By BRENT MARTIN

St. Joseph Post

A state representative from St. Joseph says the legislature
moved to improve how the state responds to the needs of children, one of
several successes during the legislative session this year.

Rep. Brenda Shields says creation of the Office of Childhood
was the accomplishment of the session she’s most proud of.

“We will move all our learning services under one umbrella,
under the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education,” Shields tells St.
Joseph Post. “With this, we’re going to be able to streamline our services and
create efficiencies for our early learning care of our children and I’m really
excited about that.”

Shields says the legislative session in Jefferson City began
slowly in January, but picked up. The session succeeded her expectations when
it came to a close in mid-May. State legislators met for a full session, after
struggling through the chaos created by the coronavirus pandemic last year.

Shields, who serves on the House Budget Committee, says she’s
pleased the state was able to use federal coronavirus relief money to address
capital needs which have been pending for years. Shields says the state budget
didn’t suffer from the pandemic as much as many feared, allowing lawmakers to
use federal money to fund long-delayed capital improvement projects.

“There are several technical schools across the state that
we’re able to fund and we know that that is important that we help people get
employed in good quality paying jobs and not only are we funding our
institutions of higher education and our community colleges, but we’re really
driving a lot of dollars into our technical schools so we can make sure that
everyone has the type of education that best fits them,” Shields says.

Shields points out area lawmakers were able to secure $1.1 million
for the Hillyard Technical School in St. Joseph.

One piece of legislation meant more to her than others.

Shields sponsored the occupational therapy compact that won
approval in the General Assembly. The compact allows occupational therapist to
practice in any state that joins the compact.

“That was kind of personal for me, being able to help the
occupational therapists after my stroke that I had five years ago that I was
able to give back to them, because they were able to give back to me so I could
have my life back,” Shields says. “So, that was kind of a personal win for me.”

The bill awaits the governor’s signature.