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Representative Yolanda Young's Newsletter

February 26, 2021


Contact me at: 
201 W. Capitol Avenue, Room 102
Jefferson City, MO 65101
Phone: (573) 751-3129
Email: yolanda.young@house.mo.gov


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Dear Neighbors,

The theme of the week here in Jefferson City was expanding opportunity for children. We spent countless hours in committee and on the floor exploring the best ways to protect our state's children through reforms to education, criminal justice, childcare, and workforce development.  It's weeks like these that remind me of why I am here in Jefferson City.

I heard story after story from Missourians who have been harmed by things that a change to our laws could have prevented and I am proud to be a part of the conversations on how to turn things around. We were reminded this week that no matter your political affiliation or where you come from, affording children opportunities to succeed is a top priority. While we may have different ideas on what policies might be best, the end goal is the same. No matter what policy the vote is on, we are all doing everything we can to build a better life for Missouri's children and that is why we're all here. 
I also had the opportunity to visit the Governor's Mansion with the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus on Wednesday. We were invited by the Governor to discuss policies that would most impact Black communities and how to bridge the racial divide that many in our state experience every day. It was nice to be able to have our voices heard by the Governor before Black History Month came to a close. Our conversation around building a better Missouri for all children, including Black children was a much needed discussion. I look forward to continuing the conversation beyond February and working on solutions to the problems faced by our communities. 

If there is anything I can do for you, please don't hesitate to reach out to my office at 573-751-3129. 

Yours in Service,

Yolanda Young

 
          Missouri Legislative Black Caucus, 2021
House Again Tries to Enact Photo Voter ID Requirement
On a near party-line vote, the House of Representatives on February 24 voted 109-46 in favor of legislation to suppress voter participation by requiring government-issued photo identification in order to cast a ballot. The bill now advances to the Senate.
 
During lawmakers’ 15-year quest to impose a photo voter ID requirement, they have twice successfully enacted one into law, but the Missouri Supreme Court struck down both for violating Missourians’ constitutional right to vote. Although the current attempt, House Bill 334, avoids some of the specific problems that contributed to the court invalidating the previous two laws, it still has to overcome a high constitutional hurdle that could be hard to clear.
 
In the earlier cases, the Supreme Court held that since voting is a fundamental constitutional right, any regulations must survive strict scrutiny, meaning they must address a compelling governmental interest, be narrowly tailored to achieve that interest and do so by the least restrictive means. Supports’ professed reason for waiting to impose a photo voter ID requirement – to combat fraud – on its face seems to qualify as a compelling state interest.
 
However, the court also noted in its cases that voter impersonation at polls is the only type of fraud a photo ID requirement could prevent, and there has never been a documented case of it in Missouri. As a result, HB 334 doesn’t appear to meet the other elements of strict scrutiny that would justify the drastic action of disenfranchising the estimated 200,000-plus Missourians who don’t have a valid government-issued photo ID.
 
During the years-long debate over this issue, Democrats have maintained the GOP claim of fighting fraud is merely a pretext for voter suppression since those who are least likely to a have a driver’s license or other form of photo ID – particularly racial minorities – tend to be solid Democratic voters. Only one Republican joined unanimous Democrats in opposing the bill.
Find a COVID-19 Vaccine
Both the state and federal governments are working to direct COVID-19 vaccines to Missourians who still need to be vaccinated. This week, the Biden Administration began sending vaccine doses directly to local health organizations, as well as some pharmacy chains.

We are still in Phase 1B- Tier 2, so if you are a healthcare worker, resident of a long-term care facility, a first responder, or are considered a high risk individual (65 and older or have a qualifying health condition) you are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Governor Parson announced this week that his administration will be opening up the vaccine to Missourians in Phase 1B- Tier 3 who provide Critical Infrastructure to our state. This includes, K-12 teachers, childcare workers, agricultural personnel, and others

I encourage you to visit the COVID-19 map to find a vaccination site near you. I have been told that the following places are currently offering vaccines in Kansas City: 
If you register at more than one location, be sure to call to remove your name from other lists and free your spot for someone else who wants the vaccine.
Senate Approves More Protections for Accused Police
                  Photo by Tammy Ljungblad // KC Star
 
On February 25, the Senate voted 24-9 to advance legislation that has the potential to spark more protests over police brutality similar to those that repeatedly have flared in Missouri in recent years by making it even more difficult to hold law enforcement officers accountable for abuses of power or violating the constitutional rights of citizens.
 
Senate Bill 26 would place tight restrictions on investigations of police and grant officers special privileges that aren’t afforded to civilians whom police investigate. For example, officers would be required to be notified in writing that an investigation is underway and given the name of the investigator. Officers and their counsel would be entitled to review all video and audio evidence prior to questioning. In addition, only a single investigator could ask an officer questions, and investigations would be required to end after 90 days, even if not complete.

The bill also requires local governments to indemnify officers against civil claims for job-related misconduct, putting the financial responsibility for misconduct on taxpayers instead of officers. Officers would be empowered to sue their department for alleged violations of the investigative restrictions and be entitled to damages of $5,000 per occurrence for unintentional violations, with purposeful violations carrying a $10,000 penalty.
 
In Missouri and throughout the nation, cases of police abuse, particularly those targeting Black residents and other racial minorities, have led to widespread protests in recent years and calls for greater oversight and accountability for law enforcement officers and agencies. Legislation to provide such accountability and make it easier to remove problem officers consistently has languished in the General Assembly.
 
