In the USA...
April 11, 2013Senators Agree to Start Debate on Gun Safety Measures
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER
WASHINGTON — Pressed by shooting victims and relatives of Americans slain in gun violence, the Senate on Thursday voted to begin an emotionally and politically charged debate on gun safety proposals as advocates of new laws overcame a Republican filibuster threat.
The strong majority in favor of considering legislation that would expand background checks and increase the penalties for illegal gun sales reflected the power of a lobbying campaign by parents of students killed in Newtown, Conn., and by others who persuaded reluctant lawmakers to back them in an initial fight that looked lost just last week. The vote was 68 to 31.
“It’s remarkable,” said Senator Christopher S. Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut whose nascent Senate career has been devoted to gun safety. “You can’t turn a corner in the Capitol this week without meeting a family of a gun violence victim. It’s hard to say no to these families.”
But the victory could be short-lived. The vote in no way guaranteed passage of the gun measure; some Republicans and Democrats who voted for this initial step made clear they are not committed to supporting any final measure, even if they agreed to allow the debate.
“I am not sure I could have the courage to do what they did,” said Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, who met with family members of the Newtown victims on Wednesday. “It really does have an impact.” Mr. Burr voted to debate the bill, but said he was unlikely to go further. “Is there anything I’ve seen so far that would move me to vote for new gun laws?” he said. “No.”
The coming weeks and even months will test both the resolve and the stamina of the families, who are both the best advocates for their cause and, in many ways, least equipped for its struggle.
“Every day is hard for me,” said Mark Barden, the father of Daniel, who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. “Making lunch for my kids is hard for me. Sleeping is hard. Waking up is hard. That being said, I just feel I need to be doing this.”
The bill will again need 60 votes to end the debate after consideration of contentious amendments offered by both supporters and opponents of new laws. Opponents of the measure could also try to filibuster individual amendments.
Should the bill reach the stage where it could pass with a simple majority, it would still face a challenge. Though Democrats control 55 seats, many from conservative states who face re-election campaigns next year have indicated that they do not intend to vote for the bill, meaning Republican votes could be required to put it over the top.
Twenty-nine Republicans opposed bringing the measure to the floor, along with two Democrats. Sixteen Republicans joined 50 Democrats and two independents in voting to proceed to consideration of the legislation. The two Democrats who voted against measure are both up for re-election in tough states in 2014: Senators Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.
Next week, the Senate is expected to begin reviewing the bill in earnest by voting on an amendment offered by Senators Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia and Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, that would expand background checks to cover unlicensed dealers at gun shows as well as all online sales. It would also maintain record-keeping provisions that law enforcement officials find essential in tracking guns used in crimes.
This amendment would replace the background check provision of the original legislation, which would also create harsher penalties for the so-called straw purchasing of guns, in which people buy guns for others who are not able to legally. Subsequent amendments, dealing with mental health, a ban on assault weapons and other issues, are expected in the days ahead before a vote on the overall measure.
The omnipresence of the families this week, encouraged by President Obama, and former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, appeared to stretch even toward the House, where the journey will be even more difficult should the Senate pass legislation.
Speaker John A. Boehner, for instance, who earlier in the week reacted icily to the idea of new gun legislation, referred to the advocates Thursday after the Senate vote. “Listen, our hearts and prayers go out to the families of these victims,” Mr. Boehner told reporters. “And I fully expect that the House will act in some way, shape or form. “
Alternating between moments of intense privacy — they wept openly in the offices of senators but would not say whom they met with — and their desire to promote their cause, family members inhabited a strange world of boom mikes and cameras and procedural votes. Senators laughed and visited on the floor, as they sat in the gallery hovering above them, listening to the clerk call each vote.
Shortly after the Senate vote, Mr. Obama spoke on the phone with Newtown family members to thank them for their advocacy efforts, saying “it wouldn’t have been possible without them,” said his spokesman, Jay Carney.
History has shown that family members of those killed in natural disasters, terrorist attacks and other tragedies have been able to affect public policy, most recently those of people killed on Sept. 11, as well as people suffering illness in the aftermath.
