A little girl in Tennessee is proving that no matter how small your voice is, it can make a difference in politics. 8-year-old Aamira Fetuga followed Republican State Senator Stacey Campfield with a petition against his proposed welfare bill on a long walk to the Senate floor.
Senator Campfield’s bill, Senate Bill 132, would have reduced Temporary Assistance to Needy Families payments by up to 30% to families whose children fail a grade unless their parents take corrective actions. TANF payments average about $185 a month in Tennessee. Fetuga presented Campfield with a petition signed by people who opposed the bill and may have been the final push in the bill’s defeat.
Critics of the measure, who called it the Starve the Children Bill, claimed that such measure would already put pressure on families that are is dire straights and would do nothing to actually help children. The bill received national attention, being mocked on The Daily Show with John Stewart, with host Jon Stewart saying:
"Little Billy is poor, and he’s not doing very well in school. I have an idea. What if we made him poorer and told his family it was his fault?
'Last semester my grades were bad because I was hungry and cold but this semester I am hungrier and colder and my family isn't talking to me, so bring on the long division.'
Is Stacey Campfield a state senator or a villain from a Dickens novel?"
Campfield claimed that the measure was aimed at getting parents more involved in their children's education. But after the flurry of criticism he appears to have bowed out of the fight, withdrawing the bill ahead of the vote it would have had next Thursday.
Campfield himself is no stranger to controversial legislation. In 2011, he spearheaded an effort to pass a previous defeated bill that would have banned teachers from discussing homosexuality in the classroom before ninth grade. After the measure was defeated, Campfield gave a radio interview where he made statements such as "What's the average lifespan of a homosexual? It's very short. Google it yourself," and "[Homosexuals] do not naturally reproduce. It has not been proven that it is nature. It happens in nature, but so does bestiality. That does not make it right or something we should be teaching in school."
But Campfield has not given up on his welfare legislation, claiming that he wants to bring it up next session and asking the state Senate to study legislation further. No word on whether Aamira Fetuga will be there to meet him again if the bill comes back up in the legislature.