There is bipartisan praise from Missouri House leaders about the Legislature’s passage of two key bills during the special session.

State Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, speaks about STEM education on the Missouri House floor on September 12, 2018 (photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

The bills involve expanding treatment courts and STEM education.

House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, says both are important.

“These were things that we worked very hard on in the regular session,” Richardson says. “We really applaud Governor Parson’s leadership in identifying these as priorities and worthy of a special session, and we’re really pleased that he called the General Assembly back for the purpose of getting these done.”

House Minority Leader Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis, also praises the passage of both bills.

Lawmakers have approved a bill expanding Missouri’s treatment court system to all counties.

The other bill establishes a statewide STEM career awareness program.

Governor Mike Parson (R) has not scheduled bill-signing ceremonies yet.

State Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, sponsored the STEM bill, which allows the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to create a “STEM career awareness program” for students in grades six through eight.

“I think that’s a really, really important piece, enabling kids to have more opportunities to get a substantial education while they’re in high school and in middle school now,” says Fitzwater.

STEM bill supporters, including State Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, say many of today’s computer science jobs go unfilled because not enough students have been trained for the positions.

Speaker Richardson says Missouri must have a trained, educated workforce to compete for 21st century jobs.

Meantime, the top Democrat in the Missouri House is praising the Legislature for passing a bill to expand the treatment court system to all counties.

House Minority Leader Mitten notes U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) spearheaded the creation of Missouri’s first drug treatment court in 1993, when she served as Jackson County Prosecutor.

“I think that it’s a great opportunity to pay homage to Senator McCaskill for her fine work in trailblazing on this piece,” Mitten tells the Capitol Press Corps.

Mitten notes the House approved the bill 141-1.

Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Zel Fischer told lawmakers in January that 15 counties had no access to any type of treatment court.

Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Chairman Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, says treatment courts work.

He echoes Mitten’s comment about the bill’s bipartisan support.

Chairman Dixon says nearly 25 percent of Missouri prisoners are incarcerated for convictions relating to drug and alcohol abuse.

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