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State of the Judiciary a reminder of courage

by India Garrish | March 13, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

Life is full of challenges and changes. Last year I thought that because of COVID-19 what we accomplished would be greatly impacted but I don't think COVID-19 had the impact on our legislature as what the present animosity flowing between the members, particularly in the Senate.

The State of the Judiciary was given by the Honorable Judge Paul Wilson. It was probably one of the more effective, intellectual and inspiring speeches I have heard in many years. Cole County should be proud of him and the role he plays in the leadership of the Missouri Supreme Court. He also brought home an important point. When we look at the 14 inspirational points around the chambers, there was one missing and he pointed it out. It is called courage: courage to act on those things and to do what you are supposed to do and not just do those when it's convenient. The courage to make a vote on a bill that you know probably is going to upset some and may not be the most popular vote to make with your constituents. It is a reminder to me that I am not there to be a rubber stamp. I am there to make hard decisions and I need the courage to make those decisions knowing there may be some consequences.

Certain bills have one-liners that are very appealing and popular, but when you get into the body of the bill, you know they are fundamentally wrong. His speech reminded me it often takes courage to do the right thing.

It has been an honor to have known him and his family for many years. While I don't always agree with his opinions and he does not always agree with mine, I have the greatest respect he is doing what he believes is right, and he is extremely intelligent and humble.

House Bill 2116 is a very interesting bill. It is titled No Patient Left Alone. During COVID-19, I had many people call me because they could not get into the nursing home and hospital to be with their loved ones, especially those who were dying. Our hospitals and staffs were overworked. They had great concern about the care our loved ones were receiving and they wanted to be there with their loved ones at their time of need. I saw the pain it caused those who are left alone, the pain it caused family members and friends who wanted to be with their loved ones, and I saw the pain it caused to the nurses and physical therapists. Because families could not get into these facilities, and these individuals were in such serious condition, these medical personnel -- in addition to being nurses, doctors and physical therapists -- became surrogate families to these people, and the burden was hard on the medical personnel to fill that role for so many dying patients.

Being a healthcare professional is already difficult enough without being put in the position where you are the only one around to comfort patients while they die without being able to say goodbye to their families. The problem on the other side is the nursing homes and hospitals had mandatory regulations they had to comply with and had to deal with. They had to do what they felt was the only way to try to protect the patients from additional exposure to COVID-19 and comply with regulations. They couldn't open their doors to anyone, even if they wanted to. There were many participation agreements they had with government agencies that they have to comply with in order to operate and to be funded for Medicare, Medicaid and all the other benefits. Their failure to comply would jeopardize the very existence of the hospital and nursing home.

House Bill 2116 is an attempt to try to meet the obligations of both sides. Everybody really wants the best patient care, but no one wants people in these trying times to be left alone or to deprive their families of their last words, last memories, and more important, the fear that their loved ones will not have all the care that they should have. The bill was a balancing act. There is no way to fix this situation entirely, but I think we can all agree that having family around when you are in critical medical condition is an essential part of end of life patient care, not a mere convenience.

Unfortunately, when dealing with the federal government and their regulations, we have a challenge. It is not like you can get them to the table and have a discussion. I do want to commend those legislators who worked on this bill and the input that came from the Hospital Association and the Nursing Home Association and doctors to at least try to make sure this does not happen again.

House Bill 1878 is the voter ID bill. We need to instill faith in our election. Right or wrong there have been many attacks on the credibility of our election system. Having a voter ID will cause some challenges for some individuals. While getting an ID would make voting more difficult for some individuals, I don't believe that it makes sense that we have to have a government issued ID to do so many less important things in society, but to vote we for some reason do not think that a verified government issued ID is necessary.

I know this is a hardship for some, but we cannot expect our election commissioners to know everyone, and more important than a few people voting illegitimately is our faith in our election system. We can all disagree on the issues, but the only way that our democracy can survive is if we all believe our elected officials were elected fairly and legitimately through our election system.

Another bill which I think will have a direct impact on everyone is a bill dealing with personal property taxes on farm implements, cars and trucks. A lot of you saw your tax bill go up because the value on used cars and equipment went up. A lot of constituents had a hard time dealing with that in that they were not selling their vehicle, they know it's going to depreciate in time, and they had concerns about the additional tax they were paying. We passed a bill that would effectively let the assessor more freedom to keep those taxes the same.

Tax decisions are always tough. We would all like lower taxes, but we also all want good roads, a strong education system and a well-funded criminal justice system to keep us safe. It is hard to explain to someone why their 10-year-old car should go up in value. They intend to keep driving it until it no longer runs or goes up in value and they pay additional tax when they know they are not selling and all they are going to do is drive their car until it is wore out or unsafe.

We had some other bills that required a lot of thought, i.e., school choice and charter schools funding, none of which are easy choices to make. I talked with teachers, superintendents, fellow representatives, and lobbyists on both sides, and had the courage to vote for what I thought was right for my constituents.

Different districts have different needs. Each bill affects different districts differently and we all have our districts to represent. How a bill affects our constituents is always a major factor in making our decisions.

It was a privilege to introduce the Blair Oaks 2021 Girls Softball Team at the House of Representatives and pay recognition to them. They were also fortunate Senator Bernskoetter presented them to the Senate and Governor Parson warmly welcomed them into his office.

As always, your input is vital to my ability to represent you effectively. Please call 573-751-0665 and email [email protected] with your questions, thoughts and concerns.

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