House bill would increase penalties for ‘swatting’

      The House has voted to increase the penalties for deliberately reporting someone to law enforcement with the intent or hurting, embarrassing, or intimidating them; a practice commonly referred to as “swatting.”

Representative Lane Roberts (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Under House Bill 1704 a person would be guilty of making a false report if they intentionally make, or causes to be made to any enforcement organization, a false report that could cause bodily harm as a result of the emergency response. 

      “The bill hinges on the statement that it is with reckless disregard of causing bodily harm to any person as a direct result of an emergency response,” said bill sponsor Lane Roberts (R-Joplin)“It’s an effort to keep people from weaponizing the public safety system to harm other people; sometimes physically, sometimes by reputation or intimidation.”

      “This also deals with the use of the system to humiliate, embarrass, or have people forcibly removed from premises, and this is often aimed at minorities, aimed at religious differences, sexual orientation … recent news has been replete with that kind of conduct,” said Roberts.  “This bill prohibits that kind of use of public safety to harm others, to harm their reputation, to harm them physically, or otherwise damage an individual.”

      Those who make false reports that result in a person being killed or seriously hurt could be charged with a class-B felony, punishable by 5 to 15 years in prison.  Otherwise, false reports of a felony crime would be a class-C felony (up to 7 years in prison) and false reports of a misdemeanor would be a class-B misdemeanor (up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000). 

      Roberts and other legislators have discussed in recent years how incidents of “swatting” seem to have increased, and in some cases those have resulted in deaths and serious injuries.  Roberts’ legislation is the latest attempt to address that.

      “Somebody will call in a false report that generates a response from a police agency, sometimes a SWAT team, which by its very nature, puts people at risk of injury or death, both the police officer and folks inside.”

      His proposal was sent to the Senate with unanimous bipartisan support, 142-0.  Democrats contributed to the language of HB 1704, and Representative Ashley Bland Manlove (D-Kansas City) spoke in support of it.  She said she remembers a recent “swatting” incident that happened just across the state line from her district, in Kansas.

      “Somebody he was on [a] video game with in California was apparently mad that they had lost the game and used an app to deploy SWAT to the man in Overland Park’s house saying, ‘He’s got somebody in the house and they’ve got hostages,’ so SWAT comes in hot immediately.  Unfortunately the young man was a black man,” said Bland Manlove.  “I’ve also heard of this being used, as [Representative Roberts] said, in domestic disputes.  Somebody’s mad that they don’t have the kids or they have to pay child support so then they constantly use the police, filing false reports against the other partner.”

The bill was also the product of bipartisan cooperation, with the inclusion of changes authored by Representative Robert Sauls (D-Kansas City).

      In addition to possible incarceration and fines, violations of the language of HB 1704 could result in civil penalties.   

      “Any person who makes a false report in violation of this section for the purpose of infringing on another person’s rights under the Missouri or the United States Constitution; unlawfully discriminating against another person; causing another person to be expelled from a place in which such person is lawfully located; damaging another person’s reputation or standing within the community, financial, economic, consumer or business partner interests may be required to pay punitive damages to the victim, so it addresses some of the more malicious forms of use of swatting,” said Roberts.

      HB 1704 was sent to the Senate with two full weeks remaining in the legislative session.

House acts to recognize and support 911 dispatchers

      The House has advanced multiple efforts this session to recognize the service of, and difficulties faced by, 911 dispatchers.  Three House bills include language that would add dispatchers to state statute’s definition of “first responders,” which would give them access to more support and benefits. A bipartisan group of lawmakers thinks it’s about time.

Representative Shane Roden (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Legislators say dispatchers are vitally important and are the first link in the chain of emergency response. 

      “They’re the first contact when you call 911,” said Representative Robert Sauls (D-Kansas City), who offered one such amendment to a bill that was sent to the Senate (House Bill 1637).  “Obviously you talk to an operator, and they have to go through a lot of stuff.  They have to go through a lot of turmoil, subject to very high intensity, stressful situations.”

      Because dispatchers aren’t considered “first responders,” they aren’t afforded benefits seen by EMTs, firefighters, police, and others.  That includes health and retirement benefits, but also help to deal with the stress of their job.  Lawmakers think that needs to change.

