Natalia Allen is a junior at the University of Missouri pursing a Bachelor of Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Leadership and Public Service. She was born and raised in Springfield, Missouri and attended Central High School where she was actively involved in school activities. She played on the varsity basketball and soccer team, and ran for the varsity track team. She was also apart of the national award winning broadcast journalism program known as Central Intelligence. Natalia Allen won 1st place for Best of Show and 3rd place for Best Short Documentary in the nation. She enjoys traveling around the world and has been to Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France.
Posted 05/11/2012: Earlier this legislative session Republican House Speaker, Steven Tilley, announced he would induct conservative radio host, Rush Limbaugh into the Hall of Famous Missourians. However this is a controversial issue because Limbaugh called a female law student a 'slut' on national radio when she testified before Congress about contraception.
Several groups have protested Limbaugh's induction and asked Governor Nixon to ban the induction of Limbaugh into the Hall of Famous Missourians, but he has yet to respond to the request. On Wednesday, May 9th, Speaker Tilley unveiled the bust of Dred Scott. Tilley has already announced his decision to induct Limbaugh, but has to to formally induct him or say when he plans on inducting him.
As I continue to work on my feature story, I have not be able to get an interview from any lawmaker saying he or she opposes eliminating or reducing the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine and I asked approximately 30 republican legislators.
However, there is a lot of history in regards to the disparity between crack and powder cocaine. When crack first emerged in the late 1970s and 1980s, lawmakers and presidents, like Ronald Reagan, dubbed this era the crack epidemic and referred to it as a crisis. This may be a reason why lawmakers now, still have a hard time eliminating the sentencing disparity, but it's hard to determine when they do not want to speak about the issue.
Several Democrats argued the significance of the bill and questioned why are Missouri Republicans attacking President Obama and some even said the issue was about race. However, many Republican Representatives said the legislation has nothing to do with race or President Obama, personally.
Historically, Republicans have been know to be tough on crime and sentencing disparities have existed. The federal ratio is 18 to 1 and Missouri lawmakers made the argument to "level the playing field" and voted to reduce the sentencing disparity to be comparable to the federal sentencing guidelines. Also, there is a bill (SB 732) that is going the Senate that would make the penalties for powder and crack cocaine the same, a one to one ratio.
There has been a lot of legislation that does not necessarily seem like a priority given the times and circumstances of the state of Missouri. It is an election year, and there is legislation that is being debated to serve political purposes. Lawmakers are trying to get reelected so each individual proposes or supports legislation such as contraception bills and presidential candidates having to provide a birth certificate prior to being placed on the Missouri ballot to satisfy his or her political party afflliciation.
The Minority Floor Leader Representative Mike Talboy says Missouri legislators are still communicating with Kansas legislators. He says Kansas legislators have a copy of the Missouri draft legislation. He also said he thinks one of the two states had to take the first step, so that's why Missouri legislators took initiative. I attended the hearing when this bill was first introduced and some concern was that Missouri might go in debt if Kansas fails to enact similar legislation and Missouri is therefore required to spend $1.50 for every $1.00 that Kansas spends. I am interested in following this bill as it moves to the Senate.
I have done a lot of research in regards to people who have committed (similar) crimes and the sentencing given to different races. There are a few disparities among the punishments and I am going to continue my research. The crimes I compared were child abuse committed by a white man and a black man. There was a great difference between not only the sentencing but the price for the bond.
This week at the capitol the story I reported on took two days, Monday and Wednesday, because of the difficulty finding an interview with an opposing view of Senate bill 732 which eliminates the sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine. Senator Kiki Curls proposed the bill. I have learned a lot of information doing background research on the differences between crack and powder cocaine. I also already had some previous knowledge from criminology and criminal justice courses I have taken at the University of Missouri.
The two drugs are essentially the same, except crack can be smoked and cocaine is snorted in taken in through your gum membranes or snorted. However some interviewees said they believe the reason for the sentencing disparity is because of the crack epidemic in the 1980s. However, the federal law has lowered the crack to powder cocaine ratio down to 1 to 18.
I am interested in learning more about this bill and following it through the Senate because it is related to my feature story. I found it interesting that no conservative or Republican wanted to go on the record and say he or she opposed the bill to eliminate the sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine. Every one I asked for an interviewed either said, he or she did not oppose the bill, did not know enough about the crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparities or did not have an opinion.
The eligibility requirements for food stamps is also under investigation because illegal immigrants' income can be counted towards the benefits he or she as an individual does not get counted. For example, if there are five people living in a household who cook and share food, the illegal immigrant's income will get counted towards the amount of total resources but the the household will only get enough food stamp benefits for four people. Department of Social Services is also under investigation for the possible failure to contact Immigration and Customs enforcement when there is an illegal immigrant living in a household. I plan on reporting on follow up stories in regards to this investigation.