Greetings from the second floor of your Missouri Capitol. First of all, Happy New Year and wishing you all a very prosperous, safe and healthy 2021. With the new year, we have an opportunity to reflect on the previous year and make plans, i.e. resolutions, for the coming year in the form of corrections or plainly making a change in the way we look at things or the world around us. I have never really been one to make resolutions, but I do pause to think about how or what I can do better in the new year. One thing I have resolved to doing in 2021 is to journal every day about the events of that day or the day before. My lovely wife has done this for many, many years, and our grandchildren have all asked for them one day. My mother wrote in her journal, and after her passing, my brothers and I shared them. It is a real comfort to read her thoughts and, in many cases, learn things about our family we didn't know. It might be something you and your family might want to do.
The 101st General Assembly convened at the Capitol, and the traditional swearing in was done a little different this year than the last time I was sworn in. This year, the juniors and seniors were the first to be sworn in, followed by the sophomores and then the incoming freshmen. I can remember two years ago when I was sworn in and the impact it had on me, and our incoming speaker told the freshmen that this will be a day you will never forget, to cherish every moment, and always remember why you are here and the people you represent. It truly is an honor to serve, and with that comes a great responsibility that I take very seriously.
Wednesday began with the prayer breakfast, this year without breakfast, at Concord Baptist Church. I attended this event two years ago, and it is a perfect way to begin session. I will admit I was saddened that the Governors Prayer Breakfast was canceled this year. That also is a wonderful event and helps set the tone for the upcoming session. The Rev. Jon Nelson, pastor of the SOMA Community Church here in Jefferson City, delivered the Legislative Charge to those gathered. His message was heartfelt and truly resonated with me. He spoke of "Truth" and how important it is that we live our life in truth. He said truth gives us guidelines for honor and integrity in our Christian walk through life. He encouraged each of us to be a person of truth. This is very similar to the message my own father gave me growing up — that as long as you are telling the truth, you don't have to have a good memory because the truth is always the truth. It is so important that we, as elected officials, are truthful with our constituents. Many times, the truth is hard to share because of differing opinions. But it is still the truth, and we as Christians must "gird our self with the belt of truth, when as we walk the halls of the Legislature," and he added it will be hard. I appreciated all the prayers and petitions put forth in that service and always appreciate it when I have friends and constituents tell me that they are praying for me and my colleagues. We certainly need that divine intervention.
With the opening of our session, we heard from our Speaker Rob Vescovo who shared personal stories as well as his vision for the upcoming session. He said that education will be a top priority, and we need to get our children back in school. They need to be in the classroom learning and not in a virtual setting. My fear is so many of our children are not getting the education they need, and when they do return to the classroom, they will be so far behind that it will take years, if ever, to recover. Some students thrive in the virtual atmosphere, but there are other aspects of the educational process that are just as important as "book learning." The social contacts and interactions help set up our children to live in the world and to deal with day to day life as an adult. The other aspect of in-school learning is that teachers can put eyes on their students and detect if there is abuse or neglect going on, and as mandated reporters, teachers can help correct these actions and protect the most vulnerable in our society. Speaker Vescovo gave some solutions to these issues, and those are ones we will take up this session.
The personal story Speaker Vescovo shared dealt with his life in the foster care environment — a very compelling story of how fortunate he was to have a mother who, even though she didn't want children, had him and put him in foster care where he found a family who wanted and loved him and help mold him into the man he is today. These types of stories can be told across our state, and the work we will do this year with getting children out of foster care and being adopted is so important. Tax credits and the process of adoption and foster care is an issue we will take up, and I welcome the opportunity to be a part of that conversation. As this develops, I will keep you all informed.
Other topics are protecting our 2nd Amendment rights, litigation from frivolous lawsuits because of COVID-19 and looking into the fair election process, just to name a few. In my previous column, I laid out the bills I prefilled, and this past week, I filed a bill to exempt 100 percent disabled veterans from personal property tax, which will call for a vote of the people to repeal an HJR (House Joint Resolution) passed in 2010 that required you be 100 percent disabled and a POW. This is a simple fix and is one where I think an error in wording has been in place far too long. I will let you all know how this one progresses, and I am currently in discussions to see the impact of eliminating personal property tax for senior citizens, and that too, I will let you know what happens.
It was an honor to be sworn in this week and to serve as your state representative, and I am looking forward to this coming session. This is the Peoples House, and you are always welcome to come by and visit. Thank you and have a safe and healthy New Year.
State Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, represents Missouri's 60th District, and shares his perspective on statehouse issues twice a month.