      Representative Lane Roberts (R-Joplin), whose extensive law enforcement career included time as Joplin’s police chief and director of the state’s Department of Public Safety, said, “I was a police officer for 43 years, and in my wildest nightmare I can’t imagine doing what those people do.”

“The fact that we have failed to recognize them as an integral part of the first response community, I think, is a real disservice to them.  They do their share and then some.  They’re often underappreciated.  They’re just a voice at the end of the radio frequency and people just forget how important they are.  Without them a lot of people get hurt.”

      Representative Chad Perkins (R-Bowling Green) worked for four years as a dispatcher.  He filed one of the bills to make dispatchers “first responders” (House Bill 1676, approved by one House committee).  He said this is the most stressful job in the field.

Representative Robert Sauls (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “The phone is ringing and its multiple phone calls, especially in one of those really high stressful situations.  You’ve got the phone ringing off the hook, a dozen people calling you, someone screaming at you in their greatest moment of need, you can’t visualize what’s happening because you’re not actually there but you’ve got to get that information, you have to take it down well and effectively and then put that information back out clearly to someone else who’s going.  It is an incredibly stressful job.  I think it is the most high-stress job in all of emergency services.  A person has to multitask at a very high level.”

      Roberts agreed, “Any time as a police officer I got a call, particularly for something of an emergency, we got that adrenaline rush that anybody else gets.  The dispatchers got the same adrenaline rush when they’re on the phone.  The difference is that when I got to the scene of that emergency that adrenaline is something that helped me deal with the issue.  The dispatchers, on the other hand, simply hang up and go on to the next emergency.  At night they’ll take all that adrenaline, those chemicals that come with that rush, and take it home with them.  They don’t get that same opportunity to use that.”

      Roberts and Perkins agree that dispatching is more than answering the phone and relaying a call.  Operators receive training for multiple contingencies and emergencies.

      “I’ve heard them do CPR instructions over the phone.  I’ve heard them talk about getting people out of fires over the phone, delivering babies over the phone,” said Roberts.

      Because of the high stress they face, on top of regularly updated training and often low pay, advocates say people who work as dispatchers rarely do it for very long.  Some areas of the state are having a hard time filling vacancies in call centers.

Representative Chad Perkins (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Perkins said by adding them to the definition of “first responders,” they would be afforded more state benefits.  This could be part of a larger effort to recruit and retain operators.

“You have some health-related benefits to it but there’s also, for the most part in the State of Missouri, first responders can retire on the LAGERS system at 55, so that would be something that would also be an added benefit as opposed to having to retire at 60 or 62.”

      Representative Shane Roden (R-Cedar Hill) is a firefighter and paramedic as well as a reserve sheriff’s deputy.  His House Bill 2381 has received initial approval in the House and contains the “first responder” definition language. 

He told his colleagues, “For the dispatchers that have always been there for us this is a step in the right direction, to acknowledge that they are the first responders that they are.”

House again endorses Blair’s Law penalizing ‘celebratory gunfire’

      The House has taken a vote members hope will help stop a potentially deadly form of celebration before it claims more lives and damages more property.

Representative Roger Reedy (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Kansas City Police report that guns were fired into the air more than 1,100 times late on New Year’s Eve and early on New Year’s Day.  This was a decrease of about 500 rounds, according to the Department’s tracking system, but it still left two people wounded and 11 properties with damage; one of those, a police vehicle.

      Kansas City has been the center of attention for “celebratory gunfire” for years, particularly since 2011.  It was on Independence Day of that year that Blair Shanahan Lane was struck in the neck by a bullet fired into the air by a partier more than half a mile away.  She died the next day. 

The man who fired the bullet that killed Blair pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and served 18 months in prison.  House Bill 1696 would have allowed prosecutors to add time to his sentence; up to 7 years in prison if it was a third offense.

      HB 1696 includes a change bearing her name, “Blair’s Law.”  It is sponsored by Representative Roger Reedy (R-Windsor)

      “This is a very important bill.  The family of [Blair Shanahan Lane] has been here many years trying to get bill passed,” Reedy told his fellow representatives.  

