February 3, 2009
I just finished my first long day reporting at the Capitol. The majority of my time was spent chasing House Representatives around at an attempt to get a few opinions on House Bill 66.
The Transportation Committee heard the bill this afternoon. It's concerning introducing a second standard Missouri state license plate in addition to the "blue bird". The new plate option was exciting to cover, not only because everyone has a license plate, but also because it will display the national motto "In God We Trust."
As usual, everyone was very busy but I found more help than I expected from those that I talked to, and their hospitality was reassuring. Overall the feel from the committee members about the bill seemed positive.
The Capital is a confusing place, and even though today left me tired, I am excited to learn more about who, what, where, when, and how in Jeff City.
Feeling accomplished from the Capitol, I'm Lauren Mickler.
February 10, 2009
Today was exciting. Right when I walked in, I was asked to follow up on a story the Kansas City Star had done about a recent committee decision involving House Democrat Jeanette Mott Oxford and House Speaker Ron Richard. The issue is that Oxford had been put forth by Paul LeVota to be re-assigned to the Children & Families Committee and she was not chosen to be on the committee for this term.I got to speak to Representatives Oxford, LeVota, and Cynthia Davis, the committee chair, about the issue. It was very interesting to discuss a matter with all of them that seemed to have so many sides to it. You can read my story above this blog to see what I found.
Overall I learned a lot about hearing all sides to a story and asking the right questions to get the answers listeners and others involved are looking for. It was another long day, I didn't get out until almost 9pm, but it inspired me to be a little more efficient next week.
Exhausted from the Capitol, I'm Lauren Mickler.
February 17, 2009
I managed to cut a few hours off my day today, writing my stories before 5pm instead of 9. The day was no less hectic, though, with a press conference with the State Treasurer Clint Zweifel and interviews to follow. It was interesting to deal with a different issue than a bill today, but since the Treasure's "Invest in Missouri" plan is so new, not many people new much about it. I leaned a lot about his investing powers and the economic issues in Missouri.
Luckily, the Treasurer's communications director was readily available for the 5 visits I made to his office today. I am interested to see what legislatures have to say once the plan catches wind around the building. Now I get to go to class!
Finished by 5 from the Capitol, I'm Lauren Mickler.
February 24, 2009
Today I covered the committee meeting with NCSL on Missouri's share of the federal stimulus money. The special senate committee talked with Nixon's policy director and discussed what the possibility are for state spending.
It was a long meeting, but informative and it's always fun when the bickering slips in. I got to talk to Committee Chairman Scott Rupp and heard the amount of different ways to spend the state has to chose between. It should be interesting to see how it all plays out and what choices are made.
Getting better and better from the Capitol, I'm Lauren Mickler.
March 3, 2009
Today was a quick for me. I listened to a senate committee talk about senate bill 320 concerning insurance coverage for people with limb loss. It was interesting to get a look at a type of life that I have never had to deal with. Losing an arm or a leg isn't something that happens only at birth, and a lot of people don't realize how tough it can be and also how expensive.
One woman spoke about how it costs her more than $12,000 a year for her prosthetic leg and her insurance barely covers any of that fee. It wasn't all teary-eyed and sympathetic though, the insurance companies who spoke made good points about how helping these people out may cause employers to drop coverage for everyone. Money is tight, and, sadly, there's not enough to help everyone the way they want to be helped.
I was impressed with the committee, and especially the Chairwoman. She was good at contesting and listening to both the supporters and those in opposition of the bill, and she still managed to be efficient in the time of the hearing. A lot less arguing than I've been used to this semester!
Being a college student and just now beginning to pay my own way and manage my funds, it's crazy to think about all the expenses that are out there and how many people just can't pay for medicine and heating and wheelchairs, and who's to say you should have to deal with a chronic and expensive illness and I shouldn't?
For fear of getting sappy, I'll move on, but let's just say the hearing really made me think about how much I have to be thankful for. Including being able to report from the Capitol!
Grateful from the Capitol, I'm Lauren Mickler
March 10, 2009
I would never want a micro-chip under my skin, but apparently some people do. Parents, employers, and caretakers at assisted living facilities use RFIDs to make it easier to track missing children, employers, or patients.
RFID are "radio-frequency identification" devices and they seem like a good idea, and a great way to find your child if they get kidnapped, but Representative Jim Guest wants to make sure that no one is getting them in their bodies if they don't want them there.
Guest said he's worried that elderly people and patients in mental health facilities aren't able to say no if their facility is implanting them for security reasons, or any other reason. Also, Guest brought up that some studies have shown the radio-frequency in the devices can cause cancer... pretty scary.
The simple solution seemed to be that you can keep the chip in a bracelet instead of under your skin, and it works exactly the same, but I guess it's not as easy as it looks.
The committee seemed concerned that Guest didn't have any concrete evidence with him at the hearing to back up his claims, and it seems that the bill is still a little shake, but definitely something important to follow-up on.
Intrigued from the Capitol, I'm Lauren Mickler.
