Same-sex marriage objector ballot issue might not be dead. Bill Wise reports.
The House has voted to create a new legislative committee to study the state’s programs to help low-income Missourians. Bill Wise reports.
A same-sex marriage proposal has failed in a House committee, but with enough support the issue could come up on the House floor this session. By a split vote, the measure failed in committee Wednesday with three Republicans voting against it – Ann Zerr, Caleb Rowden and Jim Hansen.
The measure would ask voters if religious organizations and businesses should be protected in the state Constitution from penalties and lawsuits for refusing services in gay weddings. Opponents say the proposal would protection discrimination against same-sex couples while supporters say it would protect those with religious objections to gay marriage.
Senator Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis) says there are ways to keep his proposal alive.
“I’m not familiar with all the details of House procedure, whether that might be an option available to the sponsors. Certainly, anything that can be done to get the voters a chance to vote on this, I’d be in favor of,” said Onder.
Representative Paul Curtman (R-Union) is carrying the resolution in the House and five Republicans are co-sponsoring it.
In order for the measure to stay alive this session, House supporters have at least two options. One of those committee members who voted against the proposal would have to change his or her mind and request that it be brought back up.
For the full House to bring it up, at least 55 members would have to sign a petition relieving the committee of the bill. The petition would have to be published in the House Journal and the discharged bill would have to be placed upon the chamber’s regular business calendar.
If the measure doesn’t advance, Onder says it could be back again.
“Whether next year or in the future, I think religious liberty is not going to be an issue that will go away,” said Onder.
Two of those Republicans who voted against the resolution – Zerr and Rowden – are running for the state Senate. Voting against their colleagues on a Republican-driven issue could impact their campaigns.
“I don’t want to go into specific legislators and specific races, but I believe that protecting religious liberty is not a bad political position to take. In all honestly, doing the right thing should take precedent over political expediency,” said Onder.
The measure passed in the Senate at the beginning of March after a record filibuster by Democrats. Republicans killed debate by using a controversial procedural maneuver, leading Democrats to slow Senate business for a few days.
Three Republicans sided with Democrats in voting to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment regarding same-sex marriage.
The amendment would have blocked penalties and lawsuits against businesses and religious organizations who deny services in same-sex marriages.
One of the Republicans who voted against it in a House Committee is Anne Zerr (R-St. Charles). She believed its passage could have hurt Missouri economically, but is open to revisiting the question.
“You see what was happening in other states, in Indiana, and cancellations, and I know that the NCAA has kind of threatened if this passed that they would be cancelling, and that’s a huge economic hit to Missouri. Huge – that would be tens of millions of dollars,” said Zerr, who had expressed similar concerns in an earlier hearing on the resolution.
She believed it needed more time and development.
“I just, number one, wanted to get a balance and number two, why would we not just let this rest a little bit, see how other states handle their laws, their bills, whatever, and see how they handle any concerns and problems that might come up and then we can tackle it next year,” said Zerr.
She said the bill also needed to be worded better and expressed concern about adding the language she saw to the state Constitution, where fixing it later would require voters’ action.
Zerr and one of the other three Republicans who voted against SJR 39, Representative Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia), are running for the state Senate. She doesn’t believe her vote will hurt her in that race.
“I believe I did the right thing for my district and the people of Missouri, and I’ll go back to jobs. If we do something and we lose conventions, business, companies, that is certainly reducing jobs,” said Zerr.
Rowden, who issued a statement about his vote, did not agree to an interview with Missourinet.
The other of the three is Jim Hansen (R-Frankford), who in an emotional statement before the vote was taken cited his faith in explaining his position.
“I feel that I’m free in this country to worship the way I want, and I don’t need a law to tell me how to worship,” said Hansen, who added, “I have family that’s in this situation, but I love ’em.”
The vote on the resolution was 6-6, so it failed. With enough support, it could still be brought up for a vote on the House floor.
The House has voted to create a new legislative committee to study the state’s programs to help low-income Missourians, but not all lawmakers think it’s necessary.
The proposal from Representative Diane Franklin (R-Camdenton) would create a new House-Senate Joint Committee on Public Assistance. Franklin says she wants to do a thorough investigation of public assistance programs and project their growth.
“What we want to achieve is accurate information to help as many people as we want to. We are compassionate but we also believe in accountability and fiscal responsibility,” said Franklin.
