Sunday, July 12, 2015

What we've been up to | Progress Missouri

What we've been up to | Progress Missouri

The Progress Missouri team worked hard this session to hold politicians accountable, call out extremism, and amplify Missouri heroes’ commitment to improving our state. We know that we are able to do this work because of support from frustrated Missourians like you. Thank you.

Here’s a sampling of extremism we’ve exposed and work we’ve accomplished so far this year:

Country Club hearings were banned in the House. When session began, Representatives slid right into business as usual, scheduling off-site hearings as a ruse for being wined and dined by lobbyists. We called on then Speaker John Diehl to end the bizarre practice of holding sham hearings in steakhouses, restaurants, and exclusive country club facilities outside the Capitol. Missourians saw just how out-of-touch Jefferson City has become on our livestream, on KRCG, on PoliticMO, in the Post-Dispatch, in the Star, in the Pitch, on Missourinet, among others. And the state took a tiny baby step forward in ethics reform when the Speaker announced a ban on off-site committee hearings.

Catherine Hanaway pandered to ultra-conservatives with “sexual permissiveness” gaffe. When Catherine Hanaway, Rex Sinquefield’s candidate for governor, spoke at a conservative event alongside Todd Akin, Michele Bachmann, and Phyllis Schlafly, she expressed some pretty shocking opinions. Among those was the idea that working mothers are bad for both women and their children, and that liberals’ “sexual permissiveness” is to blame for child porn. We made sure the media was aware of Hanaway’s outrageous opinions, and outlets like Salon, Raw Story, TPM, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch made sure the public was aware of them too.

Rick Brattin thought it’d be a good idea for women to get notarized permission slips to access health care. Before the 2015 session even began, Rep. Rick Brattin quietly pre-filed an atrocious bill that would require women seeking an abortion to receive written, notarized consent from the father. If passed, Brattin’s bill would have handed men veto power over women's health care decisions. In an attempt to defend his bill’s lack of a rape exception, Brattin said the words “legitimate rape,” reviving the flawed logic of Todd Akin. Our work led to coverage of this outrageous attempt to restrict access to reproductive health by Mother Jones, MSNBC, and Cosmopolitan. Even the National Journal covered the story.

Voices saying, “discrimination is not a Missouri value” were heard. Rep. Elijah Haahr, and Senators Ed Emery and Kurt Schaefer, proposed legislation that would allow Missourians to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation on college campuses, while still retaining all the privileges of being a school sanctioned student group. Sen. Ed Emery also proposed legislation to penalize state employees for recognizing same-sex marriage, Rep. Jeffrey Pogue decided to defend the "social norms" of nineteenth-century bathrooms with a bill would have banned unisex bathrooms, and Missouri GOP Chairman John Hancock expressed support for the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act after Indiana faced an damaging boycott for passing it. Discrimination is not a Missouri value, and we helped make sure that fact was shared in both the local and national press.

Kurt Schaefer’s poorly written gun bill exposed communities to danger. Last year, prosecutors warned that Sen. Kurt Schaefer’s (R-Columbia) poorly-drafted and misguided Amendment 5 put some of Missouri's most common-sense gun laws at risk. As we feared, those prosecutors have been proven right. As the law currently stands, violent felons including convicted drug dealers and gang members can legally carry firearms in Missouri. And to add insult to injury, Senator Schaefer didn’t even support efforts to fix the mess his bill created. We made sure Missourians knew how dangerous Schaefer's gun bill was and how little he seemed to care.

Kansas budget crisis shows just how wrong Rex Sinquefield's tax ideas are. Despite Kansas’s ongoing and alarming budget crisis, Missouri billionaire Rex Sinquefield continues to be a loud supporter of risky tax cuts. Apparently the destruction of the Sunflower State’s economy isn’t enough for Sinquefield, Missouri needs to experience the same hardships for him to admit that these tax cuts don’t work. We continue to shine a spotlight on the devastating impact tax cuts have had on Kansas, and make sure folks know that Rex Sinquefield would like to see Missouri in the exact same position as Kansas.

John Diehl intentionally misrepresented the Missouri Legislature to the EPA. John Diehl falsified comments on behalf of the Legislature in a federal report to undermine EPA air pollution regulations. His policy and accountability ethics are unquestionably compromised, and we made sure Missourians knew about it. 

GOP hypocrites banned local control. In a session where not that much was accomplished, GOP legislators decided to prioritize hypocritical local control issues. Dan Shaul and Caleb Rowden were both behind bills that prevent local governments from regulating local businesses. We called out the self-serving legislators and brought attention to these bills.

Jefferson City was and is still a cesspool. We continue to compile and push out data on the wild west atmosphere in Jefferson City resulting from the worst ethics laws in the country. As part of this work, we filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Redmon after he admitted during an interview to putting other legislators' expenses under his name to help legislators who are sensitive to having anything on their lobbying report. The Pitch appreciates our hard work on ethics reform:

    “Coverage of the Missouri Legislature these days isn't as comprehensive as it used to be, due to the limited resources of declining news media operations. So God bless Progress Missouri for calling bullshit on all the bullshit that goes on in Jeff City on a daily basis while the Legislature is in session.”

Oh, and we sued the Senate. ALEC Senator Mike Parson broke Missouri’s Sunshine Law while rushing so-called ’right to work’ legislation through his committee this session. At that hearing, our staffer Grace Haun had her cell phone confiscated for trying to tweet pictures of Parson’s committee ramming through the bill even the ALEC politicians admit would lower wages. This is outrageous and unacceptable. Some state senators may think that the Sunshine Law doesn't apply to them, but they’re wrong. We’re suing the Senate because our democracy works best when there is transparency and accountability, and the Sunshine Law is a necessary tool to maintain both.

Next session, conservative extremists will still hold power in the General Assembly. But we’ll be back, on day one, to continue holding politicians accountable.

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