Today is my last day at the Missouri Capitol. I finished my feature and am very happy with the final result.
I have learned so much at Missouri Digital News and I am excited for my next opportunity as a reporter.
Working for MDN has been a truly great experience. Thanks for following my blog and reading the work that I have been able to complete while here.
Today has been a fairly simple day. I worked on finishing my feature and am ready to produce it next week. I was able to interview Senator Robin Wright-Jones on the topic of conceal and carry laws possibly changing. Wright-Jones is very against having more guns on the streets. She said in St. Louis there have been many issues with car break-ins, especially during football and cardinal games. Her concern is, if residents are allowed to carry guns in their cars when they come into the city, there will be more possibilities for guns on the streets.
Next week is my last week reporting for Missouri Digital News.
Today most of the legislation was over by the time I got to the capitol. I was able to spend a lot of time working on my feature. I hope to finish it up by next week. I recorded some really great soundbites and I have had a great time working on it.
The focus of my feature is the Missouri conceal and carry law. The House passed a bill that would loosen the gun laws but the bill is still awaiting debate in the Senate. There are strong opinions of people on both sides of the conceal and carry topic. Today I interviewed Senator Chris Kelly and he said the question isn't whether people are more safe when they are allowed to carry, it's that they have a constitutional right to. His main concerns were with guns on college campuses but he said it is up for the individual institution to decide.
Last week I went to the Senate and began writting my news stories but the computer system ended up crashing. Luckily, the problems were fixed and I'm back again this week to do more reporting.
Today I covered the House on SB1966. The bill passed with a vote of 85 to 68, and allows an advanced voting period of two weeks before election dates. There was debate on a section that requires voters to present a photo ID when at the voting booths. Those in favor of the bill said showing a photo ID will make voting easier and will also make it harder to commit voter fraud. Some Representatives against the bill went as far as to compare the use of Id's to a modern day Jim Crow law.
Today I began working on a feature story. My topic is concealed weapons and the status of the conceal and carry law in Missouri. I think that there are a lot of people who have stong feelings both ways about conceal and carry laws. Hopefully, after I dig a little deeper in the topic I will find someone who has a passionate story to tell. Today I talked to a few representatives and read over a few bills that apply to my topic. I found it interesting that some places of business not only want guns banned in the building but also in the parking lots. Bill No. 1400 sponsored by Representative Cox, is being introduced to try and allow gun carriers to be able to keep their weapons in their vehicles.
Today was my first day covering the House. I was surprised to see that during most of the session, many of the people in the room were talking and not paying very much attention. After about 30 minutes I decided that I liked the fact that it was more laid back and not extremely quiet.
I covered a House debate over the substance K2. It is currently a legal substance that has effects similar to marijuana when it is inhaled. I have heard of K2 from other students who use the drug. It is sold as a potpourri but is smoked by many of the people who purchase it. A representative in the house said he thought anytime a chemical is involved and is being used to get high, there is a potential issue with the product. However, Representative Holsman said education on these types of things are the best way to prevent them.
Even if a bill passes that makes this product illegal, people who want to use it will find a way and will cause more problems in the long run.
Today I was able to cover a bill introduced by Senator Jolie Justus. Her bill would create the "Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act," which could be referred to as the DREAM act. Justus said she was very surprised that at the hearing there were no witnesses who spoke in opposition of the bill. She also mentioned that there are 10 other states that passed a similar bill.
Also proposed at the hearing was a bill sponsored by Senator Scott Rupp. He wants to pass this bill to help avoid high school seniors from saying they are bored. He said that every time he asks a senior how their last year is going, they always say they are in study hall or that they leave school early to work. He wants to give incentive to these students to graduate and go on to a secondary school. Rather than spending money on the students' final year in high school, 80% of that money would be put toward their college education. Rupp said it would help defray costs, motivate and apply incentive to students. Four other states have something similar in effect.
SB939, was next on the list at the hearing. This bill applies to students who made the Bright Flight Program but decided to go into the military. Rather than losing their qualifications when they return from the military, these veterans can go to college within 6 months and still be granted their scholarship awards for the program.
At the same hearing, there was news that the Access Missouri bill passed.
The committee hearing I went to only lasted an hour but there was extensive information covered.
College and university representatives explained steps they have been taking in order to deal with tough financial times.The Education Appropriation Committee seems to be on board with Gov. Nixon's tuition plan which installs a 5 percent freeze on higher education budgets.Many of the witnesses testified that they are looking for ways to consolidate operations and do more with less.Many of the colleges are cooperating with other campuses to think creatively and share resources. With a poor economy, schools have been trying to reorganize and also cut programs that aren't necessary. In many cases, scholarship awards have been reduced and well as awards for faculty members. Representative Stream says he is glad universities are trying to improve their situation without involving pay raises. However, the community colleges have incorporated a 4 percent pay increase for professors, which doesn't look very good to the committee.
Overall, the stories I ended up with are solid but at first I struggled in the reporting.
My second day working at the capital hasn't been very successful so far. I was going to report on HB1986, which prohibits Missouri professional sports teams from receiving public funding if broadcasts from home games are blacked out. I wanted to talk to the bill sponsor and also a representative for the St. Louis Rams however, I was unsuccessful. The bill sponsor is out of the office for the rest of the day and I got an answering machine with no call back from the Rams representative.
At 5:00 I will be going to a hearing of HB1644, which would allow there to be a use of force by a parent or other caregiver in the case of self-defense. I think this will be an interesting bill to cover especially since all of the committee members are either a sponsor or co-sponsor of the bill.
It was my first day reporting from the capital. I felt intimidated when I first went into the committee hearing and I didn't know exactly what I should have been looking for. I learned so much already from the first day. I made mistakes that I know I won't make again and I realized the importance to get quality soundbites to fit a story. There is so much information to learn and to understand in government that I don't know yet but I think working here will help me learn a lot more quickly.
Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.