A state representative makes an impassioned plea on the House floor, but fails to persuade enough votes to push through a measure he champions.
Rarely has a speech on the House floor silenced the chamber. All fell silent as Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst (R-Manchester) speaks from the heart about his scholarship program for special needs children, such as those with autism.
"Autism found me," Scharnhorst told colleagues during his floor speech, "in the form of a grandson."
Scharnhorst says Bryce Scharnhorst; non-verbal, epileptic, autistic, changed his life as he spent every other weekend with his grandfather.
"We stopped time," Scharnhorst says, "We spent two days with simplicity, humanity and we communicated with the biggest blue eyes you ever saw. We didn’t need words."
The Judavine Center in St. Louis, a private school for children with special needs, taught Bryce Scharnhorst to communicate. Bryce made great strides prior to his death, at the age of 6, about a year ago.
Scharnhorst says centers that specialize in autistic as well as other special needs children are expensive. He says his family paid about $30,000 a year for Bryce to go to Judavine. Costs for other services can run considerably higher. Scharnhorst has sponsored a measure that would give tax credits to those who donate to a scholarship fund which would allow special needs children to attend private schools. He says five other states have such programs, intended to help students with "hard core" disabilities.
"I ask you to look inside your heart, cause you know it’s in there and you know it’s saying ‘This is the right thing to do’", Scharnhorst pauses before ending his plea with, "I need you."
Many colleagues lauded Scharnhorst’s speech. Not enough supported his idea. An amendment to strip Scharnhorst’s measure from a larger bill won approval in the House on an 80-to-52 vote.