Workforce Development & Workplace Safety - Chairman
Joint Committee on Child Abuse & Neglect - Vice-Chair
Professional Registration & Licensing
Subcommittee on Child Abuse Reporting & Investigating - Chairman
Issue Development Standing Committee on Cowboy Caucus on Agricultural Issues
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What a week! I don't know about you, but I learned more about Ferguson, Missouri, last week than I ever wanted to know. Actually, Ferguson isn't what was depicted by the media. It is, in fact, a city of 22,000 people who are extremely proud of what they have accomplished. Ferguson has in recent years rebuilt their main streets, improved their schools, built parks, encouraged business and industry to move in, and all in all, tried to become a model city. Their Representatives are Tommie Pierson and Sharon Pace and you can't find two harder working or more caring people. What we've seen depicted by the news media does not tell the story of Ferguson. I guess what is the most disheartening thing, is that there has been such a dismal lack of leadership during this whole ordeal. Before there were ANY facts presented, there were pre judgments! I can understand people's emotions running amuck, let's face it, there was a shooting death. I'm not trying to make light of it, but there were several shooting deaths in Chicago during the Presidents latest round of golf! Much was made of the response by the Ferguson Police. People acted shocked that they were wearing riot gear to deal with a riot. Duh! There were people shooting from the rooftops! Of the dozens of arrests made over the week, only six people were from Ferguson. Those crowds of looters, most wearing masks and carrying weapons, were opportunistic thugs from other areas. Many were from across the river in Illinois and a lot of them drove down from Chicago. They were quoted as saying "You owe us this stuff were taking." Meanwhile, we have two state Senators encouraging the violence and a Governor who walked around making stupid statements and taking no action to stop the looting and violence. He was implored on the second day of looting to declare an emergency and bring in the National Guard. His hesitancy to alienate possible supporters of a run for National office caused him to allow millions of dollars of destruction and who knows how many injuries. Meanwhile, Obama played golf! The media says this may have ruined Nixon's chance of higher office. Great, we don't need any more indecisive leaders! Things have cooled off in Ferguson but I'm afraid this whole mess is far from over.
We started the week Monday with a wonderful dinner at the Crowder Foundation Banquet. I can't begin to tell you how proud of our Crowder Community College group. Their combined campus enrollment is now nearly 6000 students. Our numbers are up 5.6% while most of the rest of Missouri's higher education facilities are losing numbers. When I moved to Joplin in 1964, the enrollment was only 361 students. Thanks to the generosity of wonderful people in our area, we not only opened a brand new facility at Jane, the James B. Tatum Campus, but we also had a ribbon cutting at Webb City last week at the newly renovated and rebuilt Dawson-Spencer campus. There just isn't any place better than Southwest Missouri.
Tuesday I drove to Jefferson City for a meeting with the Assistant Director of Children's Service. As of august 28 the responsibilities of my Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect will be expanded to include reviewing the role of the Foster System, Guardian ad litems, Juvenile Officers, and Judges. We spent a very productive two hours talking about the statutes and regulations governing the Foster system. As with most of the other divisions of Children's Service, there are marked differences in the application of the law. It's going to take far more than one meeting to figure out what needs to be done.
We held our annual Republican Summer Caucus last week in Kansas City. The purpose of the caucus is many fold. It is always held right after the primary election and is an opportunity to congratulate and get to know newly elected candidates as well as to console losers. The first day of meetings, we heard from Statewide Candidates and I was able to visit with Catherine Hanaway who is running for Governor in 2016. Catherine is a very talented lady and has firsthand knowledge of the workings of the Missouri Legislature having been our first woman Speaker of the House in 2002. She has tremendous speaking skills and can bring people together to find common ground on tough issues. It now remains to be seen if she is able to weather the tough road to the Governor's Mansion. I hope to persuade her to come to the District soon.
We heard a presentation from Ameren Electric Company in the afternoon. It was an update of sorts of the many new mandates and regulations coming out of Washington and their eventual effect on all of us. Missouri currently gets 85% of its electricity from coal-fired plants. Due to Federal regulations, 15% must come from renewable sources such as solar or wind. Our source for renewable energy is wind generation in Kansas. Because new regulations may force us to generate renewable within our state, we could be forced to build huge solar plants or find places for wind generators. Unfortunately, with our energy companies having to replace coal with much more expensive natural gas, the addition of more cost for wind or solar will mean dramatically higher electric rates. Not good news... A lot of people are researching many ways to keep cost increases to a minimum, but if the current EPA rules stand, there will have to be some adjustments in the future. It just seems ludicrous to me that the US has more coal than anywhere on the planet. Our coal fired plants are 95% plus efficient and we are shutting our plants down and selling our coal to China and India who have NO scrubbers on their plants. Now just how is that helping to keep the atmosphere clean?
Two years ago next month the Governor allowed my Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect to become law. He wouldn't do us the honor of signing it because he objected to the idea of a group of Senators and Representatives conducting an ongoing investigation into the operation of Children's Service. He did, however allow it to pass and become law. Senator Schaeffer became the Chairman for the first two years and he appointed me to Chair a sub-committee whose purpose it is to investigate the Hot Line Reporting System, the process of removing children from the home and determining whether improvements needed to be made. I began to hold hearings in February of 2013 and have continued to have committee meetings each month since. We have heard hours of testimony from Department heads, Judges, Juvenile Officers, Investigators, Supervisors and Children's Service Workers. There was a common thread connecting everyone we heard from. For the most part, no one knew exactly what they were responsible for. When we turned our annual report in to the Senate and House, I said that the system was broken from top to bottom. That certainly attracted us some attention! Certain people in the Bureaucracy of the Social Services Department objected to the criticism. We determined that there was a need for additional time for some investigations and created a bill to address that problem. We also found that there was a real inequity in salaries for Children's Service Workers. We addressed that problem through the budget process by setting up a working career ladder. The House Bill that I sent to the Senate for their approval was pretty bare bones and just addressed the issue of additional time for investigations. The bill went to Senator Dan Brown's committee where the good senator added a few things to it. He saw the need for additional time to investigate child sexual abuse and added unlimited time for investigating a child's death. He felt like we needed to expand the scope of our investigation to include the role of Judges, Juvenile Officers, and the Foster Home program. For whatever reason, (maybe he feels guilty about swiping money from Children's Service to pay his club dues), the Governor signed the bill and it becomes law on August 28.