The St. Louis Regional Chamber held a Missouri Public Affairs Network meeting on June 10th to recap the Missouri legislative session. Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-5th) and Representative Anne Zerr (R-65th) were the keynote speakers, each giving their thoughts on the recently completed session.
Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (left) and Rep. Anne Zerr (right) at MOPAN
Chairwoman Leann Chilton of BJC HealthCare opened the meeting by asking members to introduce themselves and identify their key priorities and session results. Following introductions, Senator Nasheed opened the discussion by highlighting the issues of urban decay, voting rights, and education. She noted that many studies have recently established a link between the presence of run-down and abandoned buildings with a decrease in educational attainment and income levels. Senator Nasheed also expressed her support for the “Ban the Box” initiative, which seeks to prevent employers from asking about prior felony convictions on job applications. Lastly, the Senator spoke passionately about the Missouri education system and bringing an end to the concept of social promotions, the idea that students should be promoted to the next grade regardless of attendance or achievement. The Senator stated that this idea, coupled with other reforms, would produce a more quality education system in Missouri. To conclude, Senator Nasheed discussed the previous session by highlighting her opposition to HB 1891 and SJR 39, as well as her support for the continuation of tax credits, economic development, and an end to social promotions in the next session. HB 1891 sought to prohibit any public employee from being required to pay dues or other fees to a labor organization. SJR 39 was a proposed constitutional amendment seeking to prohibit the state from imposing penalties for a refusal to participate in same-sex marriages due to “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Representative Anne Zerr spoke about the highest profile piece of legislation in Missouri this past session, SJR 39. Noting that this was the most difficult decision she had to make as a Representative, she explained how she spoke to many individuals and groups on both sides of the issue. Representative Zerr sits on the House Emerging Issues Committee and ultimately cast one of the crucial votes against the bill, helping to defeat it in committee by a 6-6 vote. The Representative explained that some of her concerns laid within the narrow language of the amendment, which she believed discriminated against certain groups of people. She also stated her belief that the state could be held liable for damages in court due to the nature of the bill. Representative Zerr concluded by thanking the business community for their input and perspective on the bill. Next session, the Representative stated that she would like to focus on improving transportation funding and said “transportation is our biggest economic challenge” facing the state of Missouri.