“I think that it will make a difference,” said Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York. “It worked when we had the 9/11 legislation on the floor of the Senate. We had the first responders, the survivors, come to Washington, talk to senators, talk to House members, tell their personal stories, tell about the horrible disease that they were fighting and that they had nowhere to turn.
A sense of the oncoming debate could be seen Wednesday and Thursday as senators from both parties took to the floor to make their case for and against new gun laws.
Mr. Murphy, a freshman who in other circumstances would draw scant notice, spent hours both days on the floor with large poster-size photos of the children killed in Newtown in December. He talked about their lives, too, saying that one had an interest in the piano and another a proclivity for sharing a tiny bed with a sibling.
Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, served as the voice of the opposition, reading letters from gun owners who fear infringement on their constitutional rights, among them a pair of first-time gun owners. “Protecting our rights, the few the government has left us, is of utmost importance to us,” Mr. Lee said, quoting from a letter.
Mr. Barden, the father of the child killed in Connecticut, said he expected to return frequently to the Capitol as the debate plays out. “It’s not just about our kids,” he said. “It’s about our society that needs to continue to evolve and continue to mature. And its certainly not just about firearms.”
Jonathan Weisman contributed reporting.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: April 11, 2013
An earlier version of a photo caption accompanying this article misstated Senator Ted Cruz’s position on proceeding with gun legislation. He voted against allowing debate, not in favor of it. Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article also misstated the number of Senate Democrats who voted to cut off debate and proceed to consideration of gun-control legislation. It was 50 Democrats and 2 independents, not 52 Democrats.
April 11, 2013For Swing-State Democrats, Political Liability on Gun Control Issue
By JONATHAN WEISMAN
WASHINGTON — The families of the Newtown, Conn., shooting victims who have converged on Capitol Hill this week made a point of visiting Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a freshman Democrat known for the “North Dakota nice” of her home state, but on the main issue that brought them here — limiting the capacity of gun magazines and universal background checks — she curtly rejected their pleas for support.
“In our part of the country, this isn’t an issue,” Ms. Heitkamp explained in an interview afterward. “This is a way of life. This is how people feel, and it is extraordinarily difficult to explain that, especially to grieving parents.”
Bottom line, she said, “I’m going to represent my state.”
For years, guns have been the issue that swing-state Democrats like Ms. Heitkamp have sought to bury. Leading Democratic strategists still believe the assault weapons ban and the creation of background checks were a driving force in the Republican landslide of 1994. Six years later — after the Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore lost his home state, Tennessee; once-reliably Democratic West Virginia; and Arkansas, home to Bill Clinton, amid an onslaught of advertising by the National Rifle Association — many of those strategists vowed to let the issue of gun control lie dormant indefinitely.
But many Democrats insist the mass shootings in December at Newtown, after similar shootings in Aurora, Colo., Tucson and Virginia, have changed the politics of guns.
“We’re letting our country be governed and dictated to by the extremes,” lamented Senator Joe Manchin III, a Democrat from West Virginia who once fired a rifle at President Obama’s energy bill in a campaign commercial, as he met with seven family members of children and educators slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
To other Democrats from rural Republican states, however, the landscape does not look all that different, especially if they are standing for re-election next year. Only two Democrats, Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, voted against Thursday’s procedural vote to break a filibuster to take up the gun legislation. But others are in question for the final votes.
“We might feel good about passing something new, but what we need is already law,” Mr. Begich said after the vote, echoing the traditional gun-rights argument that greater enforcement of existing laws — not additional legislation — would suffice.
Besides Senators Begich and Pryor, there are other Democrats in question for the final gun votes. Max Baucus of Montana, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina all face tough races next year — and tough choices now.
“I don’t support the bill, but I support open debate,” Mr. Baucus, who won the endorsement of the N.R.A. in 2008, said after the vote. “Montanans are opposed to this bill — by a very large margin.”
The political perils for such Democrats are real, said Vic Fazio, a former California representative who headed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 1994 when a four-decade Democratic House majority was swept away. There were other issues — tax increases, a failed health care overhaul — but gun control loomed large, he said. The N.R.A.’s power may have diminished since then, he said, but it has also concentrated in rural, conservative states.
