Greetings Friends of the 144th Legislative District!
A BIG congratulations to Frances Huitt who retired as the Wayne County Assessor. I was honored to be able to present Frances with a resolution commemorating her 16 years of service to the county. As you may recall, Tara Smith was elected last November as the new assessor and was sworn in this past week. I’m sure Tara will do a great job as she has worked in the office for several years. If you see Frances out enjoying retirement, let her know you appreciate her years of service to the community.
This week I attended a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new AT&T tower. One thing I always hear, and I totally agree with, is that we need more cell coverage. Traveling across the district, I can attest to the fact that we been fortunate to see increased coverage with the addition of new towers. Yes, we still have a long way to go before we have great service but I am thankful for every new tower we get and the investments these companies have made in our communities. Most people do not understand how poor our service is. When I hear Urban legislators argue that they need 5G, I tell them we will be happy with any G! Since December 2019 AT&T has built 20+ towers in the 8th Congressional District.
Governor Parson Ends Existing State of Emergency
Governor Mike Parson recently terminated Executive Order 20-02, which officially ended the State of Emergency that had been in effect since March 13, 2020.
Parson said, “In the nearly 18 months we operated under this Executive Order, we have responded to the COVID-19 crisis by providing unprecedented levels of resources and support. This Order enabled us to respond to the unknown and ever-changing needs of our state. Today, we are terminating this order as our situation no longer demands an expansive emergency declaration.”
Parson replaced the order with Executive Order 21-09, which represents a more targeted State of Emergency declaration that acknowledges the continued needs of Missouri’s health care system. While Missouri’s economy has improved, the health care system is still experiencing strain due to current staffing shortages being exacerbated by COVID-19.
Executive Order 21-09 invokes the Governor’s emergency powers pursuant to Section 44.100 and activates the Missouri National Guard for continued mission support in recovery operations, if needed. The order also keeps in place provisions related to remote notary services and telehealth, and it allows state agencies to request waiver of certain statutory and regulatory requirements that would otherwise hinder the state’s response to ongoing COVID-19 challenges.
Parson believes we have always taken a balanced approach in our response to COVID-19, and this new order demonstrates the progress we have made in fighting this virus. Like all Missourians, we want this crisis to end and to close this chapter. However, he feels that while we are shifting our operations, we must maintain flexibility to aid our health care system and adapt to the challenges we face. We are working on returning to normal, but we must continue providing needed resources and support to protect others from serious illness.
Executive Order 21-09 will terminate on December 31, 2021. To view the order, please visit https://www.sos.mo.gov/library/reference/orders/2021/eo9.
New Scholarships Empower Missouri Families to Make Education Choices (HB 349)
A bill approved during the 2021 legislative session took effect on August 28 to create the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program. The bill marks the culmination of years of effort by Missouri lawmakers and education reform advocates. The new program will provide up to $50 million in tax credit-funded scholarships annually. Parents of qualifying K-12 students can use the scholarships to pay for public or private school tuition, books and educational materials, tutoring, or assistive services.
The scholarship accounts are meant to help students whose unique learning needs aren’t being met by the traditional school environment. They are specifically targeted for students with learning disabilities and young people who come from a low-income background. The availability of scholarships is tied directly to new state investments in public school funding. The ESA program will be administered by the State Treasurer and individual scholarship accounts will be managed by nonprofit educational organizations.
House Speaker Rob Vescovo and Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden joined the sponsors of the bill to issue a statement saying, “With everything happening in our schools today, parents and students need educational choice now more than ever. There is no greater tool to break the cycles of crime and poverty and to create good jobs and thriving communities—than a quality education. Less than half of Missouri students are performing at grade-level in reading and math—clearly the traditional one-size-fits-all approach just isn’t working. It’s time to empower Missouri parents to make the educational choices that will best meet their children’s unique needs.”
Parents who want to learn more about the ESA program, or to determine if their children are eligible for the scholarships, can visit https://www.showmeschooloptions.org/.
Helping to Prevent Suicide (SB 72)
During the 2021 session, lawmakers once again showed their strong support for improved mental health care and efforts to help Missourians struggling with suicidal thoughts. Thanks to legislation passed during the regular session, August 31 represented the first annual Random Acts of Kindness Day. The day also marks the beginning of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September.
The legislature created Random Acts of Kindness Day to encourage Missourians to engage in acts of good will toward their fellow citizens. The day is meant to remind Missourians that one small act of kindness has the power to change the course of a person’s life and the potential to impact countless lives as random acts of kindness are paid forward. The day is meant to help all Missourians in need, but also to honor and preserve the memory of Shayley Akers, who tragically committed suicide in 2016. Shayley’s mother worked diligently to create the Random Acts of Kindness Day in remembrance of her daughter, who was known for the generous acts she did for others.
The new day leads into Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, which takes place in September. The month is meant to raise awareness about suicide and the resources available for those struggling with suicidal thoughts. According to the CDC, suicide rates in the United States increased by 33 percent between 1999 and 2019. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the nation and there were more than 47,500 suicides in 2019, which is one death approximately every 11 minutes. In 2019, 12 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.5 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.4 million attempted suicide.
Missourians who are in crisis, or who know someone in crisis, should contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. They can also access the Lifeline Crisis Chat by visiting https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
I would like to challenge each and every one of you to do a random act of kindness this week. Let’s show others we care. I would love to hear from you all about your experience. Please share it on social media or email it to me.
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 Chris.Dinkins@house.mo.gov 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.
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. Additionally, the bill creates a Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights.
Since the effort began to address the backlog of untested kits, 1,021 untested kits have been identified in the SAFE Kit Initiative inventory and shipped to a private lab in Virginia to be tested.
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 Chris.Dinkins@house.mo.gov 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.