The occasional near zero temperatures remind us in Mid Missouri that winter is still with us. The legislative session is gaining steam as bills are heard in committee and are voted on by the committee and some are moved on in the process.
The occasional near zero temperatures remind us in Mid Missouri that winter is still with us. The legislative session is gaining steam as bills are heard in committee and are voted on by the committee and some are moved on in the process. We debated and passed one bill on the House floor this week. HB 1125 made it less difficult for members of the military and those with disabilities to file to run for office. This was a nice way to start off the debate in the House as there was not much opposition and the vote was nearly unanimous, with 153 Ayes and 0 Nays and 1 voting Present.
This week, I attended a dinner meeting hosted by the Missouri Association of School Administrators. At that meeting I was joined by Dr. Aaron Zalis, the Superintendent of the Rolla School district and Senator Dan Brown.
Each year, at this meeting we listen to a presentation put on by various members of the Association about an educational issue of the day. I recall in a previous year we heard a presentation by the Joplin School district about how they mobilized resources in their area to meet the needs of the students after the tragic tornado that hit their area.
This year for our meeting the Rolla School district was proud to present the program for those in attendance. Ginger King and Brenda Spurgeon were introduced by Dr. Zalis and then they took the ball and ran with it. A one on one technology model describes a district’s approach that provides a computer device to each student. Ours is a hybrid approach which allows a student to bring their own device while at the same time a large number of devices are provided for students use by the school district.
Ginger and Brenda pointed out that simple procurement of computers is not sufficient to assure that students will learn what they need to know in today’s world. We assume that young people somehow innately know all things computerized. While they may know how to communicate on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Instagram, they may not be able to use technology to its fullest extent in the pursuit of academic excellence and knowledge. That is where the value of instruction enters. Before our teachers can teach the students how to best apply these technologies they have to learn how to do it themselves. That has been the mission of Ginger and Brenda and I perceive that they are achieving those goals very well. I was proud that the Rolla School District presented a program on these topics that demonstrated that they are at the leading edge of rolling this out to our students.
The topic was the utilization of technology in innovative ways to facilitate instruction and learning. We learned a great deal about what our school district is doing and how they are in many ways leading the way in this area. Brenda discussed the use of QR codes in the instructional process in the Rolla district. QR codes are those mosaic looking, square, puzzle like images that you see sometimes on billboards in the airport, in magazines and in other print media. They basically allow an individual to use a QR code reader (available as an ap) to take a photo of the image and then be directed to a website with the information desired. It is a shortcut to having to enter in the URL address.
Brenda discussed how video segments recorded by the teacher can be used as a supplement to instruction or even to continue an instructional theme when the teacher has to be away and a substitute teacher is taking over. The concept of having the lesson be viewed at home by the student and then when at school using the time to finish homework and get assistance from the teacher in sticking points was presented.
There was much more, and I cannot do justice to the presentation in this report. I was however, proud of our district, our teachers and administration and board for having had the vision to meet the needs of our students with this emerging and essential technology in our district.
Health Care Policy Committee
At our Committee meeting this week, we heard a bill sponsored by our Speaker, Representative Tim Jones HB 1430, the Medical Workers’ Conscience Bill. This bill basically prevents a nurse, doctor or other health care worker from being forced to participate in a medical procedure that they find objectionable from a moral or religious point of view. There are exceptions built in to avoid denial of urgent services due to this provision. There is also a requirement for reasonable notice by the employee with such objections to allow scheduling to take place that assures that such services can proceed as needed. Medical procedures such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, human somatic cell nuclear transfer, fetal tissue research and non-therapeutic fetal experimentation would be included in the provisions of this bill. By that I mean that a medical worker could request that he or she not be required to participate in this type of work and not be subjected to discipline, reduction in wages or benefits or other retaliatory action. There was opposition from the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and notably the Missouri Hospital Association. Testimony in favor was quite substantial. One of the objections of the Missouri Hospital Association was that the bill requires that the medical professional asserting their right not to participate had to give “reasonable notice” under the circumstances, and the MHA found that to be too vague. I generally am very supportive of our hospitals and the Missouri Hospital Association, however on this point I was compelled to point out what I believed to be a glaring inconsistency. I asked the lobbyist if the American Hospital Association had endorsed and lobbied for the passage of ObamaCare (aka the Affordable Care Act) and he responded yes. I then asked how the term “provide reasonable notice” was apparently more objectionable to our hospitals than the volumes of obscure ambiguous and to be determined later segments of ObamaCare. If the hospitals are not bothered by the language in ObamaCare, which they lobbied for, how can the object to “provide reasonable notice”.