President Obama, until Newtown, had been a dutiful subscriber to the theory of avoiding the gun issue at all cost since the early days of his first presidential run. As recently as the second presidential debate with Mitt Romney in October, the president greeted a voter’s question on assault weapons with a meandering answer that started: “We’re a nation that believes in the Second Amendment, and I believe in the Second Amendment. We’ve got a long tradition of hunting and sportsmen and people who want to make sure they can protect themselves.”
And supporters of the current push seem to accept that Democratic losses are inevitable.
“It’s going to be a very tough vote for a small handful of Democrats,” said Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut and one of the bill’s shepherds. “Regardless of whether we get 52 or 55 Democrats, we’ve always known we need Republicans.”
Democrats like Ms. Heitkamp staked their conservative claims on guns. Her last campaign commercial of 2012 declared “schools and tractors and guns” to be “part of how we live.” Six days after the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary, she called the Obama administration’s gun proposals “way in extreme of what I think is necessary or even should be talked about.”
Senator Pryor, one of the most endangered incumbents next year, stood up for expanding background checks to sales at gun shows in 2011. Now he is not so sure. “As a general rule, people in Arkansas do not want any gun control,” he said Wednesday. “It’s just sort of a blanket statement.”
In 2008, after a close election, Mr. Begich, a former Anchorage mayor, cited his opposition to gun control and support for oil drilling as key to his success. In 2009, Mr. Begich, Mr. Baucus and another Democrat now in play, Jon Tester of Montana, wrote letters to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. saying he should enforce existing gun laws rather than propose additional ones.
“We love our guns,” Mr. Begich said Wednesday.
To vote for any gun safety legislation now will create a double trap for someone like Mr. Begich. Republicans will attack the vote itself, and accuse him of saying one thing to constituents and doing another when in the political hothouse of Washington.
“It’s an issue that will reveal whether they are in touch or out of touch with the people in their state,” said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which has already begun goading the 2014 Democrats in their home states.
As if to prove the political calculus, Mr. Tester, who does not face another campaign until 2018, is taking a very different line from the senior senator from his state, Mr. Baucus. The package is more a refinement of existing laws, not an expansion, he said Thursday, and he is inclined to support them.
“I think there’s an opportunity to do some good things and ensure Second Amendment rights,” he said.
Other swing-state Democrats are trying hard to counter the pressure being brought to bear against them. Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, was governor during the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech and pressed for expanded background checks. The effort fell short, but it earned him the enmity of the N.R.A., which had already opposed his run for governor.
He still prevailed in his Senate run last year, and said he has concluded the power of the organization’s leadership is vastly overrated. He has been making that case to other members, he said.
Mr. Manchin has been pressing as well. While meeting with Newtown families on Wednesday, he called on the rifle association to post the details of his background-check legislation on the group’s Web site “and let members of the N.R.A. like me vote on it.”
One after another, the family members praised the burly West Virginian for what they called courage and perseverance.
“I have no courage compared to you all,” he answered tearfully.
But it was not clear whether emotional appeals can break through, even from Mr. Manchin.
“I think the world of Joe,” Ms. Heitkamp said. “I think Joe’s worked very hard to forge a compromise, but in the end it’s not what any other senator believes. It’s about what the people of North Dakota believe.”
April 12, 2013With Police in Schools, More Children in Court
By ERIK ECKHOLM
HOUSTON — As school districts across the country consider placing more police officers in schools, youth advocates and judges are raising alarm about what they have seen in the schools where officers are already stationed: a surge in criminal charges against children for misbehavior that many believe is better handled in the principal’s office.
Since the early 1990s, thousands of districts, often with federal subsidies, have paid local police agencies to provide armed “school resource officers” for high schools, middle schools and sometimes even elementary schools. Hundreds of additional districts, including those in Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, have created police forces of their own, employing thousands of sworn officers.
Last week, in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shootings, a task force of the National Rifle Association recommended placing police officers or other armed guards in every school. The White House has proposed an increase in police officers based in schools.
The effectiveness of using police officers in schools to deter crime or the remote threat of armed intruders is unclear. The new N.R.A. report cites the example of a Mississippi assistant principal who in 1997 got a gun from his truck and disarmed a student who had killed two classmates, and another in California in which a school resource officer in 2001 wounded and arrested a student who had opened fire with a shotgun.
