THE BEST PART ABOUT THIS LAST WEEK? The swearing in of four new House members who were elected in November in special elections throughout the state. Brandon Ellington (D-Kansas City), Tracy McCreery (I- St. Louis), Judy Morgan (D-Kansas City) and Chrissy Sommer (R-St. Charles) were officially sworn in Tuesday January 10 with family and friends filling the House chamber balconies and then immediately took their seats on the floor with us.
I am most pleased to be serving with my longtime friend, Rep. McCreery who is my new chamber seat mate. As colleagues, we have worked on many issues since 2000 – domestic violence, equality rights, reproductive justice and fighting to protect children/families from gun violence. As new members of the Progressive Caucus, I look forward to working with her and Reps. Ellington and Morgan as we work to protect rights and justice for all Missourians, not just for those who can afford it.
TASK FORCE FOR THE PREVENTION OF SEXUAL ABUSE OF CHILDREN MEETS
Concerns about child sexual abuse were suddenly forced to the forefront of the public consciousness as news of the Penn State scandal surfaced. Despite the horrific details of the case, it's good timing for members of the Task Force for the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children.
I am a legislative-appointed member of the 16-member group which held its first meeting Friday, January 6 in Jefferson City.
The Task Force was created via the passing of SB54 during the 2011 legislative session to study the issue of sexual abuse of children, will meet monthly and will issue a final report with recommendations to the Governor, General Assembly and State Board of Education by January 1, 2013.
Drawing attention to child sexual abuse in past years has been difficult at best because of its ghastly nature. The arrest of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky in November has allowed more public dialogue on the issue.
"People, because of Penn State, seem willing to listen," said Joy Oesterly, executive director of Missouri Kids First.
The statute creating the task force dictated that a wide array of stakeholders,from school officials and police to children's advocates and sexual assault counselors, be included on the membership roster.
Portions of Friday's meeting were spent discussing what issues should be tackled and what types of remedies should be considered. An additional worry among members was that, with the state continuing to struggle with budget deficits, any recommendations the task force produces requiring funding may not be picked up by lawmakers.
"It's hard to do anything without money, but it's hard to get any money in this budgetary climate," said Emily van Schenkhof, deputy director of Missouri Kids First.
A model of how to tackle a complicated subject like child abuse and present meaningful results may be the Attorney General's Task Force on Domestic Violence, on which I also served. That panel found specific policy recommendations that could help to curb domestic violence in Missouri that didn't require a lot of additional funding by "piggy-backing" off existing resources.
In 2010, around 80 percent of the child sexual abuse reports in Missouri came from mandated reporters. The largest category of reporters was law enforcement and social workers, according to the Missouri Department of Social Services.
NIXON TO DELIVER STATE OF THE STATE SPEECH - TUESDAY, JANUARY 17
Gov. Jay Nixon will deliver his 2012 State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly at 7 p.m. on Jan. 17. In the speech, Nixon will offer his proposed state operating budget for the 2013 fiscal year and outline his legislative agenda for the year, which is expected to focus on job creation. The speech will be streamed live at www.mo.gov.
STATE OF THE JUDCIARY BY SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE RICHARD TEITELMAN - WEDNESDAY JANUARY 18The address will also be streamed live at the joint session of the General Assembly at 10am at www.mo.gov.
Please feel free to come to the State Capitol in Jefferson City and visit us in action. We normally go into session at 4pm on Mondays and adjourn for the week Thursday afternoons. Let me know if you are coming so I can be sure to meet with you - either via scheduled appointment or by me stepping briefly off the floor.
I will be back home in my district in St. Louis on Fridays so please contact Carla Luebbert, my assistant if I can be of any assistance to you then.
I would love to hear from you so please don't be shy!