On Wednesday, Sept. 16, the General Assembly returned to the State Capitol for the annual veto session and to conclude its work on the extra session called by the governor. The veto session is part of our state constitution’s system of checks and balances, particularly between the executive and legislative branches. Typically a one-day affair, this session gives lawmakers the ability to overturn bills vetoed by the governor. Following the completion of the 2020 legislative session, the governor vetoed two bills and issued 17 line-item vetoes — totaling more than $11 million — to the state’s 2021 operating budget. While the House of Representatives successfully voted to overturn one of the governor’s line-item vetoes to House Bill 2004, the Senate did not take up the same motion. At the end of the day, lawmakers did not override any of the governor’s vetoes.
The extra session concluded with the passage of two bills. House Bill 66 creates a statewide witness protection fund. Through this fund, law enforcement agencies can receive funding to provide security for witnesses, potential witnesses and their immediate families during criminal proceedings or investigations. House Bill 46 temporarily eliminates the residency requirement for police officers and emergency responders in the City of St. Louis. According to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the city police force is short more than 140 officers. Although there is still much to do when it comes to violent crime in our state, I believe these two measures are a step in the right direction.
Has COVID-19 forced you to be laid-off or furloughed from your job? From now through Dec. 4, the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development is offering free enrollment to 1,000 eligible, unemployed workers for online training courses. The Return Strong initiative’s goals are to help Missourians “skill up,” return to work and safely reopen our economy. Individuals who complete the eight week courses will earn certification in information technology, cybersecurity or project management. No previous experience is necessary!
Highway Patrol to Host Use of Force Accountability Symposiums across State
The Missouri State Highway Patrol has scheduled five Use of Force Accountability Forums in different regions across the state to discuss policing techniques, explain the reasoning behind these policies and offer participants an opportunity to respond to various situations via interactive simulations. Legislators, community leaders and activists are encouraged to attend. The southwest Missouri forum will be in Springfield on Oct. 2 at Missouri State University. Email Collin.Strosberg@mshp.dps.mo.gov for additional information.
Suicide Prevention is Everyone’s Responsibility
September marks Suicide Prevention Month throughout our country, and behavioral health advocates use this designation to spread the message that everyone can help prevent suicide. In my opinion, the most startling statistics among the grim suicide figures are the number of veterans and young people who take their own lives each year. As state and local leaders, concerned community members, parents and citizens, we can all do more to lower these numbers and save another family from the soul-crushing devastation of suicide.
One of the simplest things a person can do often seems like the most challenging. Asking the question, “Are you ok?” goes a long way to quiet suicidal ideation and show a desperately depressed individual that you care. Many people don’t intervene, fearing that their inexperience will make matters worse, but your concern cannot possibly make a suicide attempt or outcome any worse. You do not have to be a professional counselor to help someone in crisis. Get the facts, ask the question, call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 and be a suicidal person’s invisible guardian until the depression is treated. Don’t let inaction or “what if” end a life.
Plan your Scenic Fall Road Trip
Before you decorate for the harvest and get tired of pumpkin everything, take advantage of Missouri’s beautiful autumn symphony of colors and plan a road trip. Our foliage usually peaks in mid-October, and if the weather cooperates with cool evenings, the hues of maples, oaks, hickory and ash trees make the Show-Me State’s landscape absolutely spectacular.
Bicentennial Time Capsule Items Needed
As Missouri prepares for its 200th anniversary of statehood on Aug. 10, 2021, the Missouri State Historical Society is collecting items that represent our past, present and future to place in a time capsule. Organizations, businesses and local government agencies may submit items that meet the specifications through Aug. 10, 2021, and the sealed capsule will be housed in St. Louis until it’s opened in 2046. Call 800-747-6366 for additional information.
Community Blood Center of the Ozarks Needs Donors
It seems that there is nothing that COVID-19 hasn’t affected, and our community’s blood supply is no exception. Our area hospitals are in desperate need of all blood types to fill the deficits left by blood drive cancellations and increased demand caused by the pandemic. The Community Blood Center of the Ozarks provides blood to over 40 health care facilities in the southwest Missouri area, so if you are willing, healthy and able, please donate soon. For more information, dial 417-227-5000.
Local Legislators Present Flags at Chief Sarcoxie Days
Our Jasper County community of Sarcoxie hosted its annual Chief Sarcoxie Days on Sept. 10-13. I was honored to attend an event at the Sarcoxie Chamber Historical Center, which recently took over the Gene Taylor Library and Museum on the Square. The staff is diligently working to update the facility and add more tributes to local veterans. One of their requests was for new American and Missouri flags to replace the aged, tattered ones, so Rep. Ann Kelley and I were thrilled to present the new flags and congratulate them on this endeavor. Thank you, Judy Patrick and Michele Gautz, for inviting us and coordinating this effort.