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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Well it certainly is beginning to feel like fall. The much-needed rain has insured that it will be a colorful one! For those living to the North of us, if only a hundred miles or so, much of the fall color is already evident. I've made several trips to Springfield this past week and there are even obvious differences no further than that is. The other thing that Jane and I noticed was how much better the river systems look after a little high water. I'm not talking about floods, just a couple feet over normal does a great job of renovating the look of the streams. All the moss and high weeds are uprooted to become food and fertilizer for the eco system downstream. It also allows fish to come upstream from the lake and inhabit all the deeper pools and backwaters. It should be great fishing this week!
We got started off right on Monday. I was privileged to present a Resolution honoring the accomplishment of White Rock School scoring a 100% on their MSIP grades. This reflected a 13% increase over last years grade, which is a huge accomplishment! Their score helped McDonald County as a whole to score in the mid 90's and thereby be one of the highest scores in the state. How about that? Once again we're leading the way. And no wonder, you should see the school spirit and teamwork at White Rock. Principal Adam Lett and his wonderful staff are doing a great job of preparing our kids to be the leaders of the future. I wonder if I could get DESE to come down here and train their people?
Monday afternoon I was privileged to host a Stewards' of Children training seminar at the Community Center. Through a grant by the Children's Trust Fund, training by Missouri Kids First personnel is being provided all over the state. The principal reason for the training is the alarming rate of child sexual abuse. There were bout 30 people from the area in attendance. We learned to recognize the signs of sexual abuse in children and how to initiate a hot line investigation. There are dos and don'ts of questioning a child and we were told how to keep from jeopardizing an investigation by asking too much or getting too many people to ask the questions. We have some great resources at our disposal in Southwest Missouri and by working together, we can make a huge difference in children's lives. Thanks to the Alliance and Kids First for making this training possible. We were also given the updated training on Mandated Reporting. We had some new laws passed last year that enabled additional people to be Mandated Reporters of Abuse and Neglect and the training was a big help.
I profusely apologize to anyone I may have offended with my posting concerning a 50-year reunion. It was not intended to be demeaning of anyone, and I would have removed it immediately had I not had emergency eye surgery on Friday. Again, I am very sorry if I have offended anyone.
With the November election just a few weeks away, I thought it might be a good time to explain the Amendments on the ballot. There are four issues for consideration. Three of the amendments were voted in by the Legislature and one by the initiative petition process. I'll share my thoughts on that process later.
Amendment Two would allow relevant evidence of prior criminal acts to be admissible in prosecutions for crimes of a sexual nature involving a victim under the age of 18. Currently in Missouri, if a person is charged with this type of crime, any prior acts would not be submitted to the judge or jury in regard to their past conduct. This amendment, if passed, would allow a judge to decide if these are relevant and reliable facts and allow the prosecutor to admit them as evidence. With my feelings about child abuse, I don't have to tell you how I voted.
Amendment Three is the initiative petition dealing with ending teacher tenure for new hires and requiring teacher evaluations by testing. The House defeated this issue twice in 2013 because we didn't like the idea that a majority of the evaluation would be based on standardized testing. Like Common Core, this takes local school boards out of the decision process.
Veto session of 2014 is now in the history books. I drove up on Monday for a special fundraiser that evening. The purpose of the fundraiser, which was held at the Capitol, was to raise money to pay for an assessment of the condition of the artwork throughout the building. Our Capitol building is adorned with some of the most beautiful murals and stained glass work that you'll ever see. A Capitol Commission has been formed to assess and start much needed repair and restoration of our building and along with that, make sure our artwork is preserved and protected. We welcome groups of any size to come to Jefferson City to tour what is arguably the most beautiful State capitol in the Nation. My office will help with arranging tours and accommodations and I'll buy lunch!
On Tuesday I held my monthly Child Abuse hearing. We started work on evaluating the role of Judges and Juvenile Officers. We had a very informational discussion with two Judges, one from Dunklin County and one from Cole County. It was our intent to have both urban and rural views represented and they did a great job of explaining their views. There are currently court cases questioning the constitutionality of our Juvenile Office system and I wanted to start a process whereby we could be prepared to make changes if the rulings go against us. The committee had some great questions for the judges and I think we are off to a good start.
At 9:30 on Tuesday evening, we caucused to decide what we were going to try to override. Having a super majority doesn't mean that we can always get the 109 votes necessary to override the Governor's vetoes. We identified 11 House Bills and 12 Senate Bills that we would attempt to change. All these issues had been passed with bi-partisan majorities during regular session. It was agreed that any tax bills that had large fiscal notes were probably better left until next session when we could review them better.