      This was Reedy’s second year carrying the legislation.  Last year it ran out of time in the Senate, in part, after a number of amendments were attached to it.  This year’s version deals with only one other issue, and is therefore expected to have a much better chance at reaching the governor. 

      Another lawmaker who has worked on Blair’s Law is Kansas City Democrat Mark Sharp, who was glad to see the concerted effort to move it forward after previous attempts have ended in frustration.

      “I just want to commend [Representative Reedy] for helping get this bill through cleanly.  I want to commend the chairman of the committee this bill came through with the real intention of getting this bill through [without a lot of amendments],” said Sharp. 

      He noted that the language of Blair’s Law has been amended to two other bills that have also been sent to the Senate.

      “I sure appreciate everyone’s support in sending another version, a clean version, to the Senate to help get Blair’s Law through and helping [Representative Reedy] to make sure we get this passed this year.”

      Reedy joined Sharp and a handful of other lawmakers who have worked on Blair’s Law since 2011, each time seeing their efforts frustrated.  Another of them is Rory Rowland (D-Kansas City), who worked for several years on the issue.  He told Reedy, “You have done nothing but an absolutely stellar job and I cannot say enough good things on the floor today and I just want to wish you Godspeed with this.”

      Last Thursday Rowland announced he was resigning his House seat, having just been elected mayor of Independence.  He left with optimism that more legislators would continue working to get Blair’s Law passed.  He ended his comments to Reedy with an emotional plea, “Please get it done.”

      Reedy’s proposal specifies that a person is guilty of the unlawful use of a weapon if they fire it, with criminal negligence, within or into the limits of a municipality.  The first offense would be a class-A misdemeanor, with third and subsequent offences being class-D felonies. 

      The bill would also allow a firearm to be discharged from a stationary vehicle as authorized under the Missouri Wildlife Code.  This provision is intended to allow farm and ranch owners to shoot animals that would threaten their livestock without facing a felony charge.

      The House voted 131-0 to send that proposal to the Senate.

House proposes boost to fight against human trafficking

      Missourians could decide whether to create a new fine against people convicted of human trafficking or (prostitution) offenses, to pay for efforts to fight trafficking and treat its victims, under legislation from the House.

Representative Jeff Coleman (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communication)

      The House voted to pass House Bill 2307 and has given initial approval to House Joint Resolution 114.  Together, those would create a fine of $5000 to be assessed against anyone convicted of a trafficking-related offense or of soliciting a prostitute. 

      That fine would be divided between two uses, according to sponsor Jeff Coleman (R-Grain Valley).

      “The $5,000 will be dispersed and allocated 50-percent towards the rehabilitation services of the victims of human trafficking, and 50-percent will be allocated towards the local efforts to prevent human trafficking such as education to law enforcement, hospitals, and schools,” said Coleman. 

      Both pieces must be approved for Coleman’s plan to work.  HB 2307 would create in state statutes the framework for the fine and the fund into which it would go, but the decision on whether the fine could be used as he proposes would be left to Missouri voters.  HJR 114 would create the ballot question they would have to answer.

      “Under the Missouri constitution, all fines that are levied in Missouri go to the school districts.  We’re not taking away from the schools … this is a new fine.  We’re just asking that it does not go to the schools in this case; that it go to the services that we’re providing for,” said Coleman. 

      Coleman said this new fine could provide game-changing support for efforts against trafficking.  In the cases of victims, they often need various services such as counseling to help them recover and lead a normal life.

      “It takes a lot of money to help these victims get back on a path of restoration,” said Coleman. 

      The education his proposal would help pay for is something that law enforcement is asking for, as he’s been told by its providers.

      “When they go out and do this education for law enforcement agencies they will have people come up and be very, very upset at the fact that had they had this information just two weeks ago that they might have been able to help somebody because now they are prepared and they know what to look for where they didn’t two weeks ago, and they let somebody go because they didn’t know,” said Coleman.  “It’s a blessing and it’s also a curse because they now think back about all the people that they could’ve saved had they had this information, so what this [proposal] is to do is to help educate people what to look for.”

      Coleman said human trafficking is a big issue for Missouri and the state needs more ways to deal with it.

