Mike McGirl - News From The Capitol

September 08, 2021

The Show-Me-State’s rich history continues to take center stage this month. On September 18th, a parade and ball will mark our state’s 200th anniversary and also the inauguration of our state officials, since the inaugural events normally held in January were postponed due to COVID-19. At 10:00 AM, a parade which will include a Washington County float, will roll down the streets of downtown Jefferson City. Later, at 6:30 PM, the Bicentennial Inaugural Ball will be held on the Missouri State Capitol North Lawn and will feature live music and a fireworks display. All guests who plan to attend the Bicentennial Inaugural Ball are asked to RSVP using the following link:  https://www.movingmoforward.com/ball/. Additionally, I welcome all constituents to visit my office starting at 5:00 PM for refreshments.

I am proud that Washington County will be represented in the parade. As one of our oldest counties, our French cultural heritage is nationally-known. For instance, Old Mines will celebrate its 300th anniversary, or tercentenary, in 2023. The settlement was one of the first in the state, and is the hub of the “Missouri French” dialect of the French language. I would like to encourage everyone to attend the annual Fall Festival (Fete de L’Automne) on October 3rd, between 11:00 AM and 4:00 PM in Fertile, near the junction of Highways 21 and CC. Also, I would like to thank the Old Mines Area Historical Society for your hard work to preserve and promote the rich cultural traditions of the 118th District.

The annual veto session will convene on Wednesday, September 15th. Governor Parson vetoed four bills this year. These bills HB 226, which modifies the filing periods for the remittance of sales taxes; HB 362 which modifies provisions relating to the Missouri Sunshine Law and access to public records; HB 661 which modifies provisions relating to transportation; and HB 685 which modifies provisions relating to the duties and qualifications of certain public officers. A two thirds vote of both the House and Senate is required to override a veto.

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.”

They added, “This ESA program is a long-overdue step in the right direction. We look forward to working with State Treasurer Fitzpatrick to quickly implement this program so that scholarships are available for the 2022 school year.”

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)

One of my proudest accomplishments this year was passing legislation creating a Random Acts of Kindness Day. My colleagues 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.

This day is meant to encourage Missourians to engage in acts of good will toward their fellow citizens, reminding us 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.

After signing the bill into law, Gov. Mike Parson said, “Participation in Random Acts of Kindness Day will help us raise awareness and promote Missouri’s ongoing suicide prevention efforts. A random act of kindness can make a big difference.” 

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/.

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. Now, we know how to fight this virus and have a solution to ending the pandemic with the vaccine. 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 said, “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, while we are shifting our operations, we must maintain flexibility to aid our health care system and adapt to the challenges we face.”

He added, “We are returning to normal, but we must continue providing needed resources and support while more Missourians choose COVID-19 vaccination and are protected 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.

I welcome your ideas, questions and concerns. You may contact me at the State Capitol as follows: (573) 751-2398 or by email: mike.mcgirl@house.mo.gov or by writing to Rep. Mike McGirl, 201 W. Capitol Ave., Room 201-A, Jefferson City, Mo. 65101.