HB 1411 Tanning Bed Parental Consent for Minors
For those of you who have read these reports in previous years, you will be familiar with this issue. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Gary Cross, and supported by about every medical group and spearheaded by the Dermatologists requires that if someone less than 17 years of age wants to use a tanning facility, he or she must have consent of a parent before using the facility. We passed this in the house last year, but it apparently fell prey to the sausage making of politics in the Senate and died an unexpected death near the end of last session. In its current form it will require that information about the increased risk of cancer with accumulated exposures to tanning bed UV light be made available to parents and minors wishing to use a tanning facility and that parental approval be given in writing before use of the tanning facility by a minor. There are also fines spelled out in the bill including $100 fine for an individual who violates the statute and a $1,000 fine for a tanning facility violation. In my estimation the fine on the individual should be removed and the fine to the business should be reduced substantially.
We should however, pay attention to this as a preventable death due to cancer, simply from a lack of knowledge of the danger of tanning is a shame. It is also primarily a parental rights bill. I believe most parents would want to know if their son or daughter is going to be exposed to something that could cause a deadly skin lesion. This year, I was encouraged to see that the lobbyist representing the tanning industry indicated that the industry or at least the Association he represents is not opposing the legislation, but would like to have some influence over the terms of the statue eventually enacted. This is a far different position than in the past when the dangers were very much downplayed by the industry and they fought pretty hard to avoid any parental consent. I noted that the tanning facility would benefit from having parental consent on file, since if a cancer occurs, the facility would be in better legal position since they could show that a warning and information were given and the parents opted to allow it. We have not taken a vote on the bill in my Committee just yet, but may do so next week.
Executive Session in Health Care Policy Committee Vote on HB 1370 & 1313
In Executive Session this week we voted on only one bill, and that was HB 1370 & 1313 which I sponsored along with Rep. Kevin Elmer. This bill increases the waiting time for obtaining an abortion from the current 24 hours to 72 hours. We voted the bill “Do Pass” out of Committee by a vote of 8 Ayes and 3 Nays, on strict party lines. I did two interviews for news outlets after the Committee meeting on the bill, one for the Kansas City Star and one for KOMU TV. I pointed out that the provisions of this bill do not prevent abortion; but if passed, it would give more time for the woman to consider the impact of her decision and to talk with family, friends and just do some soul searching. I was asked by the young college student who conducted the interview for KOMU if I felt it should be any different in the case of rape or incest. I responded that this was a very difficult situation, a difficult decision and that my heart went out to women in this position. At the end of the day however, I still believe that a 72 hour waiting period is appropriate. We are not denying the access to an abortion in such cases; the law provides that up to the time of viability, 20 weeks, an abortion can be done in Missouri. We are, by this proposal, just extending the time from 24 hours to 72 hours before proceeding.
I met with some constituents this week who favor legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. We talked about the pros and cons again. I mentioned that I prefer to wait and see what happens in Colorado and Washington State where legalization has taken place. We did hold open the possibility that at some later time in the current session I may be able to provide a hearing for the issue. I did not assure that such a hearing would be given as we have many pressing issues coming to our committee for consideration and I do not want to crowd out another proposal that I believe has promise by hearing the marijuana bill. We all managed to stay calm, collected and respectful during our discussions and I am thankful for that. I heard a tale from another State Rep this morning who was accosted at a pizza restaurant by someone who was opposed to the Representatives stance on abortion. It was unpleasant, and quite a scene I was told. We agreed that such occurrences, unfortunately come with the turf, and one had better have a thick skin if he or she is entering the world of politics even at the state level.
Health Care Bill and Medicaid Reform
I continue to work hard on the bill to reform Medicaid and our health care system in general in collaboration with Senator Dr. Rob Schaaf. This bill has many moving parts and new ideas continue to make their way into it. I have had meetings with Information Technology experts, previous State Rep. Dr. Wayne Cooper (formerly chair of the Committee on Health Care Policy), a number of physicians, and government liaisons for the Missouri State Medical Association, Mr. Jeff Howell and Mr. Ken Jackson, Mr. Brad Bates of the Missouri Assoc. of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons, colleagues in the House with health care interest and expertise, and analysts in Legislative Research here at the Capitol. When it is finally ready, Senator Schaaf and I will announce it and file it on the same day.