MBA December Newsletter

We hope you're getting to enjoy the holidays and time off if you've gotten it. We wish all our neighbors, family, and friends a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza and a wonderful New Year. Even though it's the holidays, MBA is hard at work keeping you informed. 

What could be better fodder for the inevitable political conversations you'll have this holiday season than a December Newsletter from MBA? Start your year off right by reading about the important bills pre-filed in the Missouri legislature and other happenings in our local community!

Muslim Community Celebrates Parkway's
First Pakistani-American Candidate

On December 11 around 8 AM, after waiting 2 and a half hours in the early morning frost, Farida Ahsan became the first Pakistani-American to file her candidacy for one of the 2 open seats on the Parkway School Board. Farida is a Parkway mom, a realtor with Coldwell Banker Gundaker and a Pakistani-American Muslim who lives in West County.

There are several thousand Muslims that live within the district and hundreds of Muslim students attend Parkway schools. Yet, this group has never really had or sought direct representation at this level.

Muslims for a Better America, which was involved in the 2018 Parkway School Board race, seeks to educate the Muslim community on the importance of local levels of government. Executive Director Saad Amir stated, “I think the last Parkway election really highlighted to our community the importance of local government, and especially the school board. The fact that just a few months after an election that unfortunately revolved around Islamophobia a Muslim has decided to actually walk the walk and put in the work – it’s an incredible feeling.”

With Farida’s candidacy, MBA is excited about one of the first steps the local Muslim community is taking to get more involved with the civic process. If elected, she would be the highest-ranking Pakistani-American voted into office in the state of Missouri. As of 12/29/2018, Sam Sciortino, the current Vice President of the School Board, has filed for reelection.

2019 Pre-filed Legislation

The 2019 Missouri Legislative session will begin January 9, 2019. Incumbent Representatives and Senators are allowed to "pre-file" legislation starting December 1 before the session begins. This allows legislation to be introduced in the appropriate committees faster, allowing more legislation to be debated upon. This year, several hundred bills were pre-filed in both chambers. Below we will outline some of these by dividing them into important topics. 


Prescription Drugs

SB 155 - Luetkemeyer (R-34) & HB 188 Rehder (R-148) "The Narcotics Control Act"
The Narcotics Control Act has been introduced in both the Missouri Senate and the House. This Act would establish a state-wide prescription drug monitoring program, much like the one that St. Louis County has heralded.


Right to Work

SB 63 - Burlison (R-30) - Prohibits employers from requiring employees to join or not join a union or pay dues as a condition of employment. 

HB 259 - Taylor (R-139) - Prohibits employers from requiring employees to join a union or pay dues as a condition of employment. Allows for this issue to be put on the ballot for citizens to vote on. If 50% of Counties plus 1 county approve, then it becomes state-wide law. 


Justice Reform

SB 8 - Emery (R-31) - "Justice Safety Valve Act" - Allows courts to depart from mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for certain nonviolent offenses

HB 64 - Unsicker (D-91) - Abolishes the Death Penalty

HB 304 - Roberts (D-77)- Allows courts to depart from mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for certain nonviolent offenses. Also allows certain nonviolent offenders to become eligible for parole.


Guns

SB 42 - Schupp (D-24) - Establishes "extreme risk order of protection". A family member or other qualified individuals are allowed to report a firearm owner as an extreme risk either to themselves or others and law enforcement will take the gun away. 

HB 90 - Green (D-67) - Orders the Department of Public Safety to commission a study on gun violence

HB 258 - Taylor (R-139) - Expands where conceal and carry is allowed and prevents any state, political subdivision or public institution of higher learning from preventing conceal and carry where it is otherwise not prohibited.


Sports Betting

In May of 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that a federal ban on sports betting violated states' rights. As such, legislation has been filed all across the US to capitalize on this billion dollar industry. 

SB 44 - Hoskins (R-21) - Allows betting on professional and college sports teams. 12% tax on gross receipts which will go towards funding education. 2% administrative fee on total revenue will go to the Veterans' Capital Improvement Fund. 1/2% separate tax each quarter on total amount of bets wagered with funds going into Missouri's Entertainment Fund which provides funds to improve sports and entertainment stadiums and arenas. 

HB 119 - Smith (R-163) - Allows betting on professional and college sports teams. 6.25% tax on adjusted gross revenue with funds going to education. "Integrity fee" of 1% with 3/4 going to professional sports leagues and 1/4 going to the NCAA. Also mandates that gambling platforms buy their sports data from the leagues. 


