Ann Kelley's Capitol Connection
What’s Going on in the Capitol
DHSS Reports Progress with Reduced Numbers of Children in State Custody
The House Committee on Children and Families met to receive testimony and discuss the work of the Department of Social Services (DSS) - Children's Division. Leaders from the child welfare agency were pleased to report a reduction in the number of children in our state’s foster care system, which they said shows progress in building toward a system that is more proactive and preventative than reactionary.
Darrell Missey, the director of the Children’s Division, said that reducing the number of kids in state custody has been a goal for the department, and noted that in 2021, Missouri removed children at a rate nearly twice the national average, through reunification with families, adoptions, guardianships, or aging out of the system. In July, the number of kids in the state’s foster care system dipped below 13,000 for the first time in nearly a decade.
One of the key items of discussion was the Temporary Alternative Placement Agreements (TAPAs), which is a voluntary agreement between a family member and the Children’s Division that allows a child who has been determined to be unsafe to be temporarily placed out of the home with a relative to reduce or eliminate threats to the safety of children. The committee asked for more extensive, regularly updated public data on the matter to track these cases and better evaluate how TAPAs work and how to better serve and protect the children while being more accountable and transparent about the process. The state does not publicly post the numbers of kids in temporary care, and lawmakers said this gives an incomplete picture of the foster care system. DSS Director Robert Knodell said the department believes they have a capacity to provide the committee with ongoing numbers and that he would look into whether their system allows that data to be published.
Other committee hearings and meetings:
The Committee on Transportation Accountability met to discuss a variety of topics, ranging from interstate construction, maintenance, planning, and funding; MoDOT employee policies; construction cost inflation; and outdoor advertising. The Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight also met to discuss the MoDOT I-70 project and pending applications for memorial highway and bridge designations.
The statutory Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment held their fourth hearing since end of session to receive testimony from state departments receiving funding to address the very significant problem of substance abuse, particularly the use of opioids, meth, alcohol, and tobacco, in our state. To date, the committee has heard from the Departments of Mental Health, Social Services including Division of Mo HealthNet (Medicaid), Health and Senior Services, Corrections and Office of State Courts Administrator (Drug Courts), and are reviewing the uses of state budget by these the departments, the effectiveness on the state programs and improvements that could be made. The goal of this committee is to maximize the benefit of state resources in combatting the problems. Upon completion of hearings, the Task Force will present a report and recommendations to the House, the Senate and the Governor.
The Committee on Workforce and Infrastructure Development received a presentation from the director of Missouri’s Office of Broadband Development to report on the progress of the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program. A second committee, the Joint Committee on Rural Economic Development, also met for an organizational meeting regarding broadband deployment.
The Committee on Elections and Elected Officials also met to hear reports from the Director of Elections for the State of Missouri regarding election procedures and security measures for elections held in Missouri. Director Chrissy Peters provided updates to the committee on the equipment being used for elections, as well as on the certified vendors providing services to the state.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education presented information to the Joint Committee on Education concerning the Missouri School Funding Formula, the sixth iteration of the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP 6), and the Missouri Quality Education Act (Metrics and Transparency Discussion).
All of these committees were streamed live on the Missouri House of Representatives website, and the videos are available for any to watch in the House archives found at www.house.mo.gov.
Kelly Broniec Named Missouri Supreme Court Judge
Gov. Mike Parson on Tuesday announced Judge Kelly Broniec as his choice to fill an open seat on the Missouri Supreme Court. She will fill the vacancy left by Judge George W. Draper III, who retired this year.
Judge Broniec, 52, currently serves as chief judge of the Missouri’s Eastern District Court of Appeals in St. Louis. She was appointed to serve on the Eastern District Court of Appeals by Governor Parson in 2020. Before serving on the appellate bench, she served as an Associate Circuit Judge for Montgomery County for nearly 15 years after her appointment by Governor Matt Blunt in 2006. Prior to her appointment to the bench, Judge Broniec served as the Montgomery County Prosecuting Attorney from 1999 to 2006 and earned her Juris Doctor from the University of Missouri–Columbia School of Law, as well as her Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from William Woods University.
