Developing Missouri’s Workforce (HB 1465)
The Missouri House of Representatives approved legislation this week to help ensure Missouri’s system of higher education is working to meet the state’s workforce and education needs. House members passed a bill that would give institutions greater flexibility to offer degrees that meet the needs of their local communities and businesses. The bill would in effect allow community colleges to offer four-year baccalaureate degrees in certain programs.
The bill is meant to address the lack of skilled workers in certain fields in various parts of the state. To address the workforce shortage, a community college could apply to the Coordinating Board of Higher Education to offer a four-year degree in a field that is underemployed. Community colleges would need to meet several standards in order to be approved and would need to show there are no other available options like collaborating with a four-year university.
Lawmakers Receive 2018 State of the Judiciary Address
Members of the House and Senate gathered in the House Chamber this week to listen to the annual State of the Judiciary Address. Delivered by Missouri Chief Justice Zel Fischer, the address provided lawmakers with an overview of the state’s court system and the challenges it faces.
Fischer used his speech to highlight the need for expanded drug treatment courts to help fight against the abuse of opioids in Missouri. He noted that drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, and that the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids continues to rise. Missouri saw a significant increase in overdose deaths with 1,066 people losing their lives in 2015 and 1,371 in 2016. Fischer said drug courts are more cost-effective than any other criminal justice strategy to address the growing problem, but 15 counties in Missouri currently have no access to any type of treatment court. He pledged to work with lawmakers to help make the treatment courts available in every jurisdiction in the state.
Fischer also called on legislators to work with the court to develop solutions for the challenges faced by the state’s criminal justice system. He explained that Missouri is not seeing a decrease in violent crimes as has been the trend nationally. Fischer also pointed out that Missouri is spending more than ever before on corrections as the incarceration rate continues to be well above the national average. He said a task force has spent time looking at ways to keep spending for corrections in check and reinvest those savings in evidence-based strategies to reduce recidivism. He asked legislators to work with the court to support legislation that will produce “significant, sensible, and meaningful improvements.”