Rep. Raychel Proudie, of Ferguson, will be the only Democrat in the Missouri House of Representatives to head a committee in the 2020 session.
Proudie, who took office last year, is the chair of the Special House Committee on Urban Issues. She took over the job after Rep. Bruce Franks, D-St. Louis, resigned last year to address his mental health.
“Right off the bat, one of my priorities is to make sure the committee is taken seriously,” Proudie said.
She wants it to focus on public safety and public health. She’s particularly interested in the high maternal death rate among black women.
Black women are three times as likely to die of complications related to childbirth and pregnancy as white women in Missouri, according to a study from Washington University in St. Louis. Proudie said the largest concentration of black women in the state is in north St. Louis County, the area she represents.
“There are black women here who are dying, who are wanting to be mothers and wanting to have their kids,” she said.
Better data needs to be collected on the maternal death rate of black women, she said. In the past, lawmakers have often been willing to make assumptions about what is causing that problem, without talking to experts beforehand, she said.
Proudie also wants to have an in-depth discussion about why so many people — particularly children — have been removed from Missouri Medicaid over the last year. She said she would also be in favor of holding hearings on gun violence in Missouri.
Additionally, Proudie wants the committee to focus on tightening up rules around derelict property. Blight is a challenge in her district, she said.
Republican leadership in the Missouri House is unlikely to refer certain types of legislation to Proudie’s committee because she is a Democrat — for example, bills that would impose gun restrictions. But Proudie said she will still hold committee hearings on issues like gun violence whether or not legislation comes before the group.
Proudie, who is African American, said she is dismayed that her colleagues have sometimes been willing to dismiss the urban issues committee as the “black committee,” which she finds offensive.
Not everyone sitting on the committee represents an urban area. The Missouri House is dominated by Republicans, and six of the committee’s nine members are from the GOP.
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