Missouri Republican Governor Mike Parson has called a special session of the state legislature to focus on proposals for STEM education and treatment courts.
The special session will take place at the capitol in Jefferson City and will largely coincide with the annual veto session in which lawmakers can override the governor’s rejection of bills they passed. The special gathering will address two bills Governor Parson vetoed in July, largely for technical reasons.
He rejected a measure that would’ve established treatment court divisions to handle several categories involving substance, alcohol and mental disorders. The treatment court, which is currently called a drug court, would be expanded to include DWI as well as adult, family, juvenile and veterans treatment.
In a statement announcing the special session, Governor Parson said he vetoed the legislation due to problematic language added. The bill that included the treatment court proposal had additional components dealing with far-ranging issues such as abandoned property, claims against health care providers and a salary cap for Kansas City Police Officers.
In his veto letter of the treatment court bill, Parson said it appeared to violate the original purpose and single subject requirements of the Missouri Constitution. He stated that the bill as passed contained at least 13 different subjects, including many that don’t pertain to the final title of “courts”.
Parson’s veto letter also singled out two components of the bill that he found objectionable. He said the abandoned property proposal authorized entry onto property without notice or permission which could lead to an unsafe situation if the property owner arrived on the scene. In addition, Parson stated that another section of the bill appeared to carve out a special pension arrangement for one judge, which he said was unconstitutional. He did not name the judge.
STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and STEM education generally means integrating the four disciplines into a single curriculum.
In his Thursday evening statement introducing the special session, Governor Parson indicated he wanted lawmakers to work with a “more narrowly defined focus” to better serve the “people of Missouri.” He said the scheduling of the gathering would cut down on costs and save taxpayer dollars. “The timeliness of the call to have a special session concurrent with veto session will ensure that this special session is run efficiently,” said Parson.
Parson’s call received support from House and Senate leaders. Republican Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard of Joplin said, “We understand there are priorities the governor would like to accomplish before the end of the year. We respect those priorities, and as the Senate Leader, I will do what I can to push his agenda forward.”
Republican House Speaker Todd Richardson of Poplar Bluff expressed support for addressing both vetoed bills while the veto session will be in progress. “My colleagues and I are ready to have an efficient session that will improve our system of education to better prepare our young people for the jobs of the future, and give Missourians battling substance abuse access to treatment that will allow them to become healthy productive citizens,” said Richardson.
Former Republican Governor Eric Gretiens called two special sessions in 2017. The first one attempted to attract two factories to open in the poverty-stricken southeast portion of the state by allowing them to negotiate for lower electric rates.
The second one tightened restrictions on abortion providers after federal courts tossed two Missouri laws in 2016 requiring abortion clinics to meet standards for surgical centers and for their doctors to have hospital privileges.
Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Zel Fischer told state lawmakers in January that treatment courts help break the cycle of crime, noting there are 15 counties without such judicial remedies.