Workforce Standards & Development - Chairman
Property, Casualty, & Life Insurance
Select Committee on Labor & Industrial Relations
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We had unbelievable national headlines last week and our own Missouri headlines tried their best to keep up with the pace! Nationally, the horrendous news regarding Planned Parenthood's practice of selling body parts took first place. I was stunned, like most of you, by the callous way the doctors discussed the killing, dismemberment, and sale of unborn children. I grew up during the 50's and 60's when the Nazi trials were still being held and there was no testimony I heard that was more horrible than what I heard last week. The truly sad thing is how our views of right and wrong have changed so drastically. Picture your grandparents if someone told them 50 years ago that we would get to the point in our society where it was perfectly acceptable to murder babies and then butcher their bodies to harvest organs and parts to sell to the highest bidder. They didn't even get that far out in the old horror pictures! Make no mistake, there are plenty of people who will defend this god-awful practice as perfectly fine. Those who define a fetus as nothing more than "tissue" will argue that the organs harvested will help scientists discover wonderful cures to all the illnesses in creation. If that's what it's going to take to cure me, I'd rather stay sick! There were nearly immediate committees formed in the House and Senate to investigate Planned Parenthood and determine what they were doing in Missouri. Attorney General Chris Koster has also opened an investigation. This is not a question of women's rights, it's a question of human rights! I can assure you that there will be several pieces of Legislation drafted well before session convenes dealing with this situation. I'll bet there are some lively and heated discussions in committees and on the floor of the Senate and House. This is one subject that the public needs to become involved in.
Now that the time has expired for the Governor to sign or veto bills, things have quieted down a lot in the Capitol. I was there two days last week holding my monthly hearing on Child Abuse and Neglect. We once again had a presentation by the Juvenile Office. Bill Jackson, the Chief Juvenile Officer of the 16th. Circuit, gave a presentation on the Signs of Safety program that they, with the Casey Foundation, are implementing in his circuit. The program attempts to focus on possible wins without ignoring possible losses. It sounds anything but easy! They emphasize complete and early assessment of the case and encourage engaging with the families in a constructive way in order to gather better information. He pointed out that there is a real effort to know the truth, not just a compelling argument. Their intent is to continually reassess the facts as new information becomes available. He feels they have a duty to avoid interpreting the facts in order to support their pre-existing theories of the case. They strive to involve the child in the assessment process and encourage them to express his or her view of the situation. This approach encourages parents and children to offer possible solutions and moves toward reunification as soon as possible. His district is in Kansas City and they are having great success there with this approach. I am certainly encouraged by the Juvenile Office working toward solving some of the problems that seem to plague us in Kansas City and I hope that we find things there that will be useful in the rest of the State. I have monthly hearings scheduled through November and the Juvenile Office as well as the entire Division of Children's Service are providing extremely helpful testimony.
The deadline for the Governor to sign or veto bills is rapidly approaching and consequently, he had a busy week attending formal signing ceremonies. He gave his approval to most of the child protection bills that my committee generated last year and for that I am very grateful. Children's Division was given authority to take action when it receives a report of a child under 14 exhibiting problem sexual behavior against another child. Prior to this legislation, the Children's Division could only investigate allegations against adults or other teens. This will allow the child to get the therapy needed to keep this behavior from becoming a life long affliction. The bill also contained language allowing the Office of Child Advocate to audit any judicial circuit that has three or more review requests in a year. This measure will further ensure that all children will receive fair and adequate protection throughout the state. Victims of rape and sexual assault will now be able to obtain an order of protection from their assailants. Currently, only victims of domestic assault and stalking can obtain the orders. The definition of stalking is also changed to include members of the victim’s household. There are also provisions in the bill to require licensed childcare centers to follow current sleep standards recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. All in all, the bills generated by members of my Child Abuse and Neglect Committee will greatly improve the health, safety, and well-being of children in our state. I'm grateful to the Governor for his signature and extremely proud of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their strong support.
Two monumental decisions by the Supreme Court in the past few days threaten to drastically affect State's Rights for all of us. First, the decision on the Affordable Care Act was a failed opportunity to overturn parts of the law that were flawed from its inception. It was to be paid for by taking monies from the Medicare program for seniors, taxing medical devises (you tell me what that is), and forcing businesses to provide benefits or be penalized. The Health Industry immediately responded by increasing premiums. Business responded by reducing coverage's and increasing deductibles as well as reducing hours worked to avoid providing insurance. The number of complaints we hear about people having less coverage and paying more for it far outnumber those who are talking about benefitting from the program. The Supreme Court appeared to be far more concerned with saving a bad law at all costs to avoid an uproar in the insurance markets than interpreting what the law actually said. Please remember, the Judicial Branch of Government is charged with interpreting the laws that are written by the Legislative Branch, NOT making laws on their own. When the Supreme Court makes decisions based upon what they "think" the writers of the Constitution meant to say, the whole game changes. The definition of an "exchange" in the Affordable Care act is a "government agency or nonprofit agency that is established by a state". The Supreme Court insisted that the "state" means the Federal Government! But later in the paragraph, the law cites instances where the "state" loses Federal dollars if it doesn't do certain things. Just how in the blazes does the Federal Government plan to fine itself? I believe that we should do all we can to increase access to affordable health care, but when a vast majority of people in the country have said that this program is not working, the Supreme Court should not take it upon itself to override the states and force it upon us. We are working on bills in the Missouri Legislature to make our Medicaid program more accessible and efficient while increasing access to rural patients. I intend to work with the bill sponsors to make our system better.