Whether you agree or disagree with how I've framed one more of these issues, I want to hear from you. Each of us learns by advocating for our own ideas, while listening to the ideas of others. Please share your thoughts, concerns, and proposals with me any time. I want to hear from you.
As a son of two school teachers, and a teacher myself, quality education for all Missouri children will always be one of my top priorities. As a teacher I understand that the best education always starts at home, and truly begins at birth; which is why I am a strong supporter of paid family leave policies that allow parents adequate time to care for and bond with their child in the most critical hours. Today there are counties in our state without a single licensed daycare, and where children have no access to early education. Moreover, the state of Missouri does not require public schools to provide free, full-day kindergarten. While our national conversation continues to address the soaring cost of college tuition, we've got to start earlier here in Missouri, and make sure every child, regardless of their zip code, has the opportunity to begin their educational journey at the same time. Solving this educational inequality is a bi-partisan objective, and will be one of my first priorities.
Criminal Justice Reform
We must implement more of the bipartisan Ferguson Commission Report. SB5 which made reforms to our municipal court system was a great start, but we must do more to protect the constitutional rights of our poorest citizens, including eliminating warrant fees, arbitrary bail practices, ensuring that those incarcerated receive medical care, and requiring debtor examinations of indigent defendants so that we can end the practice of debtors' prisons and stop criminalizing poverty. We must also work to make our justice code more rehabilitative by eliminating mandatory-minimum sentences, and raising the adult-certification age in our justice system to 18 (two Republican-sponsored bills this past session).
If there ever was a universal value, it is the right of every citizen to be treated equally by their government. Women deserve equal access to health care, including abortion, and equal pay in the workplace. LGBT Missourians should be able to work freely, without the fear of being fired. Transgender students deserve to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Immigrants must be able to live, work and contribute to society in peace, without the extra burden of having to prove their status to neighbors or colleagues because of the color of their skin. And Black lives must matter more in our local justice system.
Gun Violence Prevention
The Missouri legislature continues to loosen gun laws each year as our gun violence statistics skyrocket. We're a big state, and as St. Louisans our goal for the moment should be trying get "small government" conservatives in Jefferson City to practice what they preach - local control. We have a gun violence crisis ongoing in St. Louis, and our local elected officials have tools, resources, and policies to address the issue - but their hands are constantly tied by legislators in Jefferson City who want our city to be as much the Wild West our state's most rural counties. This is untenable. Moreover, Missouri does not hold adults responsible when a child accesses a firearm and has no legal requirements for the safe storage of guns.We can no longer expect prosecutors to be creative in holding adults accountable when our child endangerment law is lax. With a background as a preschool teacher and lawyer, I promise to continue Rep. Stacey Newman's gun violence prevention advocacy by working on her child safety legislation until it becomes law.
Again, this is an issue where our big state must work together to find policies that work for individual communities. Some communities will benefit from wind, others from solar, others from biowaste. Farmers and urbanites have more in common on this issue than just about any other, based on what each community stands to gain. It's time we work together to improve our environment and reduce our utility bills.
Our responsibility as citizens to look after one another is summed up in these two words. Health care must be affordable, accessible, and equitable for every Missourian. A person's income should decide whether or not to remove their belly fat, not whether or not they can afford to remove a cancerous tumor. No one should go bankrupt, lose their job, or lose their home because of necessary medical bills. We must commit as a society to a system of health care delivery that prevents economic catastrophe resulting from an illness or injury. We must expand Medicaid so that no Missourian loses their health, or their life, because they can't afford medical treatment. Medicaid expansion benefits urban and rural Missourians alike, and right now rural hospitals are feeling the biggest pinch. Yet another issue where we stand to gain bipartisan support if we approach the issue from the right perspective.
The most fundamental right in our democracy faced a major setback last year when Missouri passed a highly-restrictive voter ID law, which requires a valid, non-expired, in-state photo ID in order to cast a ballot. This is a poll tax on senior citizens, the poor, college students and those who rely on public transportation. Now that this is the law, the goal for those of us who want to make voting easier, not harder, will be to fight this new policy in the courtroom, but also ensure, through the legislature, that the state provides sufficient funding, training and resources primarily to communities most affected by this new law, so that - above all else - every Missourian who wants to vote, can vote.
A Fair Economy
Our first priority should be to convince conservative legislators to practice the type of small government they preach, when it comes to economic policy. Communities like ours should be allowed to thrive, unhindered by red tape in Jefferson City, by setting wages, benefits, and economic policies that work locally. Economic policies like right-to-work, tort reform, and a retroactive minimum wage are broadly detrimental to the middle class and eventually have a negative impact on the quality of life of everyone who participates in our state's economy. In Clayton alone, day time population surges from 16,000 to 46,000 - many of these individuals coming from other communities to earn a living painting, plumbing, performing electrical work, construction and a number of other labor occupations. Others come to wait tables, style hair, and stock shelves. These contributors to our economy deserve a fair wage for their work, health benefits for their family, and the ability to retire after decades of service to their industry.