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Legislature's approval of autism bill prompts emotional thanks from one of its own

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 13, 2010 - The Legislature's passage of the bill mandating insurance coverage for treatment of autistic children is one action that -- after several years of debate -- appears now to be a uniter, not a divider.

The bill's final version mandates coverage of up to $40,000 a year for behavioral therapy for autistic children through age 18.

In the hours after Wednesday's final votes -- which now send the bill to Gov. Jay Nixon for a certain signature -- legislators in both parties were firing off happy e-releases lauding the measure's passage.

No one was happier than state Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, who brought his autistic son, Stephen, to the Capitol for Wednesday's vote. In an emotional post-vote address on the floor, Schmitt predicted that legislators will be flooded with gratitude from families with autistic children.

Schmitt added that he believed that the new law will be something that every supporter in the Legislature "will be extremely proud of."

There's certainly lots of them. The final vote in the House: 144-16. In the Senate: 27-6.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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