March 17, 2009
Happy St. Pat's everyone! I have a problem when the weather is nice and only focusing on the sun shining and not being able to focus on my work, especially inside this big stone building, but I pumped out a very nice feature today.
I made my life easy by coming down an extra day last week and getting my interviews done and the story turned out to be very interesting.
Apparently there are two privately owned jails in Missouri that house overflow form other state prisons. The strange thing is there isn't a single state law that applies to them.
There's one in Bethany (Northwest Missouri) and in Johnson County and there was a breakout at the one in Johnson last August. The surprising part is that it isn't even illegal to break out of a private jail... Scary.
There are bills in the House and Senate that will create laws for these jails and hopefully make sure the prisoners can be arrested if they escape, and the new laws will protect the employees, prisoners, and surrounding communities in these areas.
The most exciting part was getting to do a story longer than 40 seconds, I really felt like I got to juice up my writing and get creative which has been a real challenge for me before. I hope one of the stations will pick it up!
Overall, it was a productive day with a little fun tied in. We got to eat lunch on the Capitol steps and enjoy the sun for a little while. Also, I'm happy to say I think I'll get to leave soon.. I hope... and enjoy the 75 degree weather on my drive home before class at seven.
In a great mood from the Capitol, I'm Lauren Mickler.
March 31, 2009
Back from spring break, without a tan, and so much happened while we were gone that I wish I would have spent my week in Jeff City! The story I was supposed to work on two weeks ago about McKenna's texting and driving bill topped TV stations all around the state when the bill passed.
I'm a little late on the issue, but reported on it regardless, and I think it's definitely going to be a hot issue in the next couple months. It's so prevalent, but so dangerous, and I can guarantee most people don't realize how fast it can affect their lives and the lives of others.
In one of my other journalism classes, we're doing a semester long research project on cell phones and their development. It's a very interesting class, and in one of our focus groups we had, a woman talked about how her young daughter now has third-degree burns from an accident when a girl was texting. It's a quick and easy thing to do normally, but when you're trying to type and think while being safe on the road, I can almost say I think it's nearly impossible.
McKenna seems really passionate on the issue, and said even if the bill doesn't pass he's interested in stating an awareness campaign on the issue. Hopefully people can be safer on the road regardless of if it's illegal or not!
Sending all my texts before I get in the car from the Capitol, I'm Lauren Mickler
April 7, 2009
Missouri is very good about keeping sexual predators off the street, the problem comes with the pricey treatment the state offers. The way things are now, the state pays $150 a day even when prisoners refuse treatment and Senator Jim Lembke is sponsoring a bill that would keep the prisoners in county jails while they await trial.
As I see it, there's no reason to pay for the treatment if they're not going to take it. Usually they will refuse help on advice from their attorneys because they don't want to appear guilty. Regardless, is the state can save almost 100 dollars a day per prisoner-if they don't want help, let's save some money.
It wasn't too intriguing, just complicated at first to understand. I've been learning so much about the Missouri state corrections and the different laws I feel like a pseudo expert! haha
Anyway, not much else going on down here. It's slowing down a lot with bills moving further along in the approval process. It's sad without as many outrageous things to cover, but I can still manage to find a little juice in the dry spell.
Helping the state save money from the Capitol, I'm Lauren Mickler.
April 28, 2009
The first time I've seen a bill get final passage. Not quite as exciting as you would think, but still fun.
SB140 isn't very controversial, and seems like a productive solution to parents struggling with child support. Something I didn't know, parents in Missouri who can't pay child support go to jail, which means they can't make money and can't pay anymore child support than they did before they went to jail.
The program is similar to drug rehab programs in the state and will offer offenders job training, GED programs, and drug rehab programs, and more. Legislators said that the main problem with delinquent parents is their lack of tools to make money for themselves and still have money to pay child support. The programs will hopefully allow them to get the skills they need to get back in the work force and stay out of jail, and surprisingly the state is SAVING about 1.5 million dollars a year!
These programs are so much more beneficial than throwing someone in a cell and leaving them to their own devices. People who go to jail aren't usually the cream of the crop, for whatever reason, but job training instead of cell time seems like a great trade to me.
Nearing the end of session from the Capitol, I'm Lauren Mickler.
May 5, 2009
Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Though I would rather be enjoying a margarita and guac, I reported some crazy arguments in the house today. Though most bills are confusing at first, this one took some figuring out.
SCS/SJC 5 will change the selection of county assessors from an appointment to an election. The debate started off in favor of the bill. Mike Laera talked about all the intense "corruption" with current assessors, how property taxes are outrageously high. He said he's seen assessments hundreds of thousands of dollars higher than a house three houses down for no reason. Sounds a little fishy, but the question that other St. Louis County officials had was why the entire state should vote on something only affecting St. Louis County.
Good points came from all sides and in the end the body voted in an 87-73 decision to pass the legislation. Voters will decide in November whether the change will take place or not.
Investigating from the Capitol, I'm Lauren Mickler.