March 31, 2016

I’m not even close to being done

By: Sen. Lena C. Taylor

My friends and family give me a hard time for not slowing down long enough to smell the roses.

The honest truth is that I just don’t know any other way. I demand the best from my team for our constituents.

Yes, Republicans ended our legislative session more than a month early. Yes, that means bills aren’t likely to pass. But, unlike many in the Legislature, no that does not mean I’ll stop working. There is always more to do because people still need help and I won’t stop until we get it for them.

For example, my Senate district includes the zip code 53206, which has the highest incarceration rate in the state, maybe even the nation. People aren’t born criminals. It’s a learned behavior that comes out of a feeling of hopelessness. We need to provide our people with hope. To me, that means family-supporting jobs, access to quality healthcare and a great education.

Good public policy is a leading ingredient in the recipe of change. Until the very last day that we can introduce legislation, I will continue to work on bills that help solve our juvenile justice crisis, reduce crime, reduce food deserts and improve health care. Here are just a few of the bills I’ll be introducing yet this session:

  • Juvenile Corrections to DCF – We must not forget that juvenile offenders are kids. Their brains haven’t fully developed and they aren’t mature enough to handle prison. I think we would have much more success with juvenile offenders if we put the Department of Children and Families in charge of juvenile corrections.
  • Recidivism Reduction Grants – Incarceration costs us both financially and socially. Crime doesn’t pay, it costs. My bill will create a grant to support programs run by local governments and nonprofit groups that have a proven track record of reducing recidivism.
  • Smart Revocation – Far too many people on parole are revoked for minor offenses. This throws them into a spiral of incarceration limbo, making it harder to hold a job and create a stable life outside of prison. My bill will give greater certainty to individuals in this situation.
  • Food desert microloans – Many small businesses, like grocery stores, have a difficulty accessing start-up funds. My bill will help end food deserts by providing crucial loans to grocery stores willing to move into underserved communities.
  • Community Health Workers – For a variety of reasons, people to take advantage of health care. That’s where community health workers come in. These individuals interested in the health care field will work with people to ensure they can get to their appointments, take their medicine on time and provide a number of other incredibly important preventative health care services.
  • Banning Deceptive Election Practices – Our community is often a target of deceptive election practices. You’ve seen the ads where they remind you to vote on the day after Election Day, or tell you the polls close sooner than they really do or try to send you to the wrong polling place to vote.

Maybe they’re right. Maybe I don’t smell the roses enough. But smelling the roses doesn’t teach a kid how to read, it doesn’t put people in jobs instead of prison and it doesn’t feed our people. So I say, let’s get back to work!

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