed. “Sponsors and supporters of photo ID legislation say they are trying to prevent voter fraud, when no instances of voter fraud can be proven. There are approximately 240,000 Missourians registered to vote who do not possess a driver’s license. Most of those citizens are on fixed incomes and, as the state of Missouri does not provide photo identification for free, that group is pointedly affected.”

Senator Nasheed continued, “I would like to remind my colleagues that voter identification laws are already in place in the Show-Me State. Expanding those laws would invade state coffers for approximately $6 million per election. There are many other programs that could make much better use of those funds. What business does the state of Missouri have spending money ensuring fewer people can vote?”


Four bills have been passed by both chambers and sent to the governor’s desk:

• HB 16 — a supplemental budget bill for the current fiscal year, provides extra disaster funding, in particular for damage caused by rioting and unrest in Ferguson;

• HB 63 — bars current and past school superintendents from running for school board in the same district where they serve/served as superintendent;

• HB 259 — creates the Missouri Dairy Industry Revitalization fund;

• SB 149 — creates sales tax exemptions for data storage centers.

Passed by the House, now in the Senate:

• HB 116/569 — would make Missouri a right-to-work state; forbids employers from requiring their workers to join a labor organization as a condition for employment

• HJR 1 — proposed constitutional amendment to allow for a photo voter ID law

• HB 30 — would require photo identification for voting in Missouri

• HB 42 — establishes new standards for student transfers and would accredit schools by buildings rather than by district

Passed by the Senate, now in the House:

SB 5 — would limit amount of revenues from traffic fines that cities, towns, and villages can use in their budgets (first Ferguson-related bill to pass this year)

SB 11 — creates several new ethics regulations (does not include campaign contribution limits)

SB 239 — would place caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits

Passed by both chambers, but need to be combined:

SB 12 — modifies several provision related to agriculture, including beef commodity merchandising and truck weight limits (does not redefine deer and other cervids as livestock, which prompted a veto last year).

SB 24 — would reduce lifetime eligibility for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, currently at 5 years (Senate wants a 4-year limit, House wants a 2-1/2-year limit).