The Ban is Banned: after years of work by faith-based organizations and their allies, Governor Nixon signed SB680- Curls (D- KC), on June 20
The following is reprinted with permission from MORE2 Facebook page--some reflections on a winning organizing campaign. Congrats to Gamaliel of the Heartland: Kansas' and Missouri's Metropolitan Organization for Racial and Economic Equity, MORE2 and Metropolitan Congregations United, MCU!
It was true grassroots-style organizing that brought to bear a Criminal Justice Task Force within MORE2
, in 2011 when leaders started to recognize that in order to fulfill a mission of ‘Racial and Economic Equity’ they would have to pay attention to mass incarceration and the collateral damage it causes.
The first issue the group would take on was what eventually became dubbed, “Ban the Ban,” (by Susan Sneed, MCU organizer).
Ban the Ban eliminates the lifetime food stamp ban for Missourians with past drug related felonies.
The issue emerged through a listening campaign at Community Christian Church in early 2011, when what some thought was a surprising number of members identified barriers associated with their own or a loved one’s criminal history. MORE2 would secure the support of sister organization in St. Louis, Metropolitan Congregations United (MCU) to help fight for this important victory.
“Ban the Ban was the issue I cut my teeth on in MORE2 when I offered a sermon at that public meeting,” recalls Rev. Rodney Williams. And what a sermon it was: people still recall Williams having proclaimed, “Denying people food is a SIN!” Williams is now the Co-Chair of the MORE2 Board of Directors. This public meeting was a game changer: for the first time, at the urging of a MORE2 leader, a Republican, Rep. Bob Nance, would publicly declare plans to not only support but to sponsor the bill.
In the years that followed, the leaders of MORE2 and MCU worked to cultivate strong allies in both political parties. Rep. Barnes (R), was secured as a Co-sponsor of Nance’s bill, and he continued to serve as Co-Sponsor through 2014; in fact, Barnes, as Chair, saw the Senate Bill through House Committee in early May of this year when it seemed like it may not get to the floor for a vote.
leaders again and again affirmed Yes, to continue to fight this battle, featuring the issue at not one but three annual public meetings and at every single legislative day in Jefferson City. They zig-zagged across the aisle of partisan politics, pulling in allies at every turn. Where there was opposition, they secured testimony to counter-act it, finding supporters in law enforcement, recovery communities, faith leaders, and most of all: people personally impacted by the ban.
Senator Curls (D- Kansas City) filed SB680 solo in 2014; Curls is a rare Senator indeed- she told MORE2 leadership that she would happily serve as a Co-Sponsor on this bill, which she sponsored for three consecutive years in Senate, if the ‘right’ person agreed to sponsor. In the summer and fall of 2013, leadership of MORE2 met with several potential sponsors and, in so doing, created some really important allies but did NOT secure an additional senate sponsor.
Curls would file the bill and, meanwhile, 19 members of the House, from both parties, would file a similar Ban the Ban bill. Seeing a bill with such swelling support in the House meant that there was suddenly a growing contingency of groups around the state paying attention to the bill and leaders welcomed the new support.
The leaders of MORE2 and MCU made personal visits and phone calls to every single member of both legislative chambers this year and joined allies from MASW in a meeting they scheduled with Nixon’s office.
And, in an era where people question many acts of our Missouri State Legislature, through the actions of Senator Curls and so many of YOU, that same legislature said it is time to lift this ban, with only about 20 Nays in both chambers. And, today, Governor Jeremiah “Jay” Nixon completed the bill with his signature, making it a law.
-reprinted from Facebook with permission