Yet the most striking impact of school police officers so far, critics say, has been a surge in arrests or misdemeanor charges for essentially nonviolent behavior — including scuffles, truancy and cursing at teachers — that sends children into the criminal courts.
“There is no evidence that placing officers in the schools improves safety,” said Denise C. Gottfredson, a criminologist at the University of Maryland who is an expert in school violence. “And it increases the number of minor behavior problems that are referred to the police, pushing kids into the criminal system.”
Nationwide, hundreds of thousands of students are arrested or given criminal citations at schools each year. A large share are sent to court for relatively minor offenses, with black and Hispanic students and those with disabilities disproportionately affected, according to recent reports from civil rights groups, including the Advancement Project, in Washington, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, in New York.
Such criminal charges may be most prevalent in Texas, where police officers based in schools write more than 100,000 misdemeanor tickets each year, said Deborah Fowler, the deputy director of Texas Appleseed, a legal advocacy center in Austin. The students seldom get legal aid, she noted, and they may face hundreds of dollars in fines, community service and, in some cases, a lasting record that could affect applications for jobs or the military.
In February, Texas Appleseed and the Brazos County chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. filed a complaint with the federal Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. Black students in the school district in Bryan, they noted, receive criminal misdemeanor citations at four times the rate of white students.
Featured in the complaint is De’Angelo Rollins, who was 12 and had just started at a Bryan middle school in 2010 when he and another boy scuffled and were given citations. After repeated court appearances, De’Angelo pleaded no contest, paid a fine of $69 and was sentenced to 20 hours of community service and four months’ probation.
“They said this will stay on his record unless we go back when he is 17 and get it expunged,” said his mother, Marjorie Holmon.
Federal officials have not yet acted, but the district says it is revising guidelines for citations. “Allegations of inequitable treatment of students is something the district takes very seriously,” said Sandra Farris, a spokeswoman for the Bryan schools.
While schools may bring in police officers to provide security, the officers often end up handling discipline and handing out charges of disorderly conduct or assault, said Michael Nash, the presiding judge of juvenile court in Los Angeles and the president of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.
“You have to differentiate the security issue and the discipline issue,” he said. “Once the kids get involved in the court system, it’s a slippery slope downhill.”
Mo Canady, the executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, defended placing police officers in schools, provided that they are properly trained. He said that the negative impacts had been exaggerated, and that when the right people were selected and schooled in adolescent psychology and mediation, both schools and communities benefited.
“The good officers recognize the difference between a scuffle and a true assault,” Mr. Canady said.
But the line is not always clear. In New York, a lawsuit against the Police Department’s School Safety Division describes several instances in which officers handcuffed and arrested children for noncriminal behavior.
Many districts are clamoring for police officers. “There’s definitely a massive trend toward increasing school resource officers, so much so that departments are having trouble buying guns and supplies,” said Michael Dorn, director of Safe Havens International, in Macon, Ga., a safety consultant to schools.
One district in Florida, Mr. Dorn said, is looking to add 130 officers, mainly to patrol its grade schools. McKinney, Tex., north of Dallas, recently placed officers in its five middle schools.
Many judges say school police officers are too quick to make arrests or write tickets.
“We are criminalizing our children for nonviolent offenses,” Wallace B. Jefferson, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, said in a speech to the Legislature in March.
School officers in Texas are authorized to issue Class C misdemeanor citations, which require students to appear before a justice of the peace or in municipal court, with public records.
The process can leave a bitter taste. Joshua, a ninth grader who lives south of Houston, got into a brief fight on a school bus in November after another boy, a security video showed, hit him first. The principal called in the school’s resident sheriff, who wrote them both up for disorderly conduct.
“I thought it was stupid,” Joshua said of the ticket and his need to miss school for two court appearances. His guardian found a free lawyer from the Earl Carl Institute, a legal aid group at Texas Southern University, and the case was eventually dismissed.
Sarah R. Guidry, the executive director of the institute, said that when students appeared in court with a lawyer, charges for minor offenses were often dismissed. But she said the courts tended to be “plea mills,” with students pleading guilty in the hope that, once they paid a fine and spent hours cleaning parks, the charges would be expunged. If students fail to show up and cases are unresolved, they may be named in arrest warrants when they turn 17.
