On Tuesday I held a Joint Committee Hearing on Child Abuse and Neglect. We scheduled two hours of public testimony on the foster program and had the opportunity of hearing from multiple witnesses. As we expected, there were those who sung the praises of the program and those who felt that there were serious problems. One of the hardest jobs I have is to try to determine if there are problems that need to be addressed by the Committee or just some folks that are out of sorts. That is one of the main reasons I am carrying a bill that will create a task force within the Office of Child Advocate. If there are three or more requests for a review in a district within a year, the task force will investigate, try to determine what the problems are, and recommend solutions. They will then report their findings and proposed solutions to the Director of Children's Service and also the Office of State Courts Administrator. I have a total of five bills dealing with children's issues this session and with the help of some great Senators, we will get them all to the Governor.
I was visited this week by the 8th grade classes from Pineville, Southwest City and White Rock. I was able to introduce them on the House Floor, they toured the Capitol, and we served them Pizza for lunch. I am constantly hearing from the staff members how well behaved and polite the kids from Southwest are. That is a real source of pride for all the Representatives in our area. Our Principals and teachers are doing a terrific job!
The Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class visited on Wednesday. They met with several legislators and invited all of us from the area to a reception and dinner with them. It was a great opportunity to share some ideas for economic development and give them an update on some budget issues.
This week we will begin hearing Senate bills and there should be some budget bills starting to show up. The pace will pick up and we will be working more hours each week for the remainder of session. I sure like the way our Leadership team is prioritizing our work this year. We are getting more done without having to rush all the important things through at the last minute. That's when mistakes are made!
Barb Ittner reminded me that the VITA group is still doing income tax and property tax credits at the Pineville Legion on Wednesdays and Thursdays through April 15. If you need help filing, they are available.