Legislative Updates | Ed Emery for State Senate 31

Legislative Updates


Bring Missouri’s Criminal Code to the 21st Century

Posted by on April 21, 2014 in Capitol Reports, Recent | 0 comments

Bring Missouri’s Criminal Code to the 21st Century

Last week the Missouri Senate perfected and passed SB 491, a major update of Missouri’s criminal code. Representative Chris Kelly, with whom I served in the Missouri House, has written an excellent account of the process and product encompassing SB 491 and HB 1371(the House version of SB 491).

The remarks that follow are either quotes from Rep. Kelly’s letter or are summarized from them. Rep. Kelly’s comments are needed when evaluating the process by which SB 491 and HB 1371 were developed and in assessing the content of the bills. The Missouri Bar has long advocated for a revision to our current criminal code, which hasn’t seen a major revision in nearly 30 years.

The revision process began when The Missouri Bar appointed a committee to consider and recommend improvements to the current criminal code. The committee studied the issue for almost five years and sent it to the bar’s board of directors, which approved it. At that point, the General Assembly was brought into the process to enact the work as a complete revision to the code. Subsequently, in 2012, Chairman Stanley Cox and Senator Minority Leader Jolie Justus, who are both attorneys, introduced the bill in both the House and the Senate. Understanding the extensiveness of the bills, they gave them time to settle with the General Assembly and did not pursue passage the first year the changes were introduced.

In 2013, the bills were reintroduced; the House broke the bill up into three parts divided among three subcommittees for reviews and the Senate embarked on a similar course of thorough review. As a ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Kelly participated in the development of this legislation and has stated that he has never seen a bill so meticulously vetted, first by the bar over a five-year period and then by both the House and the Senate over three years. Both chairmen have avoided making substantive changes in criminal law, recognizing that the inclusion of substantive changes would greatly increase the possibility of unintended error.

Even with all of this review, no process guarantees absolute freedom from error. Therefore a substantial post passage review procedure was also constructed. First, the governor will conduct his normal due diligence and exercise his right to veto, should he find error. After it has been signed, the Supreme Court has agreed to send the bill to its Standing Committee on Criminal Procedure for review, allowing the Legislature the chance to make changes during veto session.

Finally, the Senate bill now contains an effective date of Jan. 1, 2017, and House Majority Leader John Diehl has suggested that the General Assembly could also call themselves into special session during veto session for the purpose of making any needed corrections.

In summary, after we pass the bill, the governor will review it, the court committee will study it, and the Legislature will have at least four chances to fix any errors that should emerge.

Rep. Kelly has said that he has seen many long and complex bills but has never seen one with this degree of initial vetting and post passage review. The General Assembly and The Missouri Bar and bench have done all that is reasonably possible to provide comfort to legislators and the governor.

All seem to agree that the criminal code is significantly outdated and unwieldy; reform is long overdue. One reason to pass a bill this session is because of the four people who know the most about the code revision-Chairman Cox, Chairman Dixon, Senate Minority Leader Justus and Rep. Kelly, three will not be returning. If we do not pass it this year, it almost certainly will not happen in the foreseeable future regardless of the need for reform.

Reasonable caution by the governor and legislators is prudent. The governor has offered a threat of a veto due to the large size of the bill. My opinion, which is shared by many senators, is the process as described above is as secure a process as can ever be expected. Any incremental improvements could easily be made in subsequent legislative sessions and do not provide a rational reason for a veto.

The Senate bill is currently in the House Judiciary Committee awaiting a hearing and the House bill is in the Senate Judiciary Committee awaiting a hearing.  It is my hope that we will pass and the governor will sign either SB 491 or HB 1317 and bring Missouri’s criminal code chapters into the 21st Century.

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Honoring Others

Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Capitol Reports, Recent | 0 comments

Honoring Others

Today (4-14), the 97th General Assembly hosted a Memorial Service to honor former state senators who have passed away since the last such ceremony in May 1987. It will be the first time in nearly 30 years an event like this has been held. Together, with the families of the former senators, we celebrated the lawmakers’ lives and legacies and remembered their dedicated service.

This event honored not only those men and women who served in what is termed the upper chamber, but also their family members who gave their love and support to make their relatives’ time in Jefferson City possible. Each former senator was recognized by a roll call and a rose placed by the senator currently serving all or part of the district they represented. Family members were invited to a reception immediately following the ceremony.

From our area, two former members were honored. Each one has left a legacy behind, and we will convey our respect to that legacy on behalf of the great state of Missouri.

