Workforce Standards & Development - Chairman
Property, Casualty, & Life Insurance
Select Committee on Labor & Industrial Relations
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I have had several inquiries over the weekend in regard to the Stewards of Children presentation being offered to the Neosho School District. There is some confusion as to what it is and why Bill Reiboldt and I are interested in having our teachers watch the power point presentation. Two years ago the Assistant Director of Missouri Kids First approached me after one of my Child Abuse and Neglect hearings. She told me about a National program called Darkness to Light that had the intention of making the public aware of child sexual abuse in our country. My first thoughts were that this would be something extremely rare but nonetheless, I heard her out. She said that Missouri Kids First was introducing the Stewards of Children power point presentation and intended to make it available to groups throughout the state for a nominal cost. This presentation is the only nationally available program proven to increase knowledge, improve attitudes, and change child protective behavior. It is intended to target all youth serving organizations. There was an opportunity available for viewing at the Capitol and several of my committee members and I watched the hour and a half presentation. I came away from there stunned to say the least! At least one in ten children NATION WIDE are sexually abused prior to age 14! Boys and girls alike are subjected to these horrors and worse yet, there is good evidence to suggest that we are only discovering 25% of the cases. These are not relegated to low-income families or backwoods hicks, but are occurring in families of every income level in every city in this nation! A couple of weeks later I was visiting with an Administrator at TriWay School and because the Rowan Ford tragedy still haunts me, I mentioned the program. She was interested in having it presented to the East Newton teachers on one of their "In Service" days and we were able to make that happen. When I returned to the Capitol I told my committee members that this program should be made available to every school district in the state. Our teachers are already mandated reporters for abuse and neglect so it only makes sense that we should equip them with the information to identify sexual abuse as well. I think it's important to note that any person making a hot line report in good faith is protected from liability. In all cases, mandated reporter's contact information is confidential and protected by law and anonymous reports are allowed. At least 52% of all identified cases of child sexual abuse come from schools now.
We have now added an additional ten bills to the two already overridden before session ended. There have been a total of 104 veto overrides in the state's history and 82 of them are attributed to Governor Nixon. The primarily bi-partisan votes during veto session continued to operate in the best interest of the people despite the objections of the Governor.
Those bills chosen to be overridden were primarily common sense reforms designed to benefit businesses and families across our state. We came together as a legislature to stand up for our constituents and stand against a Governor who has shown himself to be more and more distant from the people he is supposed to represent. Following are the bills we took up for consideration.
HB 150 Unemployment reform
This bill was overridden by the House during regular session and only needed to be voted on by the senate. What it does is link the unemployment benefits to the rate of unemployment. This helps to insure that the state keeps more money in the unemployment trust fund and protect against insolvency in the event of another economic downturn. We were the only state that was forced to borrow money from the federal government to pay for our unemployment benefits and that is not a mistake we intend to repeat. In periods of high unemployment (9% or more) benefits would be available for 20 weeks. During low unemployment periods, (below 6%), benefits would be limited to 13 weeks.
I want to start this week with a partial biography of a man that is changing the way high school age kids can be alerted to the importance of seat belt usage. His name is David Corp and he just happens to be Jane's cousin. For the first five years that Jane and I were married, we were great fishing, hunting, and pool shooting buddies. He then got the opportunity to join the Kansas Highway Patrol. For the next 28 years he did a little of everything for the Patrol. He was on the Governor's guard staff, he flew the planes (Bear in the Air), and then he really found his niche as a trainer. He was responsible for training over 8,000 law enforcement personnel in the proper use of breathalyzer equipment. He taught them how to identify the different types of drugs and the tests required for detection. As an instructor, he covered the entire state as well as some of the surrounding states training other trainers. In 1999, after 28 years of service, he retired from the Patrol. The Kansas Department of Transportation immediately hired him as a Liaison to Law Enforcement and he still performs that job today. In 2004, he was traveling out to western Kansas for training when he came upon a crash site. A car was involved in a roll over and 4 high school girls were ejected and killed because they did not have seat belts on. This bothered him so badly that he started thinking of a way to encourage kids to wear their belts. By the time he made the 4 hour drive back to Wichita, he had the spark of an idea of how to accomplish this. The name that they came up with for the program is SAFE. It stands for Seatbelts Are For Everyone. The program is administered by the students and takes very little time of the Administration. A School Resource Officer, Sheriff's Deputy, or Highway Patrolman help to get the program set up and arrange for check stops and monitoring. The best part is there is no cost to the school or the state so it's much easier to sell the deal. And sell the deal he did! We presented the program to the McDonald County School board last Thursday and they voted to allow it to begin. Grant Hendrix, Missouri Highway Patrolman from Anderson, will be the program facilitator. Kansas has 124 schools in 59 counties participating and have increased teen seatbelt usage from 61% back in 2009 to 84% today. Teen deaths and serious injury numbers have dropped by 50%. This spills over to adults also as the teens encourage their parents to buckle up also. I won't go into the details of the program because it would spoil the fun, but it works! We are planning to work with schools all over the area. Seneca, Neosho, East Newton, Diamond, Webb City, Carl Junction, and Joplin are all in our plans for the near future. Thanks to the School Board and to David! You are making a difference!
I had my annual meeting with the MoDot Legislative Liaison last week and got a few updates on their plans for the next year. In my district, MoDot has been very responsive to my questions and requests. Naturally, I don't always get exactly what I ask them for, but they have always been reasonable about helping to solve problems. Having said that, we do have some challenges in the future that we absolutely have to find answers for. Due to a set of circumstances that none of us could foresee, the funding from fuel taxes is gradually drying up. There is a set tax on gasoline and diesel fuel that is collected on every gallon sold. Because we are traveling less miles and are driving vehicles that are much more fuel efficient than just a few years ago, that amount has been gradually shrinking for several years. We didn't notice this too much because MoDot was doing most of their new road and bridge building with money from a voter passed bond for improvements. That bond has been used up and now we have to pay much more for concrete, steel, and asphalt than just a few years back. All this has come together to form a sort of perfect storm for MoDot. They have reacted by reducing their number of facilities greatly, eliminated all the unnecessary equipment, cut their engineering and office staff drastically, and instituted their "325" program. The one place they have not cut is their maintenance division. I find the 325 program more problematic than the cuts. The 325 program provides for full repair and maintenance on only one major north-south and one-west road in each county. While this will insure that there is at least one well-maintained road in each direction, the rest of the roads and bridges get only patches. We have 35,000 miles of roads and 10,000 bridges in Missouri. I hate to think that we will be reducing weights on bridges and eventually have to close them due to deteriorating conditions. This is not just an inconvenience, but will add miles and cost to school bus routes and slow down emergency services response times.