Under the Dome – March 8

Under the Dome graphic with Missouri State Capitol Dome in background

Welcome back to Under the Dome, your weekly update on the goings-on of the Missouri state legislature.

Governor’s clemency decision spotlights systemic injustice

The week in Missouri politics began with a shameful display of misplaced mercy as Gov. Mike Parson decided to shorten the prison sentence of former Kansas City Chiefs assistant coach Britt Reid while admitting he had not bothered to reach out to the family of Ariel Young.

Young was 5 when she suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of an accident caused by Reid – son of Chief coach Andy Reid – who was driving while intoxicated. As the Kansas City Star pointed out in Vahe Gregorian’s column, the governor is an avid Chiefs fan. 

The case highlights the systemic injustice inherent in the commutation process. Earlier, Parson declined to pardon Kevin Strickland, whom a Jackson County prosecutor said was “factually innocent” of a 1978 triple murder. Despite the extraordinary plea from a prosecutor to release Strickland, who is Black, Parson declined because he said he didn’t know if the man was “innocent or not.”

Reflecting on the decision, Justice Horn, chair of the LGBTQ Commission of Kansas City, said simply: “There are two systems of justice in this country.”

Brother speaks up on legislator’s attempt to bully LGBTQ+ kids and their teachers

This week the brother of Missouri Representative Jamie Gragg spoke out against his Ozark sibling’s “hateful and malicious” anti-trans bill that would label teachers as sex offenders if they support transgender students by using their chosen name and pronouns. 

In an interview with the Riverfront Times, Charles Gragg Jr. said the legislation “will cost lives and recklessly destroy others just for the sin of being compassionate.”

Meanwhile, for the second year in a row, a Missouri House committee debated GOP-backed legislation that would face the same limits on drag performances as govern “sexually oriented businesses.”

The bill, sponsored by Bethany Republican Rep. Mazzie Christensen, would also create penalties for engaging in an adult cabaret performance in a location where it could be “reasonably expected to be viewed by a person who is not an adult.” The first offense would be a misdemeanor and the second a felony.

Opponents to the legislation argued that not all drag is sexual in nature, and the legislation would further marginalize LGBTQ+ Missourians.

And while the legislature pretends this is all to “protect children,” actual victims of sexual assault, like the Kanakuk and Agape tragedies, are asking legislators to address Missouri’s restrictive statute of limitations on legal recourse.

House backs political stunt to send soldiers and state troopers to Texas border

Speaking of misplaced priorities, this week the Missouri House overwhelmingly supported Gov. Mike Parson’s $2.2 million plan to send soldiers and state troopers to the Mexican border by voting 122-12 for the money needed to finance it.

As reported in the Missouri Independent, Parson is sending 200 Missouri National Guard soldiers and 11 Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers to work with Texas law enforcement at the request of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. There are also about 250 National Guard soldiers from Missouri in Texas operating under federal orders and paid from the federal treasury.