William Kelso Journey

1915 – 2002

31st Senate District (1957-1960)

William Kelso Journey served the people of the 31st District (Bates, Cass, Henry, Johnson, St. Clair and Vernon counties). Born in Calhoun, he received his education from Johnson County public schools; Central Missouri State College in Warrensburg; University of Colorado in Boulder; and graduated from the University of Missouri School of Law with a Bachelor of Laws degree. During World War II, Sen. Journey served in the U.S. Navy as a personnel officer, night and flying fighter director, and contract termination negotiating and finance officer from 1942-1946. He then served as a Lt. Commander in NRA, VA-882 in the Naval Air Station in Olathe, Kansas. In 1940, he began to practice law in Clinton, where he resided and farmed. Sen. Journey was elected and served as prosecuting attorney of Henry County for 10 years. In 1954, he was elected to the House of Representatives. In 1956, Sen. Journey was elected to the Senate. (Democrat)

W. W. Sunderwirth

1900 – 1987

16th Senate District (1943-1946)

W. W. Sunderwirth served the people of the 16th District (Bates, Cedar, Henry and St. Clair counties). Born in Prairie City, he graduated from Butler High School in 1919; received a Bachelor of Science degree from Tarkio College in 1923; and earned a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Missouri in 1932. In 1926, Sen. Sunderwirth received a life certificate to teach in Missouri schools, and taught for three years in Missouri and Iowa high schools. He was admitted to the bar in 1928 and was elected prosecuting attorney of Bates County in 1928, serving from 1929-1930. Sen. Sunderwirth began practicing law in El Dorado Springs in 1932, and served as prosecuting attorney of Cedar County from 1939-1940. He was elected to the House of Representatives to serve Cedar County in 1940, during the 61st General Assembly. Senator Sunderwirth was elected to the Senate in 1942. (Republican)

To read more about each senator who will be remembered, visit the Senate Memorial page at www.senate.mo.gov and click on the Senate Memorial link.

Thank you for reading this legislative report. You can contact my office at (573) 751-2108 if you have any questions. Thank you and we welcome your prayers for the proper application of state government.

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Convention of States

Posted by on April 10, 2014 in Capitol Reports, Recent | 0 comments

Convention of States

“All of us came here because we knew the country couldn’t go on the way it was going. So it falls to all of us to take action. We have to ask ourselves if we do nothing, where does all of this end. Can anyone here say that if we can’t do it, someone down the road can do it, and if no one does it, what happens to the country… ask yourselves if not us, who, if not now, when?” - Ronald Reagan

 

Citizens who pay attention are becoming increasingly disenchanted with government. Many feel abandoned by judges and elected officials who see themselves as above the U. S. Constitution rather than subject to it. America’s Founding Fathers would be disappointed but not surprised.

At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, George Mason, along with other framers, objected when only Congress was allowed to propose constitutional amendments. The framers knew that should Congress one day become oppressive, the states would be powerless to restrain them.  Anticipating that Congress would one day abuse its power, a section was added to Article V whereby states themselves can propose constitutional amendments. Some call this second procedure an “Article V Convention.”

According to Article V, Congress can propose constitutional amendments, which must pass both houses and be ratified by two-thirds of the state legislatures in order to become law. Alternatively, the states can propose amendments themselves through a convention. In order for a convention to be called, 34 states have to submit similar or identical applications to Congress calling for a convention

Article V requires that upon receipt of 34 state applications, Congress must call a convention of states. The 34 applications must be virtually identical in scope and content. The jurisdiction of the convention is limited to the theme or policies common to all 34 petitions. Each state would select and send its own delegates, to the convention. Once an amendment is proposed and agreed to by the convention delegates it would go through the standard ratification process requiring concurrence of two-thirds of the state legislatures. Other than the obligation to call a convention of states, Congress has NO power over the convention; the power lies solely with the states.

Last week the Missouri House General Laws Committee heard HCR 41, which is an application to Congress to call for an Article V Convention for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution. Some express reservation and even fear about convening any convention, no matter how restrained, to consider constitutional amendments.

However, throughout history Congress has received over 400 state applications under Article V. This process is neither unprecedented nor new. The reason you may not have heard about these applications is that there has never been common agreement on a convention topic. Since 1905, Missouri, alone, has passed at least 10 Article V applications, the last one was passed in 1994.

What HCR 41 calls for is an amendment convention, not a constitutional convention. HCR 41 addresses only amendments to “impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and Members of Congress.” Anything further would be completely outside the jurisdiction of the Missouri delegation.

According to constitutional lawyer Michael Farris, who flew in to testify at the HCR 41 hearing last week, the passage and subsequent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) sent a clear message to the states that Congress will not limit itself unless the states intercede. We seem to have discarded the notion of limited government. It is up to the states and the people to restore unalienable rights by the re-imposition of constitutional limits

In Federalist No. 85, Alexander Hamilton explains Article V as the second way to propose amendments. When talking about Article V Hamilton states: “We may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority.” The states too often forget that they empowered Congress, not the other way around. HCR 41 has furthered a much-needed discussion of the Constitution and state sovereignty. With Congress out of control and national debt surpassing $17 trillion, it seems appropriate, even urgent, that we examine and consider every constitutional option provided by the wise and intuitive men who gave us the U.S. Constitution.

Thank you for reading this legislative report. You can contact my office at (573) 751-2108 if you have any questions. Thank you and we welcome your prayers for the proper application of state government.

