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Covering state lawmakers, bills, and policy emerging from Jefferson City.

Revised STEM and treatment court bills pass Missouri special session

Gov. Mike Parson flanked by House Speaker Todd Richardson, left, and Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard.
File | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Gov. Mike Parson flanked by House Speaker Todd Richardson, left, and Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard.

It’s mission accomplished for Gov. Mike Parson, as the Missouri Legislature’s special session is all but over.

The Senate Friday debated and passed both revised bills the governor wanted – legislation to allow expansion of treatment courts in Missouri, and to create an online science, technology, engineering and math curriculum for middle-school and high-school students.

“This is a great day for Missouri,” Parson said. “Passing these two important issues with overwhelming, bipartisan support is a major step forward in preparing Missouri’s future workforce.”

Republican Bob Dixon of Springfield, who handled the treatment courts bill in the Senate, touted the courts’ success.

“Treatment courts work – as we heard in committee, a 49-percent reduction in recidivism rate, if you’re looking at it, as defined, the individual not coming back and being arrested for a felony offense,” he said. “That is long-term success, that’s treatment, that’s intervention, and that is lifting people up … and it’s great for families.”

It passed the Senate 29-0. Before the vote, Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, offered an amendment that would have created treatment courts for those with mental-health conditions.

“Mental illness is impacting so many people throughout our state and this country, and no one is really shining a light on it,” she said.

Dixon and fellow Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, expressed support for the idea of mental-health treatment courts. But they opposed Nasheed’s amendment because they feared the House might not only oppose it but could kill the bill by adjourning from the special session.

Nasheed then withdrew her amendment “out of a good faith effort that I’ll have [Republican] individuals that will be willing to support me next session on trying to get this bill passed and across the finish line.”

Meanwhile, majority floor leader Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, praised the STEM bill passage.

Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur.
Credit File | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur.

“Here in Missouri, 10,000 computer-science jobs go unfilled every year because of a lack of graduates in those fields,” he said. “So I think this is a very important accomplishment for the education of our students.”

It passed 28-1, with the lone “no” vote coming from Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur. She expressed concerns over provisions in the bidding process for STEM curriculum vendors and over allowing students to substitute a computer-science course for math.

“When students graduate from high school, they’re required to have three credits in math,” she said. “One of those credits can be substituted for a vocational training course, another can be substituted by taking an agricultural course, and now that third credit in math can be substituted by taking computer science – we can have kids graduating from Missouri high schools with zero math credits because they’ll been able to substitute out all three.”

Parson vetoed earlier versions of the STEM and treatment court bills, citing concerns about how they were written. Lawmakers agreed not to override the vetoes in exchange for passing alternate versions this week.

The special session will end next week when House and Senate leaders sign the bills before sending them to the governor.

Follow Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallGReport

Copyright 2018 St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Radio State House Reporter Marshall Griffin is a native of Mississippi and proud alumnus of Ole Miss (welcome to the SEC, Mizzou!). He has been in radio for over 20 years, starting out as a deejay. His big break in news came when the first President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989. Marshall was working the graveyard shift at a rock station, and began ripping news bulletins off an old AP teletype and reading updates between songs. From there on, his radio career turned toward news reporting and anchoring. In 1999, he became the capital bureau chief for Florida's Radio Networks, and in 2003 he became News Director at WFSU-FM/Florida Public Radio. During his time in Tallahassee he covered seven legislative sessions, Governor Jeb Bush's administration, four hurricanes, the Terri Schiavo saga, and the 2000 presidential recount. Before coming to Missouri, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reporting and anchoring for WWNC-AM in Asheville, North Carolina. Marshall lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Julie, their dogs, Max and Liberty Belle, and their cat, Honey.