I’ve written before of how being a part of the Missouri Legislature is a unique opportunity to almost instantly expand your list of friends and acquaintances. You suddenly find yourself surrounded by several hundred people that affect you in some way every week. Some are other legislators, some are lobbyists and staff and some are state office holders.

I’ve written before of how being a part of the Missouri Legislature is a unique opportunity to almost instantly expand your list of friends and acquaintances. You suddenly find yourself surrounded by several hundred people that affect you in some way every week. Some are other legislators, some are lobbyists and staff and some are state office holders.

One of the first state officials I met five years ago was Tom Schweich. I found Tom to be a fascinating person. He was a graduate of Yale and Harvard Law School, and spent more than two decades as an attorney. He then served as chief of staff for the Danforth Special Counsel Investigation into the conduct of the U.S. government in connection with the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. He also served as chief of staff to three United States ambassadors to the United Nations and in that capacity helped to uncover the Oil for Food scandal and root out corruption at the UN.

He was the principal deputy assistant secretary of state and acting assistant secretary of state at the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs in the state department. He led diplomatic missions to more than 30 countries, was the U.S. Coordinator for Counternarcotics and Justice Reform in Afghanistan, where he helped curtail the opium production across the country and rebuild the country’s legal infrastructure and law enforcement bodies, as well as being the author of three books.

As state auditor he worked to ensure the proper use of public funds and to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Missouri government. His office helped uncover more than 30 corrupt government officials that were embezzling millions of Missourian’s hard-earned taxpayer dollars, and identified tens of millions of dollars in waste and abuse in state and local government.

We learned of Tom’s passing while in session on Thursday and, like everyone else in the building, I was stunned. I feel like this is a devastating loss for our state. Tom was a man of the highest integrity, character, and dedication. I ask that all Missourian’s pray for the Schweich family as they try to cope with this tragic loss.

Floor work last week was primarily centered around the House passing the education bill out by a large bi-partisan margin. This bill is directed to the St. Louis failing districts and designed to provide them with much needed assistance. We all agreed that this was by no means a perfect answer, but unlike last years attempt, we did not include a private option. Our primary focus was to address the dismal graduation rate and give those children the opportunity to get a quality education. We’ll see how it fares in the Senate.

I held a joint committee hearing on child abuse and shared with the committee members the suggestions for improvements to the Children’s Division. I’ve filed several bills that we hope will make some much needed adjustments to current statutes. Most of the bills were generated from ideas I was given during town hall meetings. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for everyone to help with the process. My job is to represent you and your ideas and I welcome and appreciate your participation.

More next week, until then I am and remain in your service.

Bill Lant represents the people of Newton and McDonald counties in the Missouri House of Representatives.