A Jefferson City lawmaker is the 2019 Missouri Freshman Legislator of the Year.
Dave Griffith, a Republican elected from District 60, which covers most of Jefferson City, with the exception of the city's extreme southeast corner, is being recognized for his work supporting veterans, according to a House of Representatives news release.
Griffith said he was humbled and honored by the designation.
Early in this year's legislative session, he filed House Bill 547, which would expand veteran treatment courts. The bill sailed through the House and is awaiting approval in the state Senate.
The bill was expected to be read for the third time in the Senate on Wednesday evening. Senators had amended it to require any circuit court with a treatment court (but not a veterans court) to allow veterans to be referred there, Griffith said.
"A prosecutor from Callaway County testified in the Senate hearing that he had a vet two years ago arrested on burglary charges, but before they could even get him to court, he committed suicide," Griffith said. "A lot of veterans feel that society has given up on them."
However, that's not true, he added. The courts are intended to provide resources to help veterans overcome issues keeping them from being productive members of society.
He said Camden County held its first veterans court last week.
Griffith, vice chairman of the House's Veterans Committee, said he's really pushing forward on veterans' issues.
He participated with several other local representatives in a tour of Missouri Department of Corrections veteran projects at sites in Moberly and Boonville, highlighting their importance and how they serve the veteran inmate population. The projects have positive effects on post traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse issues and anger management issues, according to the release.
"The DOC veteran project unit holds people accountable, supports them and gives these veteran inmates something they did not expect to find behind prison walls — hope," Griffith said in the release. "I look forward to visiting the other projects also."