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Disability rights advocates rally at the Capitol

March 29, 2006
By: John Amick
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 1014

JEFFERSON CITY - "Health care is a right, not a privilege!" yelled the marchers in unison as they made their trek around the Capitol building.

Hundreds of disability rights advocates descended upon the State Capitol grounds on Wednesday to rally support and recognition for the issues facing disabled Missourians.

"We've got a lot of ground to make up for the cuts to Medicaid that were made last year," said Sen. Pat Dougherty, D-St. Louis, speaking to the applauding crowd.

"My job is to help put back the horrible cuts that were hoisted on you last year."

Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder spoke to the rally first. He used the opportunity to tout the funding support he has for independent living centers during last year's cuts to Medicaid by the Republican domintated legislature.

Besides the lieutenant governor, leaders from both sides of the political spectrum spoke, including Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia and Rep. Charles Portwood, R-Ballwin.

Republicans chose to highlight current legislation attempting to restore some of the Medicaid cuts that were made last year.

"We are offering bills in a way that the most eligible will be taken care of," said Rep. Kathlyn Fares, R-Webster Groves.

Democrats repeatedly roused the crowd with claims of abandonment of the disabled by the majority party.

"What we've seen from the leadership party in Missouri is atrocious," said Rep. Wes Shoemeyer, D-Clarence.

Shoemeyer said Gov. Matt Blunt has built a $250 million surplus in the state's budget on the backs of the most vulnerable Missourians.

A bill that would require all voters to show a valid ID or U.S. passport to vote in the 2006 election is a particular point of contention for the disabled or low income citizens of the state. Opponents of the bill say the cost of a birth certificate needed to obtain a photo ID and the policy of disregarding provisional ballots that are cast without a proper ID are obstacles the bill, SB 1014, creates.

The rally was the capstone event of the Disability Rights Legislative Day 2006 at the Capitol.

Speakers at the event also included Reps. J.C. Kuessner, D-Eminence, Margaret Donnelly, D-St. Louis, and members of the Missouri Disability Vote Project and Missouri People First.