Senate gives final approval to STEM and treatment court bills, signs off on nearly all of Parson’s appointments

   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri’s legislative special session has come to a close with two bills passed.

The Senate on Friday morning passed HB 2 and HB 3, the two bills dealing with STEM education and treatment courts, as ordered by Gov. Mike Parson.

After rolling through the House this week with ease, the Senate took up the House bills in committee on Thursday, taking a few hours to pass the two oto the chamber floor. On Friday, the senators returned to the chamber at 9 a.m. to take up the legislation for third reading and final passage.

First up was HB 3, sponsored by Sen. Doug Libla, which sought to boost STEM and computer science education in K-12. The bill calls for a program to increase STEM career awareness in middle school as well as the creation of an online-based STEM curriculum.

Sen. Jill Schupp rose to question portions of the bill, particularly the piece allowing students to swap out a math course for the proposed computer science classes. As the rules stand, a student can currently do that with two other courses, and adding a third creates the possibility that a high school student could potentially graduate without taking any math courses, which Schupp took issue with.

Sen. Gina Walsh told of how she was one of those kids who did not receive the math education she needed to succeed in the field she went into but said that her daughter had gone into a similar field, and with the right classes, was able to do things that took her significant time without a thought.

“Are you trying to say we’re having to play ‘catch up’ because it doesn’t have the ‘mustard’?” Sen. Bob Dixon wrote in a note to Sen. Walsh as she spoke, receiving a chuckle from the chamber.

Sen. Rob Schaaf also spoke with Sen. Schupp, saying it was a matter of debating whether to pass it through as is or extend the special session and cost tens of thousands of dollars more, as the House has already adjourned, stating that any single change could mean more special session time.

Schupp filed an amendment, saying she had concerns about the contracting of the program.

“I’m really concerned about leaving that potential in there, I don’t think it was nefarious,” Schupp said. “We’re setting up a system where something could go awry.”

In the end, the bill passed with no changes with a 28-1 vote.

The Senate also signed off on HB 2, the other issue put forward for the special session this week.

HB 2 would place all treatment courts in the state under one regulatory umbrella, while also expanding the state commission that oversees treatment courts with two new members, someone representing the criminal defense and someone representing prosecutors. The bill would also allow jurisdictions without a treatment court to transfer a defendant to another jurisdiction that does have a treatment court.

Sen. Bob Dixon sponsored the legislation, which Sen. Jamilah Nasheed called the legislation a game changer, several different courts under one banner, and filed an amendment that failed.

That bill passed with a 29-0 vote.

After that, the Senate took up Gov. Parson’s appointments, but Sen. Nasheed sought to have the appointees vote upon individually, with the goal of voting individually on one of Parson’s appointments to the State Board of Education. After the Senate stood at ease, they returned to the floor where they received a message that Gov. Parson had withdrawn the appointment of Peter Hershcend to that board. The Senate then confirmed all of the other picks, with individual votes on Pat Thomas and Allen Rowland for the Clean Water Commission. Both passed with 26-1 votes.

The Senate then adjourned until 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 19.

Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email benjamin@themissouritimes.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.