Missouri’s new debtor prison


I discovered these were 2014 bills, not 2015 bills. Sigh. My bad. However, the issue of bias based on economic status stands.


I accidentally stumbled on to a new landlord/tenant bill introduced into the current Missouri legislation session. It’s HB 1982. Among other things, it would actually criminalize non-payment of rent. Yes, if you’re thinking “debtor prison” you got it in one.

The bill would also allow landlords to collect three months rent as security deposit. Tell me something: how many low-income folk can afford three months security deposit? Heck, how many middle-income folk can afford three months security deposit, and pay the first month’s rent? As it is, the amount a landlord can collect now is two months rent.

One thing rarely discussed (with one fine exception) in relation to Ferguson and Mike Brown’s shooting is the location: right in the middle of several lower-income apartment complexes. In addition to inherent racial bias at play in the events leading to Michael Brown’s death, there’s also the bias many law enforcement and community leaders feel toward lower-income citizens. Especially lower-income people living in apartments, trailer parks, or other larger grouping of people sharing a common economic status.

This bill demonstrates that Missouri still doesn’t get it when it comes to preventing events like Michael Brown’s death. Not only was the Grand Jury a farce, new bills such as the landlord/tenant bill, as well as a bill that would allow communities with less than two million in revenue to be exempted from the 30% traffic fine cap (allowing these communities to apply any amounts over 30% to their own schools, rather than disburse the money to the state’s general fund), preserve the status quo rather than solve our very real problems.

I don’t know if it’s ignorance or arrogance at play with these new House bills. Probably a combination of the two, which means Missouri will continue to be that sad state in the news, as well as fodder for late night comics and Jon Stewart. And a damn miserable place to live if you aren’t white, wealthy, or a farmer.

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