House approves revised STEM, drug courts bills

The Missouri House of Representatives passed bills dealing with STEM education and treatment courts. (Garrett Bergquist/KRCG 13)

Lawmakers moved quickly Wednesday on a pair of bills Gov. Mike Parson vetoed earlier in the year.

Much of Wednesday’s debate centered around a set of proposals concerning education in science, technology, engineering and math-related (STEM) fields. Legislation sponsored by Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, would create a STEM career education program for students in grades 6-8 and allow high school students to substitute a computer science course for one of their math and science graduation requirements.

That substitution provision drove much of the afternoon's floor debate. Democrats including Rep. Tommie Pierson, Jr., D-St. Louis, said this would let high school students avoid learning traditional math skills they need. Fitzwater said the provision merely provides an option and does not require students to substitute a computer science course. He said computer science courses involve an application of mathematics so students wouldn’t miss out on critical skills.

The House also approved a bill that would allow judicial circuits to establish treatment courts without going through the legislature. Members of both parties said the measure would help offenders to get into treatment programs they need and reduce the chances that offenders will commit new crimes upon release from prison.

Gov. Parson veoted similar visions of the two bills earlier this summer over technical concerns. House Speaker Todd Richardson said he worked with his Senate counterparts to ensure the bills pass muster this time.

“While we are pleased that Missouri’s fiscally responsible budget was upheld, our focus remains on the special session priorities of STEM education and treatment courts," Parson stated in a release.

Both bills now head to the Senate. If the Senate makes any changes, House members would have to come back to vote on them, but Richardson said he doesn't expect this to happen.

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