Greetings Friends of the 144!
I was honored to be a part of the American Legions dedication ceremony for a new POW/MIA monument. The POW/MIA monument is located in the Veterans Park in Piedmont. As many of you know, my grandfather, Alex Cortez was a POW of WWII so I have a special place in my heart for our veterans. I was so proud to have my two grandsons, Greyson and Asher attend the ceremony with me. This ceremony took the place of American Legion Post regular Memorial Day ceremony. I remember attending these ceremonies every Memorial Day since I was a young child with my family. Having my two grandsons with me brought back a lot of memories. I appreciate all the Legion does for our veterans.
Lawmakers Work to Protect Victims of Sexual Assault (SB 569)
A piece of legislation that received final approval from the General Assembly during the 2020 session would provide stronger protections for victims of sexual assault. The bill contains provisions that would better ensure justice for victims by requiring all hospitals to provide rape kits, giving survivors access to a tracking system for sexual assault evidence, and creating a Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights.
We need to stop victimizing the victims and quickly and accurately investigate the allegations of sexual assault. Rapists and serial rapists avoid justice when we fail to take the steps necessary to determine guilt and prosecute these crimes. How can we in good conscience continue to deny victims of sexual assault these basic rights? I believe that this bill brings justice to victims across Missouri.
A report done by the state attorney general found that more than 6,000 Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) kits remain untested in Missouri. The legislation approved by the General Assembly would give victims of sexual assault access to a secure electronic tracking system for these SAFE kits. With this, victims would be able to track the status of their kit throughout the legal process. The bill also requires the Department of Public Safety to develop a centralized repository for evidence that is temperature-controlled to preserve the integrity of the kits and diminish degradation.
To better support victims of sexual assault, the bill also establishes the Justice for Survivors Act. The act directs the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to establish a statewide telehealth network to provide forensic exams for victims of sexual assault. The measure is meant to address the fact that some hospitals are unable to conduct a complete forensic examination or properly collect evidence because they do not have a sexual assault nurse examiner on staff. The Justice for Survivors Act would require all hospitals to provide a forensic exam for victims of sexual assault by 2023. The act would provide assistance with in-person training on how to perform rape kits, and 24/7 access to a certified sexual assault examiner via the telehealth network.
The bill also establishes the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights, which includes rights and protections for survivors of sexual assault during any medical examination and interactions with law enforcement, the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney. The bill includes the right to consult with employees or volunteers of rape crisis centers during any examination or interview, the right to receive notice of these rights prior to an examination or interview, the right to a prompt analysis of the forensic evidence, the right to shower at no cost after a forensic exam and the right to choose the gender of the law enforcement officer who interviews them.
The legislation now needs the governor’s signature to become law.
Vital Workforce Development Legislation Awaits Governor’s Signature (HB 2046)
In the last days of the 2020 legislative session, members of the Missouri House and Senate were able to reach a final agreement on vital workforce development legislation. With passage of the innovative bill, Missouri establishes itself as a national leader in occupational license reform, criminal justice reform, and access to apprenticeships.
The bill is meant to increase employment opportunities for individuals during and after the COVID-19 pandemic throughout Missouri.
This is a workforce development bill will put people back to work. This bill will help the 400,000 Missourians that we have that are unemployed right now find meaningful work. The bill includes three important components:
1. Universal License Recognition – This provision will allow professionals moving to Missouri to continue working in their professions without delay. Currently, individuals licensed in other states must get relicensed in order to work in Missouri, which requires additional tests, training, and a long wait for approval. This provision will allow professionals already licensed in other states to come to Missouri and enter the workforce. The bill also includes the most expansive license reciprocity in the country for military families.
2. Fresh Start Act – The act will allow prior offenders who have served their time to integrate more effectively back into society by providing a path to meaningful work without arbitrary discrimination. Individuals will not be disqualified for a professional license because of a prior conviction unless the crime is directly related to the duties and responsibilities for the licensed occupation. This important criminal justice reform will allow those who have paid their debt to society to make a positive impact in their communities.
3. Expanded Workforce Act – The act will expand Missouri’s recognition of apprenticeships as a path to licensure and work. It will allow apprentices to obtain industry licenses as part of an apprenticeship. According to recent reports, Missouri reached 10,000 new registered apprenticeships in 2019, becoming second in the nation for new apprenticeships. The state also ranked second in number of apprenticeships competed in 2019.
The bill now waits on the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Declining Revenues Necessitate Additional Expenditure Restrictions
While the legislature and the executive branch have worked diligently to protect funding for Missouri’s most vital programs, the continued economic decline that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic has forced lawmakers to find areas in the state budget to make spending restrictions. Gov. Parson announced $227 million in spending restrictions in April, and recently announced another $220 million in reductions in order to bring the current operating budget into balance.
The governor noted that the state is dealing with dramatic declines in jobs and revenues. The state saw a loss of more than 300,000 jobs between March and April. Where the state had previously been at near-historic lows for unemployment at under 4 percent, the state saw the unemployment rate jump to 9.7 percent in April. The state has also seen revenues decline by more than $575 million compared to last year.
To bring the current budget into balance, Parson announced he is reducing funding for the Office of Administration, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Health and Senior Services, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Of the $209 million in expenditure restrictions, more than $41 million comes from the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development and more than $131 million from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Parson also announced that the state will utilize $187 million in federal CARES Act funds to help a majority of school districts in the short term.
A full list of the expenditure restrictions can be viewed at this link: https://oa.mo.gov/budget-planning/budget-information/2020-budget-information
I hope you have a Wonderful Week! As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have. As your Representative, I am here to assist you however I can. I can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 573-751-2112. Please do not contact me via social media. These messages are easy to overlook and may not be responded to in a timely manner.
Chris Dinkins is the area’s state representative for the 144th Legislative District. She can be reached by email – [email protected] or by telephone: 573-751-2112.