In parts of Texas, the outcry from legal advocates is starting to make a difference. Jimmy L. Dotson, the chief of Houston’s 186-member school district force, is one of several police leaders working to redefine the role of campus officers.
Perhaps the sharpest change has come to E. L. Furr High School, which serves mainly low-income Hispanic children on the city’s east side. Bertie Simmons, 79, came out of retirement 11 years ago to try to turn around a school so blighted by gang violence that it dared not hold assemblies.
“The kids hated the school police,” said Ms. Simmons, the principal. They arrested two or three students a day and issued tickets to many more.
Ms. Simmons searched for officers who would work with the students and build trust. She found them in Danny Avalos and Craig Davis, former municipal police officers who grew up in rough neighborhoods, and after years of effort, the campus is peaceful and arrests and tickets are rare. Discipline is usually enforced by a principal’s court with student juries, not summonses to the criminal courts.
“Writing tickets is easy,” Officer Avalos said. “We do it the hard way, talking with the kids and coaching them.”
With new guidelines and training, ticketing within the Houston schools was reduced by 60 percent in one year. Citations for “disruption of classes,” for example, fell to 124 between September and February, from 927 in the same period last year.
“Our role is not to be disciplinarians,” Chief Dotson said in an interview. “Our purpose is to push these kids into college, not into the criminal justice system.”
April 11, 2013Medal of Honor Awarded to Korean War Chaplain
By JACKIE CALMES
WASHINGTON — Supporters of the Rev. Emil J. Kapaun, an Army chaplain who died a prisoner in the Korean War, are still working to have him declared a Catholic saint for his lifesaving ministrations to them. But for now, they have the satisfaction of seeing him posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House.
In an East Room ceremony on Thursday, President Obama presented the blue sash and five-pointed star to an emotional Ray Kapaun, a nephew. At 56, the nephew has been alive for less time than his uncle’s comrades have labored to get recognition for their chaplain, who died nearly 62 years ago, at the age of 35, in a prisoner-of-war camp.
“This is an amazing story,” Mr. Obama said. “Father Kapaun has been called a shepherd in combat boots. His fellow soldiers who felt his grace and his mercy called him a saint, a blessing from God. Today, we bestow another title on him — recipient of our nation’s highest military decoration.”
He added, “I know one of Father Kapaun’s comrades spoke for a lot of folks here when he said, ‘It’s about time.’ ”
Father Kapaun was honored for his heroism during combat at Unsan, in November 1950 when his unit — the Third Battalion, Eighth Cavalry Regiment, First Cavalry Division — was attacked by Chinese Communist forces, according to the citation read aloud as Mr. Obama and Mr. Kapaun stood at attention.
The chaplain “calmly walked through withering enemy fire” and hand-to-hand combat to provide medical aid, comforting words or the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church to the wounded, the citation said. When he saw a Chinese soldier about to execute a wounded comrade, Sgt. First Class Herbert A. Miller, he rushed to push the gun away. Mr. Miller, now 86, was at the White House for the ceremony with other veterans, former prisoners of war and members of the Kapaun family.
“This is the valor we honor today,” Mr. Obama said. “An American soldier who didn’t fire a gun, but who wielded the mightiest weapon of all, a love for his brothers so pure that he was willing to die so that they might live.”
At such ceremonies, the president, who wrote a best-selling memoir, seems to relish the narrative of a compelling tale. For this one, he went beyond the citation, saying “the incredible story of Father Kapaun does not end there.”
Since the priest was from a small town near Wichita, Kan., like Mr. Obama’s grandparents who helped raise him, “I have a sense of the man he was,” Mr. Obama said. He told of how Father Kapaun carried Mr. Miller and helped soldiers who faltered on a forced march to a prisoner-of-war camp, where the Chinese sent them after the attack. Through the winter, as the American prisoners froze to death, he offered his clothes, sneaked out to bring back grain and cleaned the soldiers’ wounds.
Guards tortured him for his shows of faith, but on Easter, Father Kapaun offered Mass in church ruins at the camp as guards looked on.
One of the veterans told him, the president said, that the chaplain “kept a lot of us alive.”