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Federalism in Education

Posted by on April 1, 2014 in Capitol Reports, Recent | 0 comments

Federalism in Education

On Wednesday, March 26, the Senate Education Committee held a hearing on two bills that push back against Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and their progressive takeover of Missouri’s education system. The so-called “state standards” are the latest unlawful attempt at national standards, and the roots of this government takeover of education can be traced as far back as 2006. The idea was further promoted by a study in June 2009. The claim that CCSS was state led and grass-roots driven is false.

The CCSS “national” standards were never reviewed or approved by members of the Missouri General Assembly as is required by Missouri law. A review of the standards and recommended readings for the matter demonstrates a spirit of indoctrination, not education. Students are given prejudicial information and then required to form opinions without any facts. A perfect example is the recently developed AP standards for history that can be found here, which were designed by David Coleman, the president of the College Board and the chief architect of the Common Core State Standards.

The theme of CCSS – college and career readiness – is reflective of the flawed “school-to-work” agenda, conceived by national central planners that view students as commodities, laborers, human resources and not as the uniquely created individuals their God and their parents know them to be. Senate Bill 514 and Senate Bill 798 are two bills that would prohibit the State Board of Education, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and school districts from implementing any new Missouri standards without a full and thorough review by clearly defined work groups and the Missouri General Assembly.

Reflecting the sentiment of more and more Missourians as they wake up to the harmful effects of CCSS, over 1,200 Missourians who could not attend the hearing sent in witness forms to oppose CCSS and support SB 798 and SB 514.  Of those 1,200, many  came from my Senate district. Those who were able to attend and testify at the hearing against CCSS included school board members, a school superintendent, classroom teachers, parents and educators of special needs children, homeschool professionals, parents, curriculum experts and more.

SB 798 and SB 514 have minor and easily reconcilable differences. The plan is to combine both bills into one that the Education Committee can vote out and send to the senate floor for debate. A companion bill, HB 1708, is making its way through the Missouri House of Representatives.

One of the most profound elements in the undisputable exceptionalism of this country is that we are a “government of laws and not of men.” Abraham Lincoln said it differently: “…of the people, by the people, for the people…” However, the process by which CCSS were implemented in Missouri side stepped both statue and constitution. The process was completely void of governing by laws and is an example of governing by men. The decision to adopt these standards was made unilaterally without involvement of the Legislature or any other elected official except the governor who committed Missouri to CCSS even before the standards were completed and released.

One possible reason some education professionals like CCSS is that it eliminates competition. It means we are all going to be alike with one set of textbooks, one publisher, one testing agency, and eventually one curriculum. Once tests are fully aligned with CCSS (the process has already begun), “teaching to the test” will rise to a whole new level. With its one-size-fits-all design, CCSS completely dismisses the value of federalism and individualism, a vital contributor to the exceptionalism of this country. Proponents of CCSS say it will make moving from state to state easier. However, testimony reported that only three-tenths of 1 percent of students move every year (I have heard a number as high as 1.7 percent). It is likely that military families contribute significantly to that small number, and I have heard it reported that students of military families who move frequently, on average, perform well above the norm.

Common Core removes parents from classroom involvement. If you ask education professionals what would improve education, they will say parental involvement. The nationalization of standards and thereby curriculum eliminates what little local control remains in government schools and gives parents less opportunity to effect any change. We have heard from professionals stating that part of Common Core includes virtual exams. Because these are on a computer, parents are not able to see what their students are learning and cannot even obtain a copy of the test. Also, Common Core is not publicly owned but is owned by private entities making it exempt from Sunshine Law requests, further denying parents access to their children’s information.

Common Core compromises the exceptionalism of America, and puts the personal and educational future of our children at risk. I hope my colleagues recognize the danger of the initiative and join fellow bill sponsor Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue, and myself in protecting the authority of our state to create our own STATE educational standards.

Thank you for reading this legislative report. You can contact my office at (573) 751-2108 if you have any questions. We welcome your prayers for the proper application of state government.

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By the Letters

Posted by on March 10, 2014 in Capitol Reports, Recent | 0 comments

By the Letters

It is time for school success to be measured and reported just as student achievement is measured and reported with clear, concise, understandable letter grades. Why not inform parents about their child’s school by giving schools the same grades – A, B, C, D and F – which students get? Letter grades, due to their straight-forward indication of performance, will encourage better communication within schools and with parents. Last Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee heard arguments for and against Senate Bill 521 which would require most public schools to convert their detailed evaluations into a letter grade to be reported to parents.

In states where grading of schools has been implemented, schools have seen significant improvements in measured performance once these grading scenarios were implemented. In one state, when they initially implemented letter grades for the schools, almost three-quarters of their schools were graded C or below. At the end of a decade about three-quarters of their schools were graded A or B, and in those 10 years they had increased the standards at least twice.

“The academic literature on school letter grades is limited,” said James Shuls, the education policy analyst for the Show-Me Institute, when he testified in support of similar legislation last spring. “However, the existing evidence suggests that school letter grades have a positive impact on student achievement.”

