Legislative Column for the Week Ending April 17, 2015
Legislative Update

As the 2015 regular session heads into the home stretch, legislators geared up for a productive week.  The week began with a barrage on social safety net programs.  Senator Nasheed was among two Senate Democrats to participate in the conference committee, which included members from both chambers, on Senate Bill 24. The legislation is aimed at cutting the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The measure was sent to the governor on votes of 25-9, with all democrats in opposition in the Senate; there was a vote of 111-36 in House of Representatives on the bill.

Simply put, Senate Bill 24 is a bad bill. The legislation would place a 45 month lifetime limit on TANF benefit recipients. The lifetime limit extends to all recipients, even children in families that receive the benefits.  If signed into law by the governor, the bill would cut an estimated 9,465 people from benefits. Of those, 6,310 would be children.

After participating in the conference committee, I refused to sign the committee’s report. I couldn’t put my name on something like that. Imposing a full-family sanction on these low-income Missouri families is a harsh penalty that will harm the poorest kids in our state. We’re punishing children who have no control over their situation.

Later that day, the Senate majority took up another bill that would cut unemployment benefits. In response to these actions, Sen. Nasheed stated, “From refusing to expand Medicaid, to reducing unemployment benefits, to slashing the mental health budget and now this cut to TANF. When will these attacks on the poor stop? I am committed to raising my voice for the voiceless as this session continues, and I vow to do anything to fight the bad legislation that is hurting our less fortunate citizens in the state of Missouri.”

Bills and Committees

After a long session on Wednesday, Senate Bill 334 was perfected on the Senate floor, and then Third Read and finally passed on Thursday, sending the measure to the House. Senate Bill 334 would award expanded degree granting authority to Harris-Stowe State University and would allow them to grant master’s degrees.

This bill is one of my top priorities this session, and it’s good to see it moving forward. Harris-Stowe State University is a pillar in the community and it provides valuable opportunities for its students to become well-educated members of society.

Also Third Read and Finally Passed this week, was my Neighborhood Watch Funding bill. Senate Bill 155, if signed into law, would create a Neighborhood Watch Fund that can be used for the establishment and maintenance of neighborhood watch organizations throughout the state. This bill has also reached the House.

My criminal records expungement bill (SB 165) , which has been combined with other Senate bills originating on both sides of the aisle, was voted “do pass” in the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. It will now need to be reported to the full Senate.

On Tuesday, Senate Bill 269, legislation know as the “Anti-Shackling” bill received a positive hearing in the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. The measure would prohibit the use of restraints like handcuffs, straightjackets, and irons on children under the age of 17 in court proceedings unless it is deemed necessary by the court. In the hearing, I stated that this is a human rights issue. Many of these children have never been shown respect or compassion and the use of shackles perpetuates those negative circumstances for children, and can be psychologically damaging. Several witnesses travelled to Jefferson City from all over the country to testify in favor of the bill.

Both the Senate (SB 1) and House (HB 42) versions of the “School Transfer Bill” were considered this week and both included language I proposed regarding social promotions. Social promotion is the practice of moving a student from one grade level to the next for social reasons without regard to whether the student has attained the academic credentials to do so.

Also, two of my sponsored bills, relating to transportation (SB 156 and SB 166) took the next step toward becoming law this week when they both passed out of the House Transportation Committee. Senate Bill 156 honors Senator Theodore McNeal, Missouri’s first African-America State Senator, by naming a portion of Highway 115 after him.  Senate Bill 166 would designate the “Dare to Dream” license plate in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Both bills were referred to the House Committee on State and Local Governments.

Finally, my charter school retirement board bill (SB 270) passed through the House Select Committee on Financial Institutions and Taxation, and will now move on to the House floor.  In addition, SCR-2, my legislation dealing with Pica Awareness Month, passed through the House Select Committee on Commerce and will be taken up on the House floor next week.


There was little progress this week in appropriations. The official budget was changed by the Senate after passing out of the House which unfortunately has slowed down the process. Funding for Mental Health and Social Services were cut; 4% to the first and 6% to the latter as well as an extension of managed care statewide.

Managed care brings its own controversy by adding a layer of bureaucracy to Medicaid clients, but it also may help focus on preventative care.

The cuts that were made created controversy between the chambers as well as within the Senate itself. It narrowly passed the first time, getting only the required two thirds majority votes in the House.

The conference committee between the House and Senate will be held on Monday to resolve the differences that the two chambers have in the appropriations bill.

Other News


In the House today, legislation that would slightly increase the state fuel tax appears stalled in the Missouri Senate, which debated the measure on April 14 and April 15 but set it aside without a vote amid opposition from anti-tax senators. Missouri’s fuel tax of 17 cents per gallon was last increased in 1996 and today is one of the lowest in the nation.

The Missouri Department of Transportation’s construction budget has sharply declined from a high of nearly $1.37 billion in 2009 to $685 million this year. MoDOT officials anticipate that by 2017 its construction budget will further shrink to $325 million, about the $160 million less than the $485 million annually it takes to just to maintain the state highway system.

State Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, initially proposed increasing the fuel tax by 2 cents a year over three years for a total hike of 6 cents per gallon. The tax rate would then be adjusted annually for inflation under the bill, SB 540.  During Senate debate, however, the bill was amended to a one-time 2-cent increase with no inflationary adjustment. The additional $55 million generated by a 2-cent hike would give MoDOT sufficient matching revenue to draw down Missouri’s share of federal highway funds in 2017 but not in 2018.


This week, my office received news that Harris-Stowe State University had been approved by the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education to grant additional programs.  Harris-Stowe will now be able to offer a Bachelor of Sciences degree in Political Science with minors in International Relations, Public Policy and Administration, Pre-Law, and Urban Politics.

It has been a fantastic week for Harris-Stowe State University. With one new academic major, four new academic minors, and my SB 334 being passed out of the Senate, Harris-Stowe has a lot to celebrate this week.  Harris-Stowe State University officially installed their new President. Dwaun J. Warmack, Ed.D.

This week, I was pleased to welcome several high-profile guests, including a special visit from the 8th graders at Bertha Knox Guilky Pamoja Preparatory Academy in St. Louis. The students took a tour of the Capitol and were introduced on the floor. I saw several young people that I think are going to be returning to the Capitol Building before too long. Speaking with young leaders is my favorite part of this job.

Among the many other visitors this week, I hosted several firefighters in my office who were visiting on Tuesday for the “Emergency Workers Advocacy Day.” They were joined by leaders from the St. Louis Boys and Girls Club, and from the Missouri Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.

I also announced this week that I will be officially supporting several St. Louis area organizations in their bids for state tax credits through the Neighborhood Assistance Program:

-The St. Patrick’s Center forwards its mission of providing opportunities for self-sufficiency and dignity to the people of St. Louis through its Employment Enhancement Program.

-Kingdom House provides many services to the St. Louis area including its Senior Companions Program which offers security and support for neighborhoods and citizens in the area.

-Arch Grants is dedicated to economic development and job creation in the St. Louis area and works to provide incentives for living wage employment with particular emphasis in the STEM fields.

-Humanitri provides low-income families and ex-offenders with housing and case management services throughout the St. Louis area.

-The Carondelet Community Betterment Federation organizes donations by businesses that promote independence and quality of life for senior citizens in the community.