      “Especially in the Kansas City area we are the heart, because we have I-35 going north and south, we have I-70 going east and west, and we are the pass-through of all human trafficking.”

      He also said he feels personally passionate about the issue.

      “This is something that is near and dear to my heart just simply because I have four daughters,” said Coleman.  “I cringe.”

      The House voted 140-0 on HB 2307, sending it to the Senate.  It has given initial approval to HJR 114.

VIDEO: House Democrats’ media conference

Missouri House Democrats spoke to the media and fielded questions after the House finished work for the week. Many of the questions dealt with House Bill 3021, which would use $1-billion in state money to give an income tax break to some Missourians:

House budget plan keeps Rock Island Trail development funds

      The state House has voted to preserve more than $69-million in federal dollars to support development of another hiking and biking trail on a former railway.  That funding survived two attempts to redirect it over concerns some House members have about its use.

Representative Tim Taylor (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Governor Mike Parson (R) recommended that appropriation, which would use funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).  It would pay to revitalize a 78-mile stretch of the former Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad corridor, commonly referred to now as the “Rock Island Trail.”  Work would include the stabilization of tunnels and bridges. 

      Bunceton representative Tim Taylor (R) said his family owns property along the Katy Trail, Missouri’s other hiking and biking trail along a former railway.  He said he’s seen how communities have benefitted from being along that trail.

      “It has brought a sense of small prosperity to our community.  When the railroad left, as it did on the Rock Island, much of the town ceased to exist.  We have prospered and those towns and cities along the Rock Island are going to prosper just like the Katy Trail.”

      The Rock Island corridor runs through Bland, hometown of Representative Bruce Sassman (R).  He said hiking and biking trails are engines for economic development, and this is Missouri’s chance to expand them.

Representative Bruce Sassman (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “I have been working on this Rock Island development project for 35 years, almost half of my life, and it’s a vision to create a trail system and a trail route that is unlike anything in the country and maybe in the world.  I wish you could see this project through my eyes.  I wish you knew the history of this project,” said Sassman.

      Taylor and Sassman were among those who spoke against amendments that would have blocked that $69-million from going to the trail.  One of those, offered by Chillicothe Republican Rusty Black, would have diverted that money to maintenance that has been deferred on other Department of Natural Resources’ properties.

      “In my eight years up here, every year we have had this fight with DNR about maintaining what we already have.  This is a one-time use of funds that, if we spend it on the trail, is going to further dilute the sales tax money that they get to use to maintain all of the other parks in the state,” said Steelville Republican Jason Chipman.  “What we have already is in bad shape and we could put a big dent in the maintenance needed for all of the other parks that bring in a whole lot of people to Missouri rather than partially work on this one.”

      “I think there’s arguments to be made for and against the Rock Island Trail,” said Representative Dirk Deaton (R-Noel), the House Budget Committee’s vice-chairman.  “I think it’s compelling to me as a conservative, as a fiscal conservative, you’ve got to take care of what you’ve got before you start taking on new things – building new things, acquiring new things, setting up new things, and we do have a substantial maintenance backlog within our state parks and so I think we really ought to address that before we do this, and then you can get to the question of, ‘If we do this.’”

Representative Scott Cupps (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Another amendment was offered by Shell Knob Republican Scott Cupps.  It proposed that the money be withheld from the project until lawsuits involving property owners along the Rock Island route are settled.

      “The rationale for that is there is concern that we will spend millions and millions of dollars on this project and, depending on what happens in federal court, we may not be able to complete it until this is resolved,” said Cupps.  “If you stand up for land owners’ rights and property owners’ rights … then you sure as heck better be a ‘yes’ on this.”

      Cupps noted that there were similar legal disputes for people who owned property along the Katy Trail, which he says weren’t settled until 11 years after that trail opened.

      Lawmakers who want work on the trail to proceed argued that those lawsuits’ outcomes will have nothing to do with Rock Island’s development.

Representative Jason Chipman (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “This is not about converting it back to ownership by these folks who are suing.  They simply seek to reclaim the money for land that was never part of their farm in the first place, whenever they purchased it,” said Representative Don Mayhew (R-Crocker).  “These lawsuits, this is a red herring.  It has nothing to do with it.  The state can proceed with this.”