Letter grades for schools address the need for transparency within school districts. Grading systems like this make it easier for people of all backgrounds to look at a school and instantly know how the school is performing. Kate Casas from the Children’s Education Council of Missouri said, “Parents, as well as community members, business and philanthropic leaders need accessible, understandable, transparent information about school performance.”

In the same way student report cards include comments noting their success and improvements, so will the schools. Each report card must identify the school’s performance as having improved, remained the same, or declined based on the prior year in terms of letter grade and value.

Parental involvement is often cited as one of the two most valuable elements of student success, the other being teacher quality. Every parent will understand the implications of their child’s school being graded A, B, C, D, or F and will be more likely to look deeper, ask questions, and become more involved in the entire education system. Removing some of the mystery of public education will invite parental involvement; isn’t that what we all want? Strange that public opposition to SB521 came almost exclusively from teachers’ unions, a school boards’ association, and school administrators’ associations. On second thought, maybe we don’t all want more public involvement?

Thank you for reading this legislative report. You can contact my office at (573) 751-2108 if you have any questions. We welcome your prayers for the proper application of state government.

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Determining the Destination

Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Capitol Reports, Recent | 0 comments

Determining the Destination

“Wrong ideas only survive if insulated by opinion and dreams from the influence of accurate history and informed thoughts.”

— Anonymous

 

This is the second part of a two-part report about Common Core and where it leads. To read Part One, click here.

 

In our upside-down world where the U.S. Court of Appeals tells parents that the right to control what their children learn “does not extend past the threshold of the school door,” it is time for parents to consider whether they trust the government to take charge of their children’s direction. It’s time for the parents to take back control and once again be the ultimate voice of their children’s destination. Every decision has a destination, and it is not the government’s right to determine where that is for our children.

Last week, the Capitol report was about issues of concern with the current imposition of Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This week’s report focuses on the bigger picture of where the CCSS are leading our students and state.

The previous report mentioned the New York teacher’s union withdrawing its support for the CCSS. In an article posted this weekend in the New York Times we learned one of the main complaints was that teachers were being required to prepare students for new assessments but hadn’t received any new teaching materials or textbooks. As a result, scores plummeted and less than a one-third of the state’s students passed the CCSS assessment tests. Experienced educators, using the current proven curriculum were unable to prepare students for the tests.

At the Education Policy Conference (EPC) that was described last week, Bev Eakman talked about data collection, one of the most alarming concerns about the direction of CCSS. When entering pre-kindergarten, students will be assigned Uniq-ID numbers, which will follow them throughout their academic careers.  It is suggested that schools collect extensive amounts of data points including, but not limited to: classes, test scores, ethnicity, religion, family income, Social Security numbers, etc. This data would be used to assess, categorize, and assemble “cradle to career” paths for our children.

Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, stated that “hopefully, someday, we can track children from preschool to high school and from high school to college and college to career.” Proponents of the standards will argue that the CCSS do not require data collection, which is true; the standards themselves do not require data collection. However, the standards are a part of a much larger scheme. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) stated in its Annual Performance Plan that they have specific goals which include implementing plans in each state to start collecting data for all children at the kindergarten level, using this data to make “informed decisions” and improve instruction, and having every state adopt internationally benchmarked college and career-ready standards. In order to attain these goals, the ED has stated that there is a need for “comprehensive education reforms from cradle to career, beginning with children at birth…” What legitimate reason does the state have for collecting such private and personal information?

Federal statute dictates that the U.S. government is allowed to collect aggregate-level data only, meaning the federal government is not permitted by the states to collect any data that includes personal identifiers. To circumvent this law the ED has “encouraged” states to broaden and expand their state data collection systems by making it a part of stimulus packages such as “Race to the Top” (RTT) and the “Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems Grant Program” (SLDS). It is persuading the states that developing a longitudinal database and allowing the feds access would be in the states’ best interest. With similar databases, the information can be shared among the states, creating a national student database: exactly what was prohibited by federal law. They want to be able to track a child’s education journey from “the cradle to career” to determine which classes, programs, politics, and even parenting techniques produced the best workers.

In 2009, the governor filled out an application for RTT funding and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) filled out an application for SLDS funding. By signing these, Missouri agreed to use any money allocated by these programs to develop a statewide longitudinal data system and improve the collection and use of data. Parents have been assured by schools, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, and the Department of Education that their children’s data will not be released without their authorization. THEIR authorization, not the parents’. Once this data is sent to the ED it can be sent to other government entities. The U.S. Department of Labor has already shown interest in using state student databases to follow students through school and into their work life.

How confident are you in the government when it comes to you and your child’s personal information? Just this past year, 40 million credit card numbers were siphoned from Target’s database before the breach was noticed. The data of more than 100 million customers was vulnerable and millions of names and email addresses were also stolen. If this could happen to a multi-billion dollar company, it could certainly happen to the government.  Not to mention, after the recent information that has come to light about NSA surveillance, it is clear that the government cannot be trusted with the responsibility of having access to people’s personal information. While proponents of data collection claim that the entire system will be anonymized, data points and ID numbers can always be traced back to someone. The fact that your child’s name isn’t attached to the data is merely an inconvenience, not an obstacle for those wanting to use the information.