Democrats including Tracy McCreery (D-St. Louis) accuse Republicans of trying to appear compassionate after passing a bill carried by Franklin last year, over a governor’s veto, that shortened how long people could be on assistance.
“We tried to bring it up, the numbers were ignored, you specifically said that our numbers weren’t accurate, and now we’ve got six-plus thousand children that have gone
hungry because of things that we’ve done in this body last year,” McCreery told Franklin.
Representiave Bonnaye Mims (D-Kansas City) said the panel isn’t needed.
“You’ve got people that know this information. You’ve got people that can give you everything that you’re asking,” Mims said to Franklin.
Franklin said the new committee could spend more time on, and be more thorough in reviewing, those social programs, potentially helping more Missourians that need it.
“You have the time to do it, you can bring in the people that you need to talk to, review information, collect information, and put together good policy,” said Franklin.
The proposal is part of a bill in conference between the House and Senate.
A controversial gay marriage proposal has been voted down by a House committee. Alisa Nelson reports.
Missouri political leaders are reacting to the vote in a House Committee to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment regarding same-sex marriage objectors.
The proposal would have asked Missouri voters whether the state Constitution should bar penalties or lawsuits against business owners and religious organizations who decline to offer services in same-sex weddings.
In a statement, the sponsor of that resolution, Senator Bob Onder (R-Lake Saint Louis), said, “I am deeply disappointed that Missourians will not have the opportunity to vote on protecting religious freedom. Seven weeks ago, the Missouri Senate stood strong through the longest filibuster in state history and voted 23-7 to advance SJR 39. Today, House members caved to pressure from special interests and killed the religious freedom amendment. It is wrong that Missouri voters will be denied a voice in the decision making process.”
The measure would be handled in the House by Representative Paul Curtman (R-Union). He wrote, “Protecting the religious liberty of our people is a fundamental characteristic of our identity as Americans. Although today’s vote is a setback, the principles of personal freedom and true tolerance are ideas that have traditionally allowed our economy and society to prosper and I’m confident that the people of Missouri will continue to expect our government to protect these principles for generations to come. I’m thankful to Speaker Richardson and Representative Haahr for accommodating me and working with me in my effort to acquire support for this bill. Their statesmanship was unprecedented and I am truly grateful to them both.”
Three Republicans voted with Democrats in opposition to the resolution, and in a 6-6 vote it failed. One of those Repubilcans is Representative Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia). In a statement he said,
““I have spent most of my adult life in ministry; first as a full time Christian recording artist and second as the Worship Pastor at my church in Columbia. I disagreed with the bill as written and voted no. I did not believe SJR 39 was the right way to move our state forward at a time when the people of Missouri are looking for leadership on how to fix our roads, grow our economy, and keep our families safe.”
Representative Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield) chairs that committee, the House Committee on Emerging Issues, which took testimony for four hours on the issue two weeks ago and saw some members stay after the hearing formally adjourned to hear additional speakers.
Haahr wrote, “From the moment our committee received SJR 39, we made every effort to fairly and fully review the legislation and consider all sides of this important issue. My committee members took hours of testimony, and received hundreds of phone calls, and thousands of e-mails on both sides of this issue. While I personally supported SJR 39 and am disappointed in this result, I thank my members for their time and work. I will continue to personally fight for the protection of religious freedom in our state.”
House Speaker Todd Richardson wrote, “I want to thank the members of the Emerging Issues Committee for taking the time to thoroughly vet, discuss and debate the vitally important issue of religious freedom. As I said from the beginning, our goal was to respect the legislative process by allowing SJR 39 to be carefully deliberated by our members. While I am disappointed by today’s outcome, I understand this is a very difficult issue and I remain committed to fighting for the religious freedoms of all Missourians. I am confident this caucus will continue to pursue policy solutions to ensure these freedoms are protected.”
House Minority Leader Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis) in reacting to the vote, said, “The House Emerging Issues Committee is to be commended for declining to advance Senate Joint Resolution 39. I know this was difficult decision for many committee members and that pressure was intense from all sides.
“The ultimate issue here is whether our state constitution protects all Missourians or grants special rights to some to detriment of others. In the years to come, I am confident today’s action will be remembered as being on the right side of history.”