Abortion

SB 110 - Koenig (R-15) - Requires doctors to inform the woman that she has the right to obtain a death certificate for the unborn child. 

SB 139 - Koenig (R-15) - Doctors cannot perform abortions unless they do a heartbeat test and can't confirm a heartbeat. If a heartbeat is detected then the doctor cannot perform the abortion. 

SB 170 - Schupp (D-24) - Repeals 72 hour waiting period prior to undergoing the abortion procedure.


Budget FY2019

Missouri lawmakers passed a $28 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2019 which began October 1, 2018. Last fiscal year, Missouri ended up with a surplus of $280 million. Unfortunately, since FY2019 began, revenue collections (revenue from individual and corporate income tax) have dramatically reduced leaving Missouri with a $110 million deficit. In order for the state to meet its budget targets, it must increase revenue collections by 2.2% for the rest of the fiscal year which ends on June 30. This could be very doable considering the state gets 50% of its collections in the 2nd half of the fiscal year when people file their tax returns. 

State Budget Director Dan Haug said that the slow revenue collection is due to the Department of Revenue undercollecting from certain individuals. The DoR has been undercollecting because of an inaccurate calculation of the federal tax deduction which was overhauled by the US Congress in 2017. Under the new policies, the typical standard federal deduction you could take in Missouri of about $6,000 was nearly doubled to close to $12,000 because the DoR did not update its tax calculations.

Fixing the formulas will solve this issue, but doing so in the middle of the fiscal year means that some of us will end up owing more come April during tax season. 

Compounding what seems to be an impending budget crisis is the fact that income taxes continue to be reduced. Revenues collected from individual income taxes account for about 66-70% of Missouri's total revenue. Due to tax cuts passed in 2014 plus another that was passed this year, Missouri's individual income tax rate will drop from 5.9% to 5.4% starting January 1, 2019. The reduction in revenue will have to be met with most likely cuts to services.

St. Louis Jews and Muslims Give Back 
on Christmas Day

8 years ago, a group of Jewish and Muslim friends got an idea to relieve their Christian friends from volunteer services during Christmas time in order to give them more time with their families. That has now blossomed to over 1,000 people from different faiths and backgrounds coming together to help the entire St. Louis community on a large scale. 

On Christmas morning 2018, over 300 people gathered at the Islamic Foundation in West County to start the day of service off with a big breakfast. Throughout the day, volunteers performed numerous and various acts service including preparing food kits for the homeless, playing games with teens in juvenile detention centers, delivering baked goods for our Police and Firefighters, and more. 

This year, organizers decided to include another aspect into the Day of Service. Based on feedback from volunteers in years past, organizers had decided to include classes on the culture and history of Jews and Muslims in St. Louis. Based on increased incidents of anti-semitism and Islamophobia, the community welcomed this effort and hundreds attended these classes - like the one held at the Turkish American Society of Missouri. 

Thank You to our Donors for raising over
$40,000!

Since MBA's inception in February of 2018, our generous donors have believed in our message and have allowed us to carry out some important projects for the Muslim community. We've secured over $40,000 in funding and are utilizing these donations to enact the programs our supporters have been asking for. We'd like to send out a huge thank you to our donors who have allowed us to achieve so much this past year. We know that MBA is doing the work that needs to be done and we sincerely feel a change in how our community views the civic process. 

We have big things planned for 2019, including debuting the MBA Fellowship Program which will train candidates to run for office; increasing the Muslim voter registration rate; and getting Muslims on the ballot. 

To accomplish all of our lofty goals next year, we need your continued support! We've come such a long way over the last year and we need to keep the momentum going. There are several ways to help Muslims for a Better America: 

1. Become a monthly donor and help MBA remain a sustainable part of our community

2. Make a one-time donation for your year-end giving

3. Designate MBA as a beneficiary in your will

4. Donate stocks, bonds, or financial instruments

5. Help spread the message! The only way we can keep MBA financially solvent is by increasing our donorbase. 

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News from Across the Country

  1. Texas County Republicans move to oust their newly appointed Vice Chair Dr. Shahid Shafi because "Shafi promotes Sharia law" and is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. No evidence has been provided to support these claims. 

  2. When Michigan Congresswoman Rashid Tlaib is sworn into office in January, her hand will be on Thomas Jefferson's personal copy of the Qu'ran

  3. With a record of 6 wins and 1 loss, the Salam School’s lady Stars are taking the sport of basketball by storm

  4. The Interfaith Alliance and the Religious Freedom Education Project release their new report: "What is the Truth about American Muslims" that outlines the community's views on important topics like sharia, jihad, the role of mosques and more.