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Lawmakers trying to pass STEM education and treatment court bills in special session

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson speaks at LaunchCode Tuesday about his desire to work with the legislature to fix two bills he vetoed earlier this year.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio
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Missouri Gov. Mike Parson speaks at LaunchCode Tuesday about his desire to work with the legislature to fix two bills he vetoed earlier this year.

Missouri’s latest special legislative session is underway as House and Senate members work to revise two bills vetoed earlier this year by Gov. Mike Parson.

The legislation would promote science, technology, engineering and math curriculum, known commonly as “STEM,” and expand treatment courts.

Parson vetoed the STEM bill because it appeared to favor one vendor. In a July interview with KCUR, Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, identified the vendor as Learning Blade and said the company “helped me kind of come up with some standards.”

Fitzwater is sponsoring one of two House bills during the special session to provide online STEM courses for Missouri secondary-school students – the other is sponsored by Rep. Bart Korman, R-High Hill. Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, is sponsoring a companion bill in the Senate.

“I was in support of Parson’s veto when I found out that the STEM language was too narrowly drawn,” Libla said. “That has been changed quite some to allow most anybody that’s wanting to provide educational online instruction.”

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, said she supports STEM education but questions using a special session to do it.

“I just don’t see how individuals in this chamber can do away with waste and reduce waste, when I actually believe that what we’re doing today, we could have done it in January and fast-paced it by way of an emergency clause,” she said.

Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff.
Credit Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
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Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff.

But Libla said acting now would send a positive message to high-tech companies that may consider moving to Missouri: “It should have been done years ago.”

Lawmakers will also consider legislation to expand treatment courts during the special session. Parson vetoed an earlier version after it was expanded to include rules regarding abandoned property and the retirement of judges. He vetoed the bill over concerns it violates the state constitution’s single-subject rule.

One of the STEM bills and a treatment court bill are scheduled for public hearings Tuesday afternoon by two separate House committees. They’re also expected to vote on both bills after the hearings.

On Wednesday, the House and Senate will hold their annual veto session, but lawmakers are not expected to try to override Parson’s vetoes of the original STEM and treatment court bills. They may instead consider overriding some of Parson’s line-item vetoes he made to the state budget.

Parson also vetoed a resolution that called for a statue of Thomas Hart Benton, located in the U.S. Capitol, to be replaced by a statue of President Harry S Truman. Parson said the copy of the resolution delivered to his office named Thomas Hart Benton the artist and muralist, while the statue in Washington, D.C., is of his great-great uncle, U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton.

Follow Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallGReport

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Missouri Public Radio State House Reporter Marshall Griffin is a proud alumnus of the University of Mississippi (a.k.a., Ole Miss), and has been in radio for over 20 years, starting out as a deejay. His big break in news came when the first President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989. Marshall was working the graveyard shift at a rock station, and began ripping news bulletins off the old AP teletype and reading updates between songs. From there on, his radio career turned toward news reporting and anchoring. In 1999, he became the capital bureau chief for Florida's Radio Networks, and in 2003 he became News Director at WFSU-FM/Florida Public Radio. During his time in Tallahassee he covered seven legislative sessions, Governor Jeb Bush's administration, four hurricanes, the Terri Schiavo saga, and the 2000 presidential recount. Before coming to Missouri, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reporting and anchoring for WWNC-AM in Asheville, North Carolina. Marshall lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Julie, their dogs, Max and Mason, and their cat, Honey.
Marshall Griffin
St. Louis Public Radio State House Reporter Marshall Griffin is a native of Mississippi and proud alumnus of Ole Miss (welcome to the SEC, Mizzou!). He has been in radio for over 20 years, starting out as a deejay. His big break in news came when the first President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989. Marshall was working the graveyard shift at a rock station, and began ripping news bulletins off an old AP teletype and reading updates between songs. From there on, his radio career turned toward news reporting and anchoring. In 1999, he became the capital bureau chief for Florida's Radio Networks, and in 2003 he became News Director at WFSU-FM/Florida Public Radio. During his time in Tallahassee he covered seven legislative sessions, Governor Jeb Bush's administration, four hurricanes, the Terri Schiavo saga, and the 2000 presidential recount. Before coming to Missouri, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reporting and anchoring for WWNC-AM in Asheville, North Carolina. Marshall lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Julie, their dogs, Max and Liberty Belle, and their cat, Honey.