Senate Democrats led a record filibuster against the resolution before Republicans forced a vote on it. Senate Democrat Leader Joe Keaveny (D-St. Louis) wrote, “Protection of one’s religious beliefs is a worthy discussion, but this bill was written with malice targeting one group. I am truly thankful that cooler heads prevailed among the supermajority.”
Governor Jay Nixon (D) called the vote today an, “important moment. Today’s action – to reject discrimination – will stand as an enduring example of goodness and of growing beyond past prejudices, while protecting people’s right to practice their faith. I thank everyone who was involved in this effort to protect the rights of all Missourians and stop this discriminatory measure.”
A University of Missouri study says nearly one million Missourians lack food or worry about not having enough of it. That translates to nearly one in six individuals lacking adequate access to food.
Study author Sandy Rikoon and his team at Mizzou’s Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security compiled the data, which charts food insecurity and hunger on a county-by-county basis. He says Missouri households are the hungriest they have been in decades.
“Year after year, Missouri’s numbers continue to get worse in terms of the percentage of population that is anxious about having sufficient food and then the percent of population that actually experiences disruptions in terms of skipping meals,” said Rikoon.
A 2015 USDA report ranks Missouri the state with the second greatest number of people lacking food in the nation.
“Food is a tradeoff. You have to pay for your gas. You have to pay for your rent. Food is at the bottom of that list and we are finding that more people are pressed to the edge,” said Rikoon.
Rikoon says one of the most vulnerable populations is children.
“About one out of every five children lives in a home that is food insecure, which is a really high percentage. Although, it’s our experience and probably most people’s experiences that in these households if there’s any food it’s often given to the children first. Their experience of hunger is probably less. We also know that children who are food insecure, do worse in school, miss more school days and fall asleep more in class,” said Rikoon.
He says another vulnerable population is the elderly, especially in northern Missouri.
“The elderly are much less likely to participate in government programs, for various reasons like access and stigma,” said Rikoon.
The report also shows that southern Missouri continues to have the greatest levels of those lacking food.
“It’s pretty clear that the highest levels are in the Ozarks in southern Missouri, the Bootheel and a few rural northern counties. It’s also clearly a problem in the urban areas. By and large it tends to be a core urban and a rural problem, but we really try to stress to folks is that it’s also a suburban problem,” said Rikoon.
Rikoon says more than 260,000 Missourians receive assistance from food pantries each month.
A state House committee vote has killed SJR 39, the controversial proposed amendment to the Missouri Constitution that, backers said, would have protected those who denied for religious reasons services to same-sex weddings. Opponents said it would have protected discrimination against the LGBT community.
The committee vote was split 6-6, so the resolution was defeated. Three Republicans – Jim Hansen (R-Frankford), Anne Zerr (R-St. Charles), and Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) – voted against the resolution.
The vote was preceded by emotional statements from several legislators, including Hansen.
“You know they call it ‘religious freedom,’ I feel that I’m free in this country to worship the way I want and I don’t need a law to tell me how to worship. I don’t need a law passed to make it legal to be a Christian,” said Hansen. “This law’s, to me, asking me to play God, and I’m not God. I am not God.”
“I have family that’s in this situation,” said Hansen.
The only African-American member of the committee, Sharon Pace (D-St. Louis), compared the potential effect of the resolution to those of segregation.
“I’ve heard people on the committee saying, ‘Well if they won’t serve you one place, go to another. That doesn’t work here. Where were we when we had the water fountains that we had to go to – African Americans – the restrooms that we had to go to, we didn’t have another place to go. We had to go there. We were abused. This bill is nothing less,” said Pace. “To sit here and separate us the way were doing, it’s just appalling and it’s hurtful.”
Representative Mike Colona (D-St. Louis), the only openly gay member of the state House, said the issue had been emotionally taxing for all members of the committee. He said the vote reflected, “what Missouri is really all about.”
“Some issues transcend politics, and my hope has always been that if you give people enough and accurate information, have faith in them, and the right thing will happen,” said Colona. “I think if this were to go to a vote of the people you would see the same result. This would go down in flames.”
SJR 39 passed the state Senate earlier this year after a record filibuster by Democrats, who continued to slow business in that chamber for days after Republicans forced an end to that filibuster and a vote on the resolution.
A Senate committee is reviewing regulations for ride-sharing companies proposed by the House. Bill Wise reports