Tuesday I drove to Jefferson City for a meeting with the Assistant Director of Children's Service. As of august 28 the responsibilities of my Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect will be expanded to include reviewing the role of the Foster System, Guardian ad litems, Juvenile Officers, and Judges. We spent a very productive two hours talking about the statutes and regulations governing the Foster system. As with most of the other divisions of Children's Service, there are marked differences in the application of the law. It's going to take far more than one meeting to figure out what needs to be done.
On Wednesday I held my monthly committee hearing. We had a report and lengthy discussion on Human Trafficking. St. Louis is one of the premier spots in the nation for trafficking and many other places in Missouri are used as transfer points. The Interstates are the major reasons but I was astounded to learn that our area is also considered a prime location. What they were talking about was primarily girls, 12 and younger, that are smuggled into the country and are destined for the sex trade. I'm appalled enough at the statistics on abuse and neglect and now I'm trying to wrap my poor old brain around this atrocity! What on earth are we becoming? They told us that this wasn't anything new but with all the activity at our Southern border, there is a certainty of this activity also. There is a task force that is working on this problem and also groups that are giving seminars on how to identify and report suspicious activity.
Thursday was devoted to a discussion led by John Diehl, our new Speaker elect. John wishes to restructure our committees and also the budget process. His idea for the committees is to consolidate and reduce their number from its current 48 down to less than 20. The plan is to make the committee chairs responsible for every step of generating and moving a bill to the floor. The hearing process would be expanded to several hours of testimony and consequently, the bills would be better prepared by involving more people and more time in their preparation. He shared his vision of the budget process, and although it's in the early stages of development, the plan is to present a budget that the individual directors are accountable for and which removes the uncertainty that Educators face when we have Governor withholds. Speaking of withholds, I suggested several weeks ago that Mayors, City Managers, and Commissioners that were worried about their budgets in light of the Governor's proclamation of gloom and doom call the Accounting Office and ask to see the process that they used to arrive at the dismal figures if the tax bills were overridden. A few of the smarter ones did just that and lo and behold, there was no answer from Linda Lubbering's staff. Anyone can predict disaster, but smart people check their facts before they run scared.