The House has voted to better equip the state’s children for working in tech industries that demand an education in computer science.
House Bill 2202 would require the state’s public high schools to offer some form of computer science class and allow students to count such classes toward graduation requirements for science and practical arts credits, to satisfy admission requirements at colleges and universities.
The bill expands on legislation approved in 2018 that allowed computer science courses to count toward math, science, or practical arts credits needed to graduate high school. That bill, like HB 2202, was sponsored by Holts Summit Republican Travis Fitzwater.
Kara Corches with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry told House members Missouri is a top state for technology jobs with high rankings in both diversity, and women, in the tech workforce, and said HB 2202 would help build on that.
That task force would be one entity that would receive demographic data to be collected under the bill. Walsh Moore said she was glad to see the inclusion of that effort toward ensuring that children of color and girls are encouraged to enter the computer science and STEM fields.
The Missouri legislature moved quickly to pass two bills that were the subject of a special session called by Governor Mike Parson (R).
Parson called lawmakers back into session to reexamine issues covered in two bills he vetoed. One of those would establish statewide standards for treatment courts, such as drug and veteran courts; the other would allow high school computer science courses to count toward graduation requirements for math, science, or practical arts credits. The House voted on Wednesday to send those bills to the Senate, and today the Senate approved those bills without making any changes to them. That means they go to Parson for his consideration.
Representative Kevin Austin (R-Springfield) sponsored House Bill 2, which deals with treatment courts. Such courts in Missouri provide a court-supervised, comprehensive treatment program as an alternative to jail time. Lawmakers and prosecutors agree the program is not an easy out for a defendant.
Over the years courts have been established in numerous districts in the state but without universal guidelines for how to operate. HB 2 seeks to provide those.
Austin said one of his favorite parts of the bill is a transfer clause, which will allow defendants who are candidates for treatment courts but are in a circuit that doesn’t have them, to be transferred to a circuit which does have them.
House Bill 3 would let computer science courses count toward math, science, or practical arts credits needed for graduation. Under the bill students could begin in middle school to be prepared for the opportunities they could have in the job market. Its sponsor, Holts Summit Republican Travis Fitzwater, has been working on STEM legislation for years.
Representative Jeanie Lauer (R-Blue Springs) chaired the House Committee on Workforce Development and worked with Representative Fitzwater on the computer science portion of HB 3. She said it could help move Missouri forward in workforce development.
Parson announced on August 30 his call for the special session and legislators worked quickly to pass new versions of these bills that addressed the concerns he cited with his vetoes, while spending as little time as possible on the special session. The session’s costs were lessened because it coincided with the constitutionally-mandated veto session.
The Missouri Legislature will convene for a special session next month to reexamine two bills vetoed by Governor Mike Parson (R).
One bill dealt with guidelines for treatment courts. The other allows high school computer science courses to count toward graduation requirements for math, science, or practical arts credits; and aims to begin preparing students at an earlier age for the opportunities they could have in the job market.
In Parson’s veto messages, he said the treatment courts bill appeared to violate the state constitution’s prohibition on legislation covering multiple subjects. He objected to a provision in the education bill that he said seemed to narrow a bidding process down so that only one company could qualify.
Treatment courts in Missouri provide a court-supervised, comprehensive treatment program as an alternative to jail time. Participants must complete a rigorous regimen including interventions and supervision in order to complete the program. Drug courts, juvenile treatment courts, and veterans’ courts are some examples of these programs.
The bill would also allow defendants in a circuit that lacks a treatment court to be transferred to one in another circuit, with certain approvals.
Austin said treatment courts benefit not only participants, but also their families and communities, and they save the state money through factors such as decreasing incarcerations.
The House handler of the education legislation is Representative Travis Fitzwater (R-Holts Summit), who has worked on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) bills for several years. He doesn’t believe that Senate Bill 894 needed to be vetoed, but is “thrilled” the governor and legislative leadership saw the issue as important enough to revisit it in a special session.
Fitzwater said by readdressing his legislation in a special session rather than waiting for the new session to begin in January, its provisions might not have to be pushed back another school year. This would allow another grade level of students to benefit from it.
Austin said the sooner the legislature can deal with the treatment courts issue, the sooner the state’s courts can begin implementing the most effective practices. It would also make a difference for defendants who could benefit from treatment courts but might not have access to them, especially in cases in which the transfer language would apply.
The special session will begin Monday, September 10 and will overlap with the annual veto session, which was already scheduled to begin Wednesday, September 12.
Additional audio: Kevin Austin says treatment courts offer an alternative to jail time, but a defendant must go through a rigorous process to successfully complete the program and faces that jail time if he or she fails.
The Missouri House is one vote away from proposing that Missouri legalize the medical use of marijuana by people suffering from certain terminal or debilitating conditions.
House Bill 1554 would expand on a law passed in 2014 that allows the use of a cannabis extract, cannabidiol (CBD) oil, to treat intractable epilepsy. If HB 1554 became law, a patient suffering from conditions including cancer, HIV, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder could use medical marijuana if a doctor signs a statement saying he or she could benefit from its use and that all options approved by the Food and Drug Administration have been considered.
Representative Gina Mitten (D-St. Louis) said a colleague of hers who is a practicing attorney must break her oath to uphold the law by using marijuana to treat her epilepsy, rather than use the prescription drugs that caused her to have a psychotic episode among other side effects.
Pacific Republican Paul Curtman sponsored adding PTSD to the legislation. He described what he knows some of his fellow comrades in the Marine corps faced, and said leaving this issue facing veterans out of the bill would be a “travesty.”
He spoke about a fellow Marine from Missouri whose experience overseas included having to routinely wash the blood of friends out of the back of a Humvee. Curtman said the man was prescribed by the Veterans’ Administration drugs that had numerous side effects. For a time he used marijuana and that worked for him, but he was arrested and forced to return to the drugs prescribed by the VA.
Under the bill the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services would issue medical cannabis registration cards to approved patients, or to parents in the cases of minor parents. The bill would only allow the use of smokeless forms of marijuana. HB 1554 also lays out how marijuana could be legally cultivated by licensed growers under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture.
Another favorable vote would send the legislation to the Senate. Two years ago the House rejected a bill that would have asked voters whether to legalize the limited, medical use of marijuana.
The Missouri House has approved a bill aimed at increasing security at the state’s only nuclear power plant.
House Bill 1797, called the “Nuclear Power Plant Security Guard Act,” would create the offense of “trespass on a nuclear power plant, and make it punishable by up to four years in prison. The bill also allows armed guards at the plant to use or threaten physical or deadly force if they believe it necessary to protect themselves or others protects them from civil liability for conduct covered in the bill.
The bill passed 134-8. One of those 8 “no” votes was cast by Kirkwood Democrat Deb Lavender, who said guards at Callaway already have the authority the Act would allow, including authority to use deadly force when there is a “reasonable belief” that it is necessary.