      In the end the House voted down those amendments 53-81 and 62-70, respectively, and then voted to keep the money for the trail project in the budget. 

      Some, like Representative Jim Murphy (R-St. Louis), were glad to move forward that spending proposal.

      “When I leave here I think it’d be nice if I could look at one thing and say, ‘We did this for the future.  We did this for this state.  It’s long lasting.  We didn’t spend it on frivolous things.  We didn’t buy shiny objects.  We built something that our citizens can use now and in the future,” said Murphy.

      The House voted today to advance that spending plan to the Senate.

House votes to protect Task Force 1 members’ jobs

      When Missouri Task Force 1 was deployed to Louisiana last August in response to Hurricane Ida and in December after tornadoes hit Kentucky team members knew that when they came home they would be able to return to their jobs.  When they were deployed to Joplin after an EF-5 tornado devastated that community, they couldn’t be as certain.  The Missouri House has voted to change that.

Representative Cheri Toalson Reisch (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      When Task Force 1 is deployed out-of-state its members are protected by the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).  Deployments in-state aren’t covered by such a law.  House Bill 2193 would change Missouri law to mirror USERRA.  This would mean the Task Force’s more than 200 volunteers’ jobs would be protected no matter where they go.

      “It just makes their employment rights the same if they’re deployed within the State of Missouri or outside the State of Missouri,” said bill sponsor Cheri Toalson Reisch (R-Hallsville).

      “They have those rights currently in federal law but not in state law,” Boone County Fire District Chief Scott Olsen, who heads up Task Force 1, told the House Committee on Public Safety.  “When we deploy to state disasters we are deployed as a state asset, not as a federal asset.  You cannot deploy as a federal asset in your own state, so we would like to have the same USERRA protections … that our members receive for federal deployments.”

      Last year Toalson Reisch filed a similar proposal that stalled in the Senate after clearing the House 153-0.  This year’s proposal has similar broad support.  Kansas City Democrat Ashley Bland Manlove said in support of HB 2193, “Me being in the National Guard, I heard about guys – and I know this is Task Force 1 but this will make them like the National Guard to where you can’t get fired for a deployment, basically.  That is a thing that has happened.”

      The House voted 150-0 to send HB 2193 to the Senate. 

      Task Force 1 is one of 28 search and rescue teams of its kind and is the only one in Missouri.  Its volunteers come from throughout Missouri.

House approves increased protections for domestic violence victims

      The House has voted to make several changes in state law meant to make victims of domestic violence safer.  It’s sponsored by a man who, during his career in law enforcement, was often frustrated by how laws limited what he could do to help victims.

Representative Lane Roberts (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “This bill seeks to plug some of the gaps in our laws that allow abusers to circumvent the system and continue to use the system actually to further abuse their victims,” said Representative Lane Roberts (R-Joplin).

      A key provision of Roberts’ House Bill 1699 would specify that a defendant in an abuse case will be considered to have been notified of an order of protection if they are notified in any reasonable way.  In effect, this would make clear that orders of protection remain place until otherwise ordered by a court.  

      “What happens today is that when somebody files for an ex parte order and then a hearing is scheduled the temporary order stays in effect until the hearing.  If the abuser chooses not to show up in court and later pleads ignorance, he didn’t know what went on in court, there have been some successful defenses to violating the order because of this so-called ignorance.  What this bill does is say that when you get served that temporary, those provisions are going to remain in effect and they don’t expire simply because the hearing is being held.  Those protections go on and the individual can’t plead ignorance.”

      Jennifer Carter Dochler with the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence said this was the provision that was the most exciting.

      “Although all of them are going to have an important impact … that has been such a gap and has created so many safety issues for survivors,” said Carter Dochler.

      Another portion would allow victims in domestic violence cases to testify via video conference.  Roberts says often, domestic cases are dismissed because victims refuse to testify.

      “It’s not because the victim doesn’t want to be there.  The truth of the matter is in many cases the victim is simply afraid to be in the same room.  The victim does not want the abuser to know where they’re going to be at a particular time, and so it’s important that we give this person some kind of security if we possibly can,” said Roberts.