Dan Bongino, former Secret Service to the president, said that there is this dangerous notion that people are perfectible. There is this idea that we can make our children into perfect human beings. If we collect enough data, we can see the problems clearly and fix them. The fact remains that every child is different; what works for some may not work for others. Bongino stated that our individual liberty should take precedence over everything. The government’s overreach and attempt to collect data on everyone is taking away our right to control our private lives and protect our children.

Data will not save us. We can collect as many piles of data as we want, but it will not fix the problems we’re facing with education. Our children are individuals, not just members of a group or a data set. Those elitists who think they are smart enough to direct and manipulate our children and families know they will need data. Classification and determination are not the duties of government, protecting your liberty and that of your children is. American exceptionalism is not the product of unlimited government but of extraordinary freedom, individualism, opportunity and innovation. We must work together to curtail the ever-expanding scope of government, beginning with Common Core.

As stated earlier, in 2005 the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the parent’s right to control what their children are taught “does not extend beyond the threshold of the school door.” A branch of government has decreed once they enter the school, your children are now the responsibility and property of the state. It is past the time to get angry; the time to act is now. Grassroots activism works, the growth of the Common Core opposition is proof. If you are being drawn into the fight for your children’s sake, a glimpse at Stacy Washington’s website will help arm you for that fight.

While fighting the Common Core battle we must not lose sight of the bigger picture. Weigh everything in relation to its impact on individualism versus group-think. Remember, the key to all of this is successful families and communities which encourage children. We must not forget education should have purpose and promote purpose, not just create products and robots. We must be sure to teach our children how to think, not what to think. The government may want a generation of robots, but parents do not.

It has been said that fathers will die for their children, but mothers will kill for their children. One way to combat the CCSS is to organize parents to sit daily in classrooms—observe and take notes. A methodical approach includes: 1) Examining Missouri statutes for rules or restrictions; 2) Advising local officials of your plans and purpose; 3) Organizing attendance; 4) Taking notes and engaging the faculty courteously; and 5) Writing letters to press, parents, officials, teachers, etc.

Parents and educators must develop ways to equip students with truth: encourage reading, purchase books for public and church libraries, etc. According to Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, we are products of the books we read and the people we meet. Do everything you can to introduce students to good books and righteous people and speak the truth to family, friends and neighbors about the Common Core State Standards.

“ If you are right and you know it, speak your mind. Speak your mind. Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is still the truth.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

I appreciate you reading this legislative report, and please don’t hesitate to contact my office at (573) 751-2108 if you have any questions.

Thank you and God bless.

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It’s About Direction

Posted by on February 13, 2014 in Capitol Reports, Recent | 0 comments

It’s About Direction

“People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.”

— Blaise Pascal

 

This will be the first part of a two-part report about Common Core and where it leads.

 

On Jan. 30, the 25th Education Policy Conference (EPC) was sponsored by the Constitution Coalition in St. Louis. The conference focused on the negative impact the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will have on our children and school systems. Presentations ranged anywhere from motivational to deeply disturbing.

Descriptions of the new standards left many wondering why Common Core would even be considered to measure our students? After several presenters, the answer became clearthe proponents of the standards make attractive claims:  higher standards by which to measure students and teachers, standards that are internationally benchmarked, all students will be “college and career ready.” Who would argue with promises like these? However, if these standards are so highly acclaimed, why were superintendents and state governors asked to sign on the dotted line before they were shown any specific standards? Why has the New York teachers union, which represents 15 percent of the union teachers in the United States pushed back so hard against Common Core? The standards make extraordinary claims but with no proof that they are a solution. In fact, one of its biggest investors and proponents, Bill Gates, has said, “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.”

One of the most compelling presenters of the conference, Bill Whittle, a well-known conservative political advocate, spoke about “Single Point of Failure.” A top-down national standard that would be applied to every school in every state has one fundamental downfall: If there is a failure, the entire system goes down. For example, when the Obamacare website went online, it was debilitated because of a glitch, leaving millions of Americans without access to insurance. In the same way, a failure with Common Core would affect every child in the country. Whittle explained that a one-size-fits-all solution for the entire nation is illogical. Would it make sense to hold everyone to the same standard in P.E.? Not every kid can run fast, but what good will come of holding everyone to the slowest runner’s standard?

One element about CCSS that became clear during the conference is its attempt to break down bonds between parents and children. Bev Eakman, co-founder of the National Education Consortium, described “virtual examinations” which would be given to students under the standards. Because they are on a computer, parents are not able to see what their students are learning and cannot even obtain a copy of the test. As many people have come to realize, Common Core is owned by private entities making it exempt from Sunshine Law requests, denying parents access to their children’s information.

Presenters frequently pointed out problems with what is suggested in the CCSS. Emmett McGoarty of the American Principles Project opened by outlining the standards as they currently stand. The standards turn their back on traditional American education values, he said, and cut out state elected legislatures in the development process. These standards were accepted behind closed doors, not allowing legislators any chance to review or ask questions.

