By BRENT MARTIN
St. Joseph Post
A state representative from St. Joseph says the legislature moved to improve how the state responds to the needs of children, one of several successes during the legislative session this year.
Rep. Brenda Shields says creation of the Office of Childhood was the accomplishment of the session she’s most proud of.
“We will move all our learning services under one umbrella, under the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education,” Shields tells St. Joseph Post. “With this, we’re going to be able to streamline our services and create efficiencies for our early learning care of our children and I’m really excited about that.”
Shields says the legislative session in Jefferson City began slowly in January, but picked up. The session succeeded her expectations when it came to a close in mid-May. State legislators met for a full session, after struggling through the chaos created by the coronavirus pandemic last year.
Shields, who serves on the House Budget Committee, says she’s pleased the state was able to use federal coronavirus relief money to address capital needs which have been pending for years. Shields says the state budget didn’t suffer from the pandemic as much as many feared, allowing lawmakers to use federal money to fund long-delayed capital improvement projects.
“There are several technical schools across the state that we’re able to fund and we know that that is important that we help people get employed in good quality paying jobs and not only are we funding our institutions of higher education and our community colleges, but we’re really driving a lot of dollars into our technical schools so we can make sure that everyone has the type of education that best fits them,” Shields says.
Shields points out area lawmakers were able to secure $1.1 million for the Hillyard Technical School in St. Joseph.
One piece of legislation meant more to her than others.
Shields sponsored the occupational therapy compact that won approval in the General Assembly. The compact allows occupational therapist to practice in any state that joins the compact.
“That was kind of personal for me, being able to help the occupational therapists after my stroke that I had five years ago that I was able to give back to them, because they were able to give back to me so I could have my life back,” Shields says. “So, that was kind of a personal win for me.”
The bill awaits the governor’s signature.