Rep. Greg Sharpe

Members of the Missouri House of Representatives gave initial approval this week to legislation meant to put thousands of Missourians on a fast track to develop the skills they need to obtain good-paying jobs. The bill would create a new state financial aid program known as Fast Track that would address workforce needs by encouraging adults to pursue an industry-recognized credential in an area designated as high need.

The bill’s sponsor told her colleagues, “Fast Track is a creative solution that could impact nearly 16,000 eligible students providing training, meeting specific workforce needs, improving the economy, and benefiting Missourians in all regions of our state.”

Missouri has the seventh most diversified economy and ranks among the top 10 states in high school graduation rates, but lags in post-secondary degree or credential attainment. She noted that around 755,000 Missourians have some college experience but no degree, meaning there are thousands of individuals who could take advantage of the innovative Fast Track program.

The goal of Fast Track is to provide community colleges, tech schools, and universities with the means to equip students for the high-paying, high-demand jobs of the future. It is designed to open up higher education opportunities for hard-working, middle-class families looking for a boost to pursue their dreams. It is also meant to help Missouri businesses find workers with the training needed to fill their workforce demands.

The bill requires a final vote in the House before moving to the Senate.

Another bill headed to the Senate is meant to better protect children by improving the state’s Amber Alert system. The bill is known as “Hailey’s Law” in honor of Hailey Owens, who was abducted and murdered at the age of 10 while walking home from a friend’s house.

Soon after the arrest of her killer, state officials and lawmakers turned their attention to the Amber Alert System.  Though witnesses saw Owens being abducted, more than two hours passed before an Amber Alert was issued to let authorities and the public statewide know to look for her, and what her kidnapper and his vehicle looked like.

The legislation would require the Amber Alert System to be tied into the Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System (MULES), which is the computer system that allows all law enforcement in Missouri to communicate.  That means once an officer enters information about a missing child into MULES, it would at the same time be available to the Amber Alert system. 

The bill would also require the state’s Amber Alert System Oversight Committee to meet at least once a year to discuss ways to improve the system.  Currently there is no requirement for that committee to meet. The sponsor said that having the committee meet regularly to evaluate the system means there will be an ongoing effort toward getting alerts out more quickly.

Thank you for reading my capitol report. I am honored to represent you.