Other SB 26 provisions would impose harsher penalties on protestors who block traffic, discourage local governments from reducing police budgets and create a new crime of “institutional vandalism” for damaging a public monument, even though such vandalism already is illegal. During protests last summer, several Confederate monuments around the country were torn down as symbols of the institutionalized racism protestors were opposing. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives.
Ruling Hikes Pressure for More Public Defender Funding
A Cole County judge on February 18 ruled that the state’s practice of letting indigent defendants languish in jail for weeks, months or even a year or more while waiting to be assigned a public defender violates their Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The ruling puts renewed pressure on state lawmakers to significantly increase the budget for the overburdened State Public Defender’s Office to allow it to hire more attorneys.
 
In a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of defendants who been waiting to be assigned a public defender, Circuit Judge William Hickle said the plaintiffs are likely to prevail since the state law authorizing waiting lists for counsel has resulted in defendants cases being delayed and their rights violated.
 
“In particular, (the waiting list law) cannot be applied to allow the State to charge a defendant with a crime or probation violation wherein the State seeks defendant’s incarceration, and then fail to furnish the defendant with counsel within two weeks after the defendant has been found indigent and otherwise entitled to counsel; such an application of the statute violates the right to counsel,” Hickle wrote.
 
However, Hickle temporarily stayed further action in the case to give lawmakers the opportunity to provide funding for additional public defenders in the state operating budget for the upcoming 2022 fiscal year. The stay runs through June 30, the last day of FY 2021.
 
In a February 22 House Budget Committee hearing, State Public Defender Director Mary Fox requested $1.1 million to hire 16 more attorneys to help reduce the waiting list backlog. The legislature is still in the early stages of the FY 2022 budget process but must grant final passage to the various appropriations bills that make up the state budget no later than May 7.
House Passes Private School Tuition Voucher Bill
The House of Representatives on February 25 voted 82-71-1 to pass controversial legislation that would establish tax breaks to provide vouchers for students to attend private K-12 schools. Meanwhile, the Senate on February 24 shelved a charter school expansion bill amid questions about whether it has sufficient support for passage following a late-night debate.
 
House Bill 349 would allow people to donate to private organizations that would provide scholarships on a first-come, first-serve basis to qualifying students to partially pay for private school tuition. Donors would receive a tax credit for the full amount of their contribution, meaning the donor is out no money while the amount of tax revenue the state collects for public education and other services is reduced. The amount of available credits initially would be capped at $50 million annually but could eventually rise to $75 million.
 
Although the bill originally would have applied statewide, it was amended to only allow students in more populous cities and counties to apply for the scholarships in order to mollify rural lawmakers worried about the impact it would have on funding for their local public schools. Even with the change, HB 349 only garnered the bare minimum number of votes needed to clear the House. The bill now advances to the Senate.
 
The Senate’s major education measure, Senate Bill 55, also would authorize private school tuition vouchers plus expand charter schools to allow them operate in the state’s largest counties, as well as cities with populations of more than 30,000 residents, among other provisions. Charter schools, which currently are authorized only in St. Louis and Kansas City, are independent public schools that operate free of many state regulations. They have had mixed record in Missouri, with some outperforming their local school district and others doing worse. Senators debated SB 55 for nearly 12 hours before setting it aside. Further debate on SB 55 is expected.
Senate Sends Covid-19 Lawsuit Immunity Bill to House
The Missouri Senate voted 20-13 on February 23 to grant final approval to legislation providing businesses, religious organizations and medical providers with immunity from most lawsuits relating to alleged wrongful exposure to COVID-19. The bill, a top priority for Governor Parson, now advances to the House of Representatives.
 
Senate Bill 51 would prohibit most lawsuits, even when a business or medical provider acted negligently and only allow them cases in which an exposure resulted from “recklessness or willful misconduct” and a plaintiff was injured as a result. Religious organizations would be completely immune from COVID-related lawsuits unless a plaintiff could prove a deliberate intent to harm.
 
Senators defeated an attempt to include an emergency clause on the bill that would have allowed it to take effect immediately upon being signed into law by the governor. As result, SB 51 wouldn’t take effect until August 28 should it win final passage. Missouri businesses groups have been pushing for legal immunity from COVID-19 lawsuits ever since the pandemic began a year ago despite the lack of any such lawsuits yet being filed.
Joe Delaney Memorial Highway
I am proud to support a project which will designate a portion of I-435, running from State Highway 350 (Exit 66) continuing to Raytown Road (Exit 63C), as the Joe Delaney Memorial Highway. Joe Delaney was an exceptionally talented running back for the Chiefs until he heroically lost his life in an effort to save three drowning children.  

Designating a section of I-435 after Joe Delaney requires a minimum of 100 signatures from residents in Jackson County for it to be approved by the Missouri Department of Transportation.  If you live in the area and would like to support the designation, please send a pdf containing your statement of support, along with your full name, address, county of residence and typed signature to Adam Jassey, who is overseeing this project at AJKCFAN@yahoo.com
Women Legislators of Missouri Scholarship
Women Legislators of Missouri are encouraging young women, set to graduate from high school, to apply for a $500 college scholarship. Each year the group selects one student from each of Missouri's congressional districts to receive the award. 

The Women Legislators of Missouri created the senior scholarship program to provide financial assistance to students on the basis of leadership, academics, and community service. Candidates must fill out an application and are required to submit a 500-word essay answering the questions, "If you were a state legislator, what would you hope to accomplish and why?" 

A link to download the scholarship can be found at https://www.myscholarshipcentral.org 

The submission deadline is Tuesday, March 31, 2021. For further information please contact 573-751-2042. 
State government can be hard to navigate. If you need assistance with a state department or with unemployment, Medicaid, food stamps, or other state benefits call my office at (573) 751-3129. We can also guide you to community resources such as rent and utility assistance, food distribution, and COVID-19 related issues. My staff and I are here to help in any way we can. 
District 22 Staff




Kaylee Bauer
201 W. Capitol Avenue, Room 102
Phone: (573) 751-3129
kaylee.bauer@house.mo.gov 
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