Sen. Dave Schatz’s Column for Sept. 19, 2018

Schatz- Column banner - 021215Last week, Missouri lawmakers returned to the State Capitol in Jefferson City for the First Extra Session of the Second Regular Session of the 99th General Assembly and the constitutionally-mandated veto session.

The governor vetoed three pieces of legislation and several line item vetoes in the state’s 2019 operating budget. During the annual veto session, none of the governor’s vetoes were overridden by the General Assembly. Following veto session, the Legislature drafted and passed two measures during the extraordinary session aiming to expand drug treatment courts and to promote careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

House Bill 2 aims to improve and expand Missouri’s drug treatment courts. These courts play an important role in keeping offenders out of prison and encouraging them to become productive citizens. Through this legislation, circuit courts will have the ability to establish special treatment court divisions to serve as an alternative for the judicial system for certain cases. These special courts are designed to handle cases involving alcohol, drugs and other forms of substance abuse. By allowing every circuit court in the state to establish treatment court divisions, we are giving local communities the ability to best decide how to rehabilitate substance abuse offenders. Statistics indicate that these special court divisions have the ability to lower recidivism rates when compared with both incarceration and probation. By expanding these successful drug treatment courts, I believe this legislation allows for individuals to receive the vital, life-saving treatment they need instead of being incarcerated in Missouri’s already over-crowded prison system.

The goal of House Bill 3 is to encourage high school students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math. The legislation requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to develop a STEM Career Awareness Program for students in grades six through eight. The goal of this program is to introduce students to STEM-related careers through an online-based program. In addition, the legislation requires DESE to develop a graduation policy that allows students to fulfill one unit of academic credit with a district-approved computer science course in place of any math, science or practical arts unit required for high school graduation. By allowing computer science courses to count toward graduation, we are incentivizing students to learn vital computer skills that will prepare them for success outside of the classroom. Computer science-related jobs are growing at a rate faster than any other career in our country. In Missouri, we currently have more than 10,000 open computer science jobs. These are good-paying jobs, and I believe this legislation has the potential to encourage and prepare our students to succeed in today’s technology-driven workforce.

Missouri Receives Extended Grace Period for the Implementation of REAL ID Requirements

Recently, the Missouri Department of Revenue informed legislators that the Department of Homeland Security is granting a grace period for the use of Missouri issued IDs through January 22, 2019. This means that Missourians will be able to use their current driver’s licenses for air travel and to gain access to military bases and other federal facilities through that date.

The REAL ID Act of 2005 was passed by Congress after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. This federal law sets standards for how states can issue forms of photographic identification. During the 2017 legislative session, the Legislature passed and the governor signed House Bill 151 into law. This legislation allows the Department of Revenue to give citizens the option of applying for a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license. The law includes several security measures intended to protect Missourians personal information. It does not allow the state to store social security numbers in databases that can be accessed by other state or federal departments. Currently, state officials are working with the federal government to implement the changes authorized by House Bill 151 in order for Missouri to be compliant with the REAL ID Act.

Thank you for reading this weekly column. Please contact my office at (573) 751-3678 if you have any questions.