According to McGoarty, a major shortcoming of the standards is de-emphasis on the importance of classical literature. Common Core replaces many classic books with non-fiction informational texts in an effort to better prepare children for the 21st Century. This disregard of classic literature would hinder a child’s creativity and their ability to develop a broad vocabulary.

The math standards that would be applied under this system would over complicate the simple processes that young children need to learn to do math. The standards claim to require a deeper understanding of the material before moving on. While this sounds attractive, what does it look like in practice? Here is a Common Core test question for third grade: Add 26+17 by breaking apart numbers to make a ten. Most people probably know after using simple addition that the answer is 43. Under CCSS, the process is broken up into five steps using ten’s to get the answer. If a student arrives at the correct answer, but is unable to adequately explain how they got it, the answer will be wrong. While it is important to know why math problems work, for a third grader, it is more important that they know how to do math.  Even R. James Milgram, professor of mathematics from Stanford University and Common Core curriculum contributor, refused to sign off on the math standards stating that the pace would allow students to fall at least two years behind those in higher-achieving countries.

William Korach, publisher of The Report Card, spoke of the impact these standards would have even on advanced-placement (AP) classes and their textbooks, which would be altered to align with the new CCSS. The AP Historyframework, for example, will be gutted. Within the new framework, students are not required to know about many of our nation’s founders including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin, with only a single line dedicated to George Washington. There is hardly mention of any major battles, and major wars such as WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Korea, and Iraq are skimmed over with no explanation of the motivations for U.S. involvement. This disregard of actual history is a disservice to our students and disrespectful to those who gave their lives to protect our country.  With only a single line dedicated to the Declaration of Independence, students could be robbed of the opportunity to learn about the reasons for our separation from Great Britain and the chance to learn about the ideals on which our nation sought its independence. Defenders will say CCSS are not curriculum and history can be added, but “standards” represent what are “important” and what will be tested. Bill Gates has said, “When the [standardized] tests are aligned to the common [core] standards, the curriculum will line up as well.” The standards will lead to the curriculum.

For now, the CCSS only encompasses English, reading and math, but new science standards are being developed as well. Casey Luskin with the Discovery Institute, described the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which have already been adopted by eight states and are under consideration in many others. The NGSS teach Darwin’s Theory of Evolution as a core idea rather than theory, and no contrarian theories are suggested. Students begin learning about evidence of “common ancestry” as early as the third grade and by high school students are taught Darwin’s “Tree of Life” theory as fact even though there is much opposition to it in the scientific community. Teachers are also only required to teach that humans are the sole cause of global warming. These one-sided views of science do not encourage students to learn about competing theories and investigate on their own.

Fundamentally, education is the passing down of knowledge from one generation to the next. Common Core is not education, according to former state Sen. Jim Lembke, who claimed that, while Common Core aims to make every student “college and career ready,” this is not the purpose of education, but a by-product. If we pass knowledge down that is skewed, future generations will suffer. If our children are not able to learn about our mistakes, they are liable to repeat them. By implementing one-sided standards, Common Core will tell a generation of Americans what to think, not teach them how to think for themselves.

For more information about what you can do to join the fight against Common Core in Missouri, you can start by going to the links below:
http://www.moagainstcommoncore.com/ or
http://truthinamericaneducation.com/.

“To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King

I appreciate you reading this legislative report, and please don’t hesitate to contact my office at (573) 751-2108 if you have any questions.

Thank you and God bless.

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Struggle for Power

Posted by on February 10, 2014 in Capitol Reports, Recent | 0 comments

Struggle for Power

“In our constitutional system, impeachment was designed to be the only check on the Judicial Branch by the Legislature.”

– Supreme Court, 506 (U.S. 244) 1992/3

Senate Joint Resolution 34 was recently heard in the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.  SJR 34 is an attempt to restore to Missourians the integrity of two constitutional principles: separation of powers and checks-and-balances. Too few Missourians know of the damage done to those processes in 1945 when voters chose a new constitution. I was not around in 1945, but my guess is that the changes to both the separation principle and constitutional checks and balances were not emphasized to the people. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Missourians were not generally aware of the change then, nor are they accurately informed now.

Records from the constitutional convention prove that an experienced attorney at the constitutional convention (Mr. Phillips of St. Louis City who had practiced law in Missouri for 30 years) made an impassioned plea against the changes: “…It is the song of the siren that wants to lure us to destruction…”  It is noteworthy, given attorney Phillips’ pleading, that the only opposition to SJR 34 came from the incoming president of The Missouri Bar, who testified that restoring impeachment trials to the Senate “would violate checks and balances” – an alarming perspective given the unanimous opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court quoted above and the views of the founders expressed in Federalist No. 65.

