“Surely as the Show Me State, where our namesake inherently promotes action and results over words, we have a higher sense of obligation to work together.”-Mike Parson, State of the State, January 15, 2020
Different organizations use all sorts of tactics for team building. At Empower Missouri this week, about half of our staff and our two new interns for this session were able to watch the State of the State address together in the gallery at the Capitol Building. While no one brought popcorn, it was nice for us to hear the speech together, and be able to react to the things we liked (and the things we disagreed with) together. This annual address from Missouri’s Governor helps give us clues to the administration’s priorities and helps us we plan our strategy to protect and enhance the social safety net and pass meaningful criminal justice reforms.
The first special guests introduced by Governor Parson were Emily Kirchhoff and Nigaila Gibbs. Two women successfully integrating themselves back into their community after incarceration, in part thanks to a 20-week workforce development program offered at Vandalia Correctional Facility. The program helps women get some training and develop a business plan before release, and both Kirchhoff and Gibbs left Vandalia with skills, a passion, and a plan. The Missouri Times reports both women are currently living with family and hoping to move into their own apartments soon.
We hope this is a sign that Governor Parson will continue to look at ways to help people transition back into the community after experiencing incarceration. Senate Bill 647 would establish a Fresh Start Act, expanding the list of apprenticeships and professional licenses available to those who have served their time. House Bill 2119 would help ease transportation and nutrition access needs for folks as they transition home, and House Bill 1534 would allow more people over the age of 65 (when they are less likely to commit a crime) to transition home.
Governor Parson touted big investments in Missouri from private businesses. It is true, 130 new jobs at the Briggs & Stratton plant in Poplar Bluff is much needed. Waddell and Reed is a less than stellar example of market driving decisions, especially since the company received nearly 100 million dollars from the state and city of Kansas City (that’s the lion’s share of the 140-million-dollar office being built for the employees). House Bill 1350 would allow school districts the ability to protect their revenue in these large incentive packages, and lines up with Parson’s words supporting community need. Parson also mentioned a 1.5 billion dollar investment by GM in their Wentville plant, but failed to mention the sacrifices made by striking autoworkers this fall to guarantee these are quality jobs for Missourians.
Missing from this speech was what we know at Empower Missouri. We know that no workforce development program will be successful if the participants are hungry and unhoused. We know that Early Childhood Education is most successful when the children have access to medical care and adequate nutrition. We know that housing affordability is key to supporting thriving communities. We know that people returning from incarceration are most successful when they have access to quality jobs with living wages. We know that outdated and medically inaccurate laws harm people. Empower Missouri is dedicated and knowledgeable about our priority issue areas. Please consider making a donation today, in honor of the beginning of the legislative session. Your one time or ongoing donation helps us advocate for evidence-based public policy that benefits all our neighbors.