“Throughout her career, Judge Broniec has always been a strong advocate for families and even more so for Missouri children. Her record shows that she is a fair enforcer of the law, interprets the law as written, and leaves legislating to the General Assembly. We look forward to her successful tenure on our state’s highest court for years to come,” Governor Parson said.
This is the second time Governor Parson has filled a Supreme Court vacancy. In 2021, he appointed Judge Robin Ransom to an open seat. Later this year he will get a chance to replace Judge Patricia Breckenridge, who retires in October after turning 70, the court’s mandatory retirement age.
Judge Broniec’s swearing-in date has not yet been set; however, Missouri law requires her to be sworn in within 30 days of her appointment.
Sexual Assault Kit Tracking Growing Across the Nation
More states are now committing to taking on the backlog of sexual assault kits, with more than 40 states establishing an online tracking system over the past decade. Missouri joined this movement, responding to the outcry from survivors and their advocates in an effort to not only see that justice is done but to also increase accountability and transparency in the investigative process.
Missouri first passed a law requiring the state to develop procedures to gather, transmit, and store rape kits back in 2018. In 2020, the legislature passed SB 569 into law, which established the protocols for a tracking system, including a survivor portal, and the tracking system went live in 2021. Last year, Missouri passed HB 3020, which allocated more than $4 million for crime labs' sexual assault kit testing. This was in direct response to reports that showed that Missouri had a backlog of DNA case testing, growing from roughly 2,500 cases in 2019 to 4,000 in 2020. As more states look to address the issue of backlogs, the ability given to survivors to access and track their kit is just one more way to provide security, accountability, and some measure of reassurance that these victims are not forgotten. As of August of 2023, the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) Crime Laboratory Division shows 1,725 kits awaiting testing, which includes 1,000 kits tested by private labs. All of the kits received by MSHP are tested at no cost to the submitting agencies.
Thanks to the legislation passed, and the implementation of this tracking system, Missouri is taking the right steps forward to ensure that we are helping victims become survivors, and take back some control and power in their lives.
New Law Makes it Easier for Victims to Get Copies of Birth Certificates
It is something many of us may take for granted, but a new law will make it easier for victims of domestic violence to escape and begin their lives anew. One of the most significant obstacles facing domestic violence victims involves possessing the documents they need to start their lives over. A provision in Senate Bill 28 will provide free copies of birth certificates when requested by victims.
For many people trying to get out of abusive situations, it can be a struggle to do so because they need documentation. In some cases, the victim escapes with little or no resources; they leave with little more than the clothes on their back and the backs of their children, only to later realize that they need documentation to do things like get a job or enroll children in school. With little or no money, the $15 fee to get a copy of a birth certificate often presents a huge obstacle for someone in a crisis.
The language in SB 28 authorizes a waiver of the fee for a Missouri birth certificate when a victim of domestic violence or abuse requests it, and has documentation signed by a victim advocate, attorney, or health or mental health care provider who has assisted that person.
Taking Care of YOU
Resolutions: My office offers Courtesy Resolutions for birthdays, deceased loved ones, Eagle Scouts, Girl Scouts, Glory Awards, Marriage, Retirement, Sports, Wedding Anniversary’s, and Veterans. To request one, please call my office at (573) 751-2165.
Flags: Are you in need of a new flag? I offer new Missouri State and United States flags upon request. If you need a flag for a special circumstance, we can even fly it over the capitol for you. These flags are available for any non-profit organizations and groups.
Scheduling a Capitol Trip: If your school is traveling to Jefferson City, contact my capitol office to set up tours times for the Capitol, Supreme Court, and Missouri State Penitentiary. These tours fill up fast in a first come first serve basis. Please give us a months’ notice in order to ensure you get tours of everything.The goal of the legislation is simple: to extend a hand and ensure that care is given and that these survivors have access to what they need to begin a new life.
I am always in your service,
Proudly Serving District 127
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