Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has chosen well in identifying two issues – STEM education and drug treatment courts – as deserving of being resurrected during a special session next month.
The governor is transparent in his push to stress a new, more cooperative working relationship with the General Assembly following the resignation of former Gov. Eric Greitens. The two proposals he is promoting for fresh consideration were vetoed by Parson earlier due to "problematic language" that was added during the spring legislative session, but both had strong bipartisan support.
We have written previously about Missouri Chief Justice Zel Fischer's legislative agenda for the state's criminal justice system. Fischer championed the proposed expansion of drug courts – specialized courts that offer a path to recovery for those facing felony charges related to their addictions.
Participants get access to addiction services, but also are subject to intense court supervision and frequent drug-testing.
Thousands of people have successfully completed the programs, had their charges dropped and been given a second chance to lead productive lives. But Fischer noted last winter that residents of 15 counties in the state had no access to any kind of treatment court. Further, state funding cuts had reduced drug court participation by 23 percent.
The proposal in the special session, Sept. 10-14, was hailed by Judge Alan Blankenship, president of the Missouri Association of Treatment Court Professionals: "Treatment courts are the most successful intervention in our nation's history for holding accountable people living with substance use and mental health disorders, and leading them out of the justice system into lives of recovery and stability."
The other proposal for the special session would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to establish an online program to educate students about STEM careers – professions that require expertise in science, technology, engineering or math.
"With tens of thousands of unfilled tech jobs in Missouri, it is more important than ever to make STEM career pathways visible to young people," notes Jeff Mazur, executive director of LaunchCode, which provides free, accessible tech training to Missourians.
A previous version of the legislation was rejected by Parson after he said bidding criteria for an online program that was spelled out in the bill appeared tailored for one company.
– St. Joseph News-Tribune