A Tennessee lawmaker has relented and agreed to drop his bill linking academic performance to the family’s welfare benefits after an 8-year-old girl shamed him by following him around the state Capitol.
On his way to vote on Thursday, state Sen. Stacey Campfield (R) was confronted by 8-year-old homeschooler Aamira Fetuga, who presented him with a petition signed by people opposing his welfare bill, according to the Tennessean. Nearby, a choir of about 60 activists sang “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”
“You are so weak, to not listen to a child,” a parent said as Campfield walked away with the girl following.
“Why do you want to cut benefits for people?” 8-year-old Fetuga asked after she caught up with him on a Capitol escalator.
“Well, I wouldn’t as long as the parent shows up to school and goes to two parent-teacher conferences and they’re exempt,” the state Senator explained.
The confrontation continued during what appeared to be long, uncomfortable walk to the Senate floor for Campfield.
“Using children as props is shameful,” he grumbled at one point.
But the protest tactics may have worked because Campfield decided to withdraw the bill before Thursday’s vote after several other former supporters began to express doubts.
“You can say that withholding the money from the parents doesn’t harm the child, but you’re fooling yourself,” Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R) pointed out.
Under Campfield’s bill, families could have lost up to 30 percent of welfare benefits from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program if a child did not attend school regularly and make “satisfactory academic progress.”
Campfield, however, said he was not giving up on the idea. He asked the state Senate to further study the bill, giving him the opportunity to bring it back up next year.
“To me, it’s not a dead issue at all,” he told reporters. “This may be a slight detour, but honestly I think this could hopefully make it even better.”
As for the protests, Campfield remarked, “It is what it is.”
“There’s always going to be detractors.”
Watch this video from The Tennessean, broadcast April 12, 2013.