I was in Jefferson City last week for a roundtable discussion led by Representative David Wood dealing with issues on termination of parental rights. Representative Wood is advocating a pathway for faster termination. He feels that in some cases it would be better for the child if the process could be expedited. One proposal he had was that perhaps there should be a way that a mother could give a child up for adoption and still be able to visit occasionally. Another thought was that grandparents would be able to visit a child that had been adopted. There were some judges present who also had some interesting views on the subject. The Division of Children's service was well represented and there were several present who worked in the Juvenile Offices. As you would expect, there were as many opinions as there were people present. Representative Wood was pressing for legislation changing current statutes but the Judges present were advising caution on that approach. As in most children's issues, the devil is in the details. I advised that we should look carefully at the current statutes and see if the judges were given the flexibility to make decisions based on the circumstances of individual cases. If statutes do not allow that flexibility, it would be much easier to add that to current law than try to come up with a "one size fits all" bill. This idea needs a lot of thought before we proceed, as there are always unintended consequences.
When I was delivering some flags to the Anderson Elementary on Wednesday I ran into some ladies from the First Baptist Church who were delivering food packets for the Bright Futures program at the school. I can't tell you how much pride I have in our part of the world! Southwest Missouri leads our country in innovative programs for children and adults alike. We are CARING people and you don't have to look far to see the results of generous giving in our communities. People give of their money and their time more freely here than anywhere in the country. Just look around and there are examples everywhere.
This week we will finally have the dreaded veto session. Can you believe how much hype has been created over the vetoed items? The Governor acts like he is trying to save the state from the dirty old legislators who don't have the good sense to figure out a budget. I guess he's forgiven himself for proposing a budget that was nearly 6% larger than ours. Now when you figure that we are appropriating around $8 billion dollars, a 6% boo boo is $480 million! To get even with us for overriding his veto of the first tax cut Missourian's had in 100 years, he has vetoed nearly 100 items in the budget. (He didn't bother to cut his jet expenses) but he did eliminate money for school transportation, veteran's benefits, Children's Services and Nursing Homes among many other needed programs. As soon as he gets his digs in, he'll restore many of the cuts and take credit for "saving" us. He also vetoed nearly 30 other bills that passed with large bi-partisan support. To be fair, some of the tax bills are probably in need of refinement next year, BUT he vetoed several bills that his department of budget proposed and helped write. What's with that? An effective leader takes part in the creation of bills and then helps them to pass. That's the way Governor's in growing states are doing it.
On Tuesday before veto session, I'm having a committee meeting with judges from around the state and getting some input from them on what we need to do to improve Children's Service. I'll have a report on that and the results of the override attempts next time. Until then, I am and remain in your service.