O'Fallon loon (and Missouri state Rep.) Cynthia Davis is dangerous.
Davis is often the butt of jokes around here. But make no mistake, Davis is powerful even if she appears folksy and dumb. As the Children and Families Committee in the Missouri Legislature, she's the gatekeeper who decides which bills get a hearing and which die in the committee. And so far, she's locked the gate on on H.B.
1534, a bill that would stop unlicensed child care providers from babysitting children while they're facing criminal charges such as child abuse.
The bill -- sponsored Rep. Linda Fischer, a Democrat from Bonne Terre -- is also called Sam Pratt's Law, named for a 3-month-old boy who died while in the care of an unlicensed day-care provider in February 2009. Pratt's autopsy report said he died from "non-accidental head trauma."
His sitter, Martha Farris, is charged with abuse of a child resulting in death and
involuntary manslaughter. Her trial is scheduled for October.
In an e-mail, Sam Pratt's aunt Amanda Thrasher tells The Pitch that in the
five-and-a-half months Farris was being investigated, she was still
babysitting other children whose parents had no way of knowing about the charges
against her. Thrasher adds that police even asked Farris to stop
babysitting, but she retained an attorney and found out there's a loophole that allows unlicensed day-care providers to keep babysitting when facing criminal charges.
Thrasher says they want the loophole closed.
doesn't want to the loophole closed. She isn't a fan of Sam Pratt's Law.
She won't even give it a hearing. Her reason: It's not about abortion.
Davis explained this in an
e-mail to Pratt's mother, Hannah Pratt, on April 7. Here's an
Our committee focuses on abortion issues and we
have had a number of pro-life bills to deal with this year. There are
over 11,000 babies killed every year through intentional abortion in
Missouri alone. Every year we wait to pass reforms that can be
corrected by reshaping our abortion laws, we have thousands more unborn
babies whose lives are ended in violent deaths. I know that your story
does not involve an abortion, but our committee has been charged with
this duty and we must fulfill our primary mission.
It's all about the babies, you see. The unborn babies. Once you're out
of the womb, you're on your own.
"While I appreciate Rep. Davis'
interest in protecting the lives of
children who have not yet been born, once they're born, I believe it is
her committee's charge to likewise continue protecting them," says L.
Carol Scott, executive directors of the Missouri Child
Care Resource and Referral Network. "This is a serious change in the law
that will protect many children."
Davis, however, didn't take it
that seriously. Instead, she referred to the bill as a "souvenir" for
the family, which she did in an
interview with Steve Pokin of Suburban Journals.
"If we passed a knee-jerk bill for every sad story that happens," Davis
told the paper, "we
would not have any liberties any more in Missouri."
Yeah, like the freedom to babysit when you're accused of abusing
When Pokin asked Davis whether she'd narrowed her committee's
focus to only
pro-life bills, she shot back:
"I would say a 'narrow range' is a bill that helps one family
feel better about a tragedy. There is nothing more
harmful to children and families than the intentional destruction of
Again, it's all about abortion (an issue Davis will surely use
as her platform when running against state Sen. Scott Rupp in the
primary this August).
Davis told Pokin she would have written her
e-mail to Hannah Pratt
differently if she'd have known it would have ended up in newspapers.
said she'd have changed "pro-life bills" to "pro-family bills."
And Davis got downright condescending when talking about Thrasher.
"This woman is not even the mother of the child," Davis said. "She is a
law student. What is really going on is that she is mad at the judge and
she is mad at the baby sitter."
Thrasher takes exception to Davis' comments.
family is pursuing this legislation simply because there
was a tragedy, or to soothe our grief, or to try to bring baby Sam back
from the dead is tactless and unprofessional," Thrasher writes to The
Pitch. "Instead of addressing the
alleged, 'negative consequences' of the bill, Representative Davis chose
to attack our motive for pursing the legislation. My family is
concerned with the safety of Missouri's children, to suggest we are
attempting to pass this bill to bring Sam back is absurd."
Another excuse Davis had for not hearing the bill is that the
legislative process is "slow and
cumbersome and inefficient." Tell
that to the supporters of K2. If the political will is there, it
can be done. Davis just doesn't have the will.
weekend, Davis wrote an op-ed
defending herself. She claimed that the bill centered on a "single
incident, which may or may not require legislative attention."
Sometimes it is best to get all the facts, like whether this
is a broader problem than one tragedy. Nothing in the proposed
legislation would have prevented the death of this child.
Davis might be able to get more facts if she were willing to hold a
hearing. True, this legislation wouldn't have saved Pratt. But it
might prevent other children from dying.
Davis went on to blather about discerning "what will be productive,
principled and enduring," saying it's "one of my highest callings."
"I always seek to promote that which cultivates stronger families and
will encourage a more free and virtuous society," Davis wrote.
bad Davis' "virtuous society" isn't one that protects children from
adults accused of violence.
At this point, there's little hope for Sam Pratt's Law.
State Rep. Jeanette Mott-Oxford, a St. Louis Democrat, tells me
that while there's been plenty of time to hear the bill, time is
out (especially with legislators' focus turning to the state's budget).
it would be "a miracle" if the bill passes at this point, although there
"long-shot" possibility that it could be added as an amendment to
another bill. Don't count on it though, because the bill's sponsor comes
from the minority party.
"Even if the bill can't pass this year, having a hearing does help us
move forward," Mott-Oxford says. "Having the hearing enables us to have
more public scrutiny of the bill, get the language right, it increases
the visibility and increases the media profile of the issue so more
citizens begin to advocate on it. That's how you begin to move things
Davis just isn't willing to move it along.