What is there about the 1945 constitutional convention that could produce such a rift? When Missourians voted to approve the new constitution, buried deep within that document was an ominous change that took power and transparency away from the people and transferred it to a small body of unelected, elite jurists. The offensive language is found in Article VII, Sec. 2 which moved impeachment trials from the Missouri State Senate, an elected body of 34 individual senators representing every county in the state, to the Missouri Supreme Court, an unelected body of seven attorneys virtually unaccountable to the voters.

Prior to this change, Missouri had operated under four constitutions and prosecuted six impeachment proceedings utilizing the same impeachment model followed by the U.S. Constitution as well as 45 other states: Any impeachment started in the House of Representatives and was tried by the Senate, requiring a two thirds vote of all senators present for a conviction. As of 1945, Missouri invented a new procedure not dictated in any other state. The Missouri House must now submit its impeachment charges to the Supreme Court, one of the very branches the process was devised to check. It is not insignificant that of the 10 impeachments filed in Missouri’s history, eight have been of judges. Missouri’s current procedure stripped the impeachment process of its structural integrity; SJR 34 returns the trial to the Senate and integrity to the process.

Any well-informed political scientist recognizes impeachment as a political action, not criminal or civil. If impeached and convicted, the sole consequence is removal from office. It is like an emergency election designed to allow the people’s elected representatives to intervene and remove a bad actor without suffering him or her until the next election. An impeachment conviction does not result in a fine or jail time; impeachment is not a substitute for criminal or civil prosecution, and it precludes neither.

One reason The Missouri Bar struggles to comprehend SJR 34 may be because it is an “agency of the court.” Missouri has what is called an INTEGRATED BAR. That means any attorney practicing in Missouri must join The Missouri Bar. It’s kind of like a compulsory union for attorneys, mandated by government.  Because Missouri’s bar was forced to integrate by the Supreme Court rule rather than legislative action, every attorney is characterized as “an agency of the court.”

Not every effect of the integrated bar has been bad, but it does raise questions when deciding issues of impeachment since 80 percent of Missouri impeachments have been of members of the bar. No judges appeared to testify against SJR 34, but on numerous past occasions judges have testified against this same legislative language. I don’t think the question of conflict of interest has ever been raised relative to legislators who are members of the bar, but I have been asked about it. The heart of this matter is that regardless of any altruistic intent for an Integrated bar, it represents the backbone of a political power structure. You can read more about the good and the bad of an integrated bar in the link above. Whether there is anything ugly, you will have to decide for yourself.

I appreciate you reading this legislative report, and please don’t hesitate to contact my office at (573) 751-2108 if you have any questions. Thank you and God bless.

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Justice for All?

Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Capitol Reports, Recent | 0 comments

Justice for All?

“Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by law? They gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood.

“But the LORD is my defence; and my GOD is the rock of my refuge. And he shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; yea, the LORD our God shall cut them off.”

 — Psalms 94:20-94:23

 

Early last week, the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee heard Senate Bill 519, sponsored by Sen. David Sater, which extends Missouri’s waiting period for abortions from 24 to 72 hours – three days.  It was reported that other states and nations have similar waiting periods and have experienced measurable decreases in abortions. It makes sense. Abortion is a major decision that ends one life and forever changes another. There may not be another decision a mother will make that is as important; not financial, familial, or career. To most of us it does not seem unreasonable to require a more lengthy time period to contemplate the consequences.

A physician remarked to me after the hearing: “The survival rate from abortions is never more than 50 percent because whatever happens to the mother, the baby always dies.”  The abortionist might argue against the personhood of the baby, but as medical technology and our knowledge of human physiology becomes more complete, that argument becomes less defensible.

The testimony at a hearing for any pro-life legislation might remind you of the movie “The Usual Suspects.” The usual “pro-life” groups lined up to support the legislation, while the usual “pro-abortion” groups lined up against it. Abortion groups will typically trumpet that they are not pro-abortion but pro-choice. (The final witness pointed out that the baby gets no choice.) The frequent claim is that they want to see reduced abortions just like the pro-life groups. However, it was hard to disguise their pro-abortion stance as they lined up to condemn the extension of the waiting period in the face of clear evidence and testimony that giving the mother longer to decide reduced abortions – more chose life.

During the hearing there was testimony from mothers who had chosen abortion and were still remorseful, even repentant over that choice. They testified that the longer wait-time would help pregnant mothers fully contemplate their life-ending and irreversible decision. Some testified about the pressures a young mother has often faced from friends and family members who would be embarrassed or inconvenienced by the unplanned and often out-of-wedlock pregnancy and birth. Their testimony was supportive of the reduced abortion numbers provided in earlier testimony.

Repeatedly the pro-abortion groups claimed that the extension was unfair and unnecessary, but they produced no post-abortion mothers to testify that they made a better decision in 24 hours than they would in 72 hours. They also produced no witnesses to testify that they chose not to abort their baby, but wished they had chosen to abort. Even if a person is not opposed to abortion, the credibility contrast of public positions for Senate Bill 519 was clear and compelling.

