We’re all happy that in just a few days, we’ll be out from under this dumpster-fire of a year. Then again, I’m a little worried that we’ll look back on 2016 in a few months and call it the good old days. So, there’s no time like the present to get down to business and advocate for ourselves.
First some national issues, and then some issues and events that are local to St. Louis.
Oppose Ryan’s New Rules Package:
Paul Ryan has introduced new rules that will come to a vote on January 3. (That’s Tuesday already!) Those rules will allow Ryan and house republicans fine and/or sanction fellow congresspeople if they live-stream or otherwise engage in protests like the 25 hour sit-in that happened last summer. Rank-and-file members from both parties can offer amendments to the proposed rules package before a final version will be voted on.
What can you do? Call your congressperson (find their contact info here by entering your zip code) and tell them not only that you oppose these rules, but that you expect your rep to do something about it. How? Simply say: Hello, my name is ____ and I’m a registered voter and constituent of X in (your city). Paul Ryan’s proposed rules package includes fines and sanctions for congressmen that use audio or visual recording or live stream from the chamber’s floor. These proposed rules would stifle my access to information about what my elected officials are doing. I strongly oppose these proposed rules and would like to know what [name of your representative] is planning to do about them.” NOTE: if the person answering the phone says that they do not know, say: “I fully expect [name of your representative] to support my right to see what my elected officials are doing on the floor of the chamber, by offering an amendment to these proposed rules or by voting against them. I’ll be watching for a press release showing which action [name of your representative] will take. Thanks for your time.”
Support Legislation Re: Trump Conflicts of Interest:
Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest are insurmountable. Don’t just take my word, or the media’s word, for it. Read and share the definitive paper on the Emoluments Clause – its meaning, intention, and application to Donald Trump – written by Lawrence Tribe (Constitutional Law professor at Harvard Law), Norman Eisen (chief White House ethics lawyer from 2009-2011) and Richard Painter (chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005-2007). (For good measure, here is a nice crib sheet of Donald Trump’s conflicts.)
On that topic, the Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Committee asked the Office of Government Ethics to tell them how the OGE planned to handle Trump’s conflicts. The OGE responded that just transferring control of the Trump organization to his sons doesn’t do the trick. (“Transferring operational control of a company to one’s children would not constitute the establishment of a qualified blind trust, nor would it eliminate conflicts of interest under 18 U.S.C. § 208 if applicable.”) It’s worth your read. Note for Missouri residents – Senator McCaskill is the ranking Dem on this committee – so keep supporting her efforts as part of this committee.
What do we do about all of this? Call your senator to support a bill that will be introduced by Elizabeth Warren and a number of other Senators in January that will require the president to adhere to the same conflicts of interest rules that every other federal employee has to follow. Because it hasn’t been introduced yet there’s not yet a bill number, but you can find a fact sheet about the legislation here. What can you say? “Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a registered voter and constituent in ____. I am calling to support Senator Warren’s proposed conflicts of interest bill that will be introduced in January. That bill will require the president to follow the same conflicts of interest rules that you and the Senator both have to follow. What is Senator _____’s position on the proposed legislation?” If they say “I don’t know, it hasn’t been introduced yet” say “I don’t believe the Senator has ever had difficulty following the conflicts of interest rules – or has s/he? As I understand it, conflicts of interest rules are simply in place so that constituents like me can be sure that our elected officials always have the public interest in mind – rather than their own. That seems like common sense to me. And because I know that Senator _____ believes in voting for what’s in his/her constituents best interests, I look forward to hearing about his/her support of this bill.”
Support a Bi-Partisan Commission Re: Cyber Attacks
Call your Senator (find them here) to tell them that you want a bipartisan commission to investigate cyber attacks. The pressure is on McConnell, but he is not letting up on his belief that the senate intelligence committee can handle it. As a reminder for those living in Missouri – Roy Blunt is on the senate intelligence committee. And Senator McCaskill has a long history supporting cyber security – and our cyber security program here in Missouri.
Saint Louis Local Issues
Support Alderwomen Protecting Reproductive Rights:
Two amazing alderwomen, Christine Ingrassia and Megan-Ellyia Green will be introducing a measure that would add pregnancy and “reproductive health decisions” — using birth control or having an abortion, for example — to the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance. Employers would also be blocked from firing, demoting or cutting the pay of an employee based on a decision about her health. See the measure here. As Alderwoman Megan-Elyia Green said, “it’s up to us at the local level to really ensure that women’s rights are protected.” Bravo!
Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia also plans to introduce a measure establishing a buffer zone around the Planned Parenthood clinic on Forest Park Parkway to give patients a zone of protection from sometimes-hostile protestors. She’ll also introduce legislation making disturbances at a reproductive health clinic a violation of city law. She’s also planning to push for paid parental leave for city employees, either in the annual pay bill or, if necessary, in other legislation that she will introduce.
Call your alderperson to express support for these measures! Find your alderperson here.
Attend Advocacy Training:
There will be an advocacy evening with PROMO on Thursday, January 5 from 6:00-7:30. Attendees will learn more about the legislative process in Jefferson City and how they can get involved personally.
Attend a Protest:
- Protest in St. Louis: January 9, 5:00-8:00 in the Central West End; this protest will be in St Louis in solidarity with Jefferson City protests opposing “Right to Work” in Missouri.
- The Women’s March in St. Louis will be held in conjunction with the Women’s March in DC, and will be on January 21 from 9:00-12:00. Everyone supporting women’s rights is welcome to attend.
Run For Your Local School Board:
If you are interested in running for a school board (yes, intelligent and well-informed friend, I am looking at you), now is the time to check your local district to see what positions are open. For those living in St. Louis, here are just a few of those that are available. Again, check your local district – and because most filing deadlines are in mid-January, it would be a good idea to check this soon.
Three in St. Louis City (file at 300 N. Tucker, $100 filing fee)
Three in Brentwood.
Three in Clayton.
Three in Ferguson.
Three in Kirkwood.
Three in Ladue.
Four in Lindbergh.
Three in Parkway.
Three in University City.
Three in Webster Groves.
Three in Wentzville.
Three for SSD – and note that candidates need to be residents of the following subdistricts:
- Subdistrict 1 – Hazelwood and Jennings school districts
- Subdistrict 2 – Affton, Bayless, Hancock Place and Mehlville school districts
- Subdistrict 7 – Ladue and Rockwood school districts
And some parting words – both for this week’s post and for 2016:
No dark fate determines the future. We do. Each day and each moment, we are able to create and re-create our lives and the very quality of human life on our planet.
This is the power we wield.
– Dalai Lama & Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Book of Joy
Let’s get to work.
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