The priest had a blood clot, dysentery and then pneumonia, and in May 1951, guards sent him into isolation, without food or water, to die. As Mr. Obama recounted, based on testimony from Father Kapaun’s comrades, the priest looked at the guards and said, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
His remains were never recovered. At war’s end, the surviving P.O.W.’s walked out of the camp with a four-foot wooden crucifix they had made in his honor.
************Science discovers ‘magic trick’ that causes partisan voters to switch parties
By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, April 11, 2013 15:05 EDT
Researchers in Sweden have discovered a clever way to trick partisan voters into switching parties, through the application of a simple survey and some slight of hand.
Exploiting a known defect in human psychology called “choice blindness,” researchers writing for the journal PLoS One got 162 voters to fill out surveys pinpointing their views on key issues like taxes and energy, then covertly switched the survey with one created to show the exact opposite answers. Participants were then confronted on why they gave the faux responses.
What the researchers found is astonishing: A whopping 92 percent of respondents did not catch that their answers were manipulated, and only 22 percent of the switched answers were noticed by participants. During questioning after the survey, 10 percent of the subjects actually switched their preference in political party, while another 19 percent of previously partisan voters said they’d become undecided.
Since 18 percent of the participants went into the study saying they were undecided to begin with, researchers noted that their findings suggest a full 47 percent were open to changing their vote. They also noted their findings seem to run contrary to the political wisdom of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), who suggested months before election day that 47 percent of the country had already ruled him out.
Researchers added that they found “no connection between gender, age, level of political engagement, overall political certainty, or initial political affiliation, in relation to magnitude of change in voting intention.”
“It’s a dramatic demonstration of the potential flexibility that is there,” lead researcher Lars Hall, from Lund University, told the scientific publication Nature. “Unfortunately I don’t know how to tap into that flexibility without the magic trick. If I did I wouldn’t be talking to you. I’d be selling my secret to Hillary Clinton or [Republican New Jersey governor] Chris Christie. Or both.”
Hall’s previous research into choice blindness has revealed that the flaw can lead to many inconsistencies in what humans say they find attractive in mates, what moral values people think they hold most dear, and which products people believe they prefer at the supermarket. A similar “magic trick” was employed in all three scenarios, finding less than one third of participants in each study realized their stated preferences were manipulated to reflect something else entirely.
This video is from the Lund University Choice Blindness Lab, published on Wednesday, April 10, 2013.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_htNx0eWmgs&feature=player_embedded
*******8-year-old follows Tenn. lawmaker around Capitol until he drops welfare bill
By David Edwards
Friday, April 12, 2013 9:11 EDT
A Tennessee lawmaker has relented and agreed to drop his bill linking academic performance to the family’s welfare benefits after an 8-year-old girl shamed him by following him around the state Capitol.
On his way to vote on Thursday, state Sen. Stacey Campfield (R) was confronted by 8-year-old homeschooler Aamira Fetuga, who presented him with a petition signed by people opposing his welfare bill, according to the Tennessean. Nearby, a choir of about 60 activists sang “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”
“You are so weak, to not listen to a child,” a parent said as Campfield walked away with the girl following.
“Why do you want to cut benefits for people?” 8-year-old Fetuga asked after she caught up with him on a Capitol escalator.
“Well, I wouldn’t as long as the parent shows up to school and goes to two parent-teacher conferences and they’re exempt,” the state Senator explained.
The confrontation continued during what appeared to be long, uncomfortable walk to the Senate floor for Campfield.
“Using children as props is shameful,” he grumbled at one point.
But the protest tactics may have worked because Campfield decided to withdraw the bill before Thursday’s vote after several other former supporters began to express doubts.
“You can say that withholding the money from the parents doesn’t harm the child, but you’re fooling yourself,” Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R) pointed out.
Under Campfield’s bill, families could have lost up to 30 percent of welfare benefits from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program if a child did not attend school regularly and make “satisfactory academic progress.”
Campfield, however, said he was not giving up on the idea. He asked the state Senate to further study the bill, giving him the opportunity to bring it back up next year.
“To me, it’s not a dead issue at all,” he told reporters. “This may be a slight detour, but honestly I think this could hopefully make it even better.”
As for the protests, Campfield remarked, “It is what it is.”
“There’s always going to be detractors.”