One customary argument that was almost universally repeated by the opponents to the measure was that the decision whether to terminate the baby should be “between a woman and her doctor.” However, when questioned about whether the abortionist was usually the mother’s personal physician, the question was either not answered, or the response was that there are abortionists that are OB/GYNs, leaving the question unanswered and their argument empty.

No questions were asked about how abortion can be exempted from the Declaration of Independence’s proclamation of Creator-endowed unalienable rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There was no discussion of how abortion could rise above the principle of justice or how the legalization of abortion may have already changed the American conscience toward the value of life at any age.

The deliberate killing of the most innocent and helpless has been sanctioned by the courts and tolerated by society, but its effects cannot be escaped. The laws of sowing and reaping or of cause and effect are absolute; surely the huge impact of an abortion on the baby, the mother, and society justify at the least a period of time to contemplate the decision. Seventy-two hours is not an eternity; death is final.

I appreciate you reading this legislative report, and please don’t hesitate to contact my office at (573) 751-2108 if you have any questions.

Thank you and God bless.

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Trust but Verify

Posted by on January 24, 2014 in Capitol Reports, Recent | 0 comments

Trust but Verify

“The time is now near at hand which must probably determine,  whether Americans are to be, Freemen or Slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their Houses, and Farms, are to be pillaged and destroyed, and they consigned to a State of Wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn Millions will now depend, under God, on the Courage and conduct of this army-Our cruel and unrelenting Enemy leaves us only the choice but a brave resistance, or the most abject submission; this is all we can expect-We have therefore to resolve to conquer or die.” – George Washington, address to the Continental Army before the Battle of Long Island, July 2, 1776

The governor’s State of the State address and the Supreme Court Chief Justice’s State of the Judiciary address were presented to joint sessions of the Legislature this week. The contrast of tone between the two addresses was dramatic, but both confirmed the imperative to not just “trust, but verify” – an extension of the aphorism “let the buyer beware.”

Chief Justice Mary Russell began her remarks by vigorously confirming the duty of state officials to protect the federal and state constitutions – that is our oath. I hope the Missouri Supreme Court and lesser courts conform to Judge Russell’s remarks. An examination of court decisions, however, may reveal inconsistencies with a constitutional perspective. As citizens, it is our duty to verify that court opinions clearly support our constitutions. As a state senator, my power to hold judges accountable to their oath and to the constitution was completely removed by Missouri’s 1945 constitutional convention. That convention moved impeachment trials from the state Senate to the Supreme Court, even though roughly 80 percent of impeachments in Missouri have been of judges. The balance of the Judiciary report explained steps the courts have been taking to increase access and transparency using modern technology.

The governor’s remarks were much different and confrontational. Given the large legislative majorities in the opposing political party, I found that surprising. Some of the remarks seemed incomplete, ill-informed, or misleading. For example, he claims that Missouri must expand Medicaid or other states would get our tax dollars. Anyone who knows how federal Medicaid moneys are allocated would know that is untrue. If the governor did not know, his staff should have informed him.

The governor bragged about Missouri’s unemployment rate of 6.1 percent and claimed Missouri was doing better than all surrounding states in private sector job creation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), however, reports with a longer term view. According to BLS, since 2009, Missouri has lost a total of 23,963 jobs, while neighboring states Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Tennessee have gained 62,000, 40,000, and 111,000, respectively. Missouri’s unemployment number of 6.1 percent does not compare well to Oklahoma’s 5.4 percent, Kansas’s 5.1 percent, Iowa’s 4.4 percent, and Nebraska’s 3.7 percent. Over that period, Missouri’s labor force declined by approximately 100,000 workers. That went unnoticed in the governor’s remarks. Without context, numbers can be deceiving. Trust but verify. In the interest of full disclosure, all the above states have the advantage of being “right to work” states, which may account for their going unmentioned.

The governor promised millions of dollars to kindergarten through 12th grade public education, preschool, and higher education. A colleague turned to me after the speech and facetiously suggested we pass the governor’s budget as is to see his reaction. As tempting as that is, our obligation is to our oath and to the people and supersedes the temptation to call his bluff.

In summary, the liberal theme of cradle-to-grave government was woven throughout the address. From expanding preschool, to coercing students into government preferred professions, to the culmination of central planning in the governor’s challenge to “look out for [Missouri] families as if they were our families” – sounds very altruistic. Nevertheless, I hope many of you agree with me; I do not want government looking out for my family like it was theirs. I want to teach my family the truth about God and creation, about marriage and gender, about individual liberty and economic freedom, about the history of communism and socialism, about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, about the difference between independence and dependency, about the difference between a government of laws and one of men, about the threat to their liberty government represents if not restrained by the people and their constitution.

The governor’s speech promoted his plan for expanding government and curtailing liberty, for less self-reliance and more government dependence, and it was presented to a chamber filled with many who still love liberty and are bound by their oath to protect it. Maybe that’s why it seemed so confrontational.

I appreciate you reading this legislative report. Please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (573)751-2108 if you have any questions.

Thank you, and God bless.

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Paid for by Citizens for Ed Emery - Rex Rector, Treasurer