      Carter Dochler said victims who testify in court now often take great measures to plan for their own safety during that appearance. 

      “When I did court advocacy … we would have the bailiff walk us out and things like that, so just the ability to be able to teleconference in for getting your order of protection is also something that will be incredibly helpful for the safety of the victim, and may also increase the likelihood of somebody feeling comfortable continuing to pursue an order of protection,” said Carter Dochler. 

She said another hurdle for victims testifying for an order of protection, sometimes, is finding childcare, and video conferencing could negate that issue.

      HB 1699 would also specify that courts cannot make a victim or their family reveal in court the victim’s current address or workplace unless necessary. 

“This is something that you’d think would be common sense,” said Roberts.

      Earlier versions of the legislation had caused concern for some lawmakers, specifically that the video testimony provision would violate the constitutional right of accused abusers to face their accusers in court.  Roberts worked with other legislators to deal with issues in the bill leading to the version the House passed.

Representative Ian Mackey (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “I was a little hesitant at first, I’ll admit.  I’m somebody who likes to protect the rights of those who wish to confront their accusers in court,” said Representative Ian Mackey (D), who is an attorney in St. Louis.  “Through conversations with [Roberts] and other folks involved in this issue I think the needle was threaded just as finely and carefully as it could be.  I think this protect victims.  It also protects the accused.  It’s a great product.”

      “The bill handler made some changes and I just think it made a much better bill.  It was a good bill to begin with but it needed some changes.  He did that,” said Robert Sauls, a Kansas City Democrat who is a former Jackson County Prosecutor and public defender. 

      Sauls told Roberts, “I appreciate your willingness to listen and the changes you made.”

      HB 1699 would also specify that when a defendant is ordered to pay the victim’s attorney fees, that order covers the entire proceeding; and that a person convicted of domestic assault who is ordered to attend a batterer-intervention program will be responsible for paying for that program.

      Carter Dochler said the legislation would make a number of small changes in Missouri law each of which would make a big difference in the lives of victims.

      “I really appreciate Representative Roberts’ commitment to finding gaps and figuring out what he can do to close them,” said Carter Dochler. 

      The House voted 147-0 to send the proposal to the Senate.

House votes to better prepare K-12 students with computer science courses

      The House has voted to better equip the state’s children for working in tech industries that demand an education in computer science. 

Representative Travis Fitzwater (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      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.

      “It provides an opportunity for kids to get the workforce training that our economy in the State of Missouri and our businesses desperately need.  There’s over 10,000 open computer science engineering jobs in our economy in just the State of Missouri.  Those jobs average over $80,000 a year,” said Fitzwater. 

      Fitzwater said the bill will help answer the needs of the growing list of innovative companies in Missouri.   

“It’s really important that we’re providing training and giving kids opportunities at a much younger age to get the training they need to enter the workforce for all these jobs that are available, for all these opportunities that are available.”

      The bill received unanimous support in the House, which voted 148-0 to send it to the Senate. 

      St. Louis Democrat Bridget Walsh Moore said this will help Missouri catch up.

      “Computer science should’ve stopped being an elective about 30 years ago and it definitely needs to stop today.  It is an essential part of our education.  We want to make sure that the children of Missouri are being properly educated so they can compete in a modern workforce.”

      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. 

      “Missouri is really moving up in the rankings and so our hope is to do everything we can to not just secure these rankings but even to continue to rise in those rankings and continue to attract and build tech talent.”

      The bill would also create the Computer Science Education Task Force to help shape schools’ approach to computer education. 

      “It develops a broad strategy.  Not just how do we come up with curriculums but how do we have a strategy on the whole for computer science opportunities for kids?” said Fitzwater.  “Coming up with how we, as a strategy, think about educating our kids in these developing fields.”

      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. 

Fitzwater agreed, “We want to know what kids in the state are taking these classes.  That’s why it’s in the underlying bill and I’m glad it’s there.”

      HB 2202 also defines “computer science course” as any elementary, middle, or high school course that embeds computer science content with other subjects.   

Earlier story: Missouri legislature completes special session, sends two bills to Governor Parson (From 2018)