OUTSTANDING FRESHMEN 2018: Rep. Jean Evans

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The Republican from Manchester was first elected to office in November of 2016, coming to the role of legislator after working as a real estate agent and investor, as well as coaching and officiating volleyball for 30 years.

As a coach, competition and hard work is nothing new to Rep. Jean Evans, and that same drive is what has served her so well in her first term as a state representative.

Among her peers, she has championed several measures, passing seven of her agenda items in her second year at the Capitol, working to push them across the finish line by whatever means necessary, be it through legislation she herself sponsored or as amendments to fellow legislators’ bills.

Evans seems primed to be one of the vocal voices for women and children in the legislature going forward, through her experiences working with kids as a coach, or serving as a board member for Nurses for Newborns, or through legislation sponsoring legislation to ban pregnant inmates from being shackled or chained during labor, or her championing of the marriage licensing bill.

The most telling part of Evans’ story as a legislator can be explained through that particular bill, her toughest battle when she took on the issue of marriage licenses and the age at which a minor may be married.

It was an issue that first came to Evans’ attention through various reports and conversations when she was still a candidate for the House seat. Missouri had the dubious distinction of having some of the most permissive laws in the nation relating to child marriage and had garnered a reputation as being a destination for underage brides, with 1,000 15-year-old girls marrying between 1999 and 2017. And with the issue of human sex trafficking becoming an issue of much importance in Missouri, Evans saw the opportunity to take the fight to a new level.

The first year she served in the House, her legislation on the issue had little trouble passing out of the chamber, but never made it across the official finish line. In 2018, she returned to the table with the bill but found that it would be far more difficult to get it voted out the second time around, that what had received unanimous support last time would not be doing so again. Still, she wasn’t deterred and continued fighting for the bill at every turn. In the end, the measure crawled across the finish line in the final weeks of the session, thanks to some wheeling and dealing.

For Evans, it was the biggest accomplishment as a representative. The bill she had fought for was signed into effect by Gov. Mike Parson, placing a minimum legal age for marriage at 16 years, requiring signed approval of at least one parent to tie the knot at 16 or 17. But more importantly, marriage licenses will not be given to people age 21 and older intending to marry someone 16 or younger.

“We are not going to allow adults to prey on children. Someone 21 is not going to be allowed to marry someone 15. We are not going to allow adults to legalize what is statutory rape,” Evans added.

It was Evans’ ability to come to the table and work with colleagues that got the bill across the line, which Evans says is what makes the job so great.

“I enjoy the job,” she says. “I love my past job, but this is so meaningful. Feeling like I can craft legislation that positively impacts people’s lives is really rewarding.”

She says that the one thing everyone says is that the relationships are the most important part, which she wholeheartedly agrees with.

“You build a reputation for yourself as someone who keeps their word, who deals honestly, and people can count on,” she said. “Building that trust is key, so people can look you in the eye and know that you’re being sincere.”

But more than that, she’s not afraid to take risks or chances. It’s a mentality that throws back to her experiences as a coach and player, and because of that, she knows that it’s not always about winning or losing, but playing the game the right way and know that she represented her constituents to the best of her abilities.

Through all of that, she finished her first term with eight bills winding up across the finish line, one in her first year and seven in her second. She says she’s proud of that work but credits leadership for keeping things moving throughout the session.

Looking forward, Evans says she expects to keep pushing forward with the Sunshine Law legislation she had sponsored, but says she also wants to put a focus on bettering things for Missouri’s business community, employers and employees alike. She points to St. Louis’ work with startups, saying that she wants to help these small companies grow and thrive in Missouri, that they are responsible for a lot of the state’s job growth.

She also says she hopes to work with her colleagues on the issue of education reform.

“We spend a lot of money on education, and we need to put out a better product,” she said. “There are inequities in education across our state and we need to vastly improve the opportunities for students.”

Given her record, one thing seems to be certain about Evans’ attitude going forward: she’s here to compete… and to win.

 

This appeared in the fall 2018 edition of the Missouri Times Magazine, available in Jefferson City at the Capitol, Tolson’s, Cork, and J. Pfenny’s, and online here.

Evans elected to executive board of Women’s Legislative Network

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From The Missouri Times

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A freshman state legislator from Missouri has been elected to serve on the board of a professional development organization that includes every female state legislator in the United States.

Rep. Jean Evans, first elected in 2016 and making a bid for re-election this year, was selected by the nominating committee as the incoming At-Large Republican member on the Executive Board of the Women’s Legislative Network of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“This is an incredible honor and I am thankful to have the opportunity to work with my colleagues from around the country to promote the participation of women in the political system,” said Evans. “We know women make up just slightly more than a quarter of all state legislators, and we would like to see those numbers increase considerably. I am excited to take on the challenge.”

The Women’s Legislative Network works to promote the participation, empowerment, and leadership of women legislators. The network began when female legislators gathered at NCSL meetings in the late 1970s. It was formally organized in 1985 at the annual meeting in Seattle and later became a core program of the NCSL Foundation for State Legislatures.

The Network does not advocate for or against specific state policies, but sponsors informational briefings so legislators can better understand an issue and learn from one another. The Network also sponsors skill-building workshops for women legislators. The network hosts receptions or lunches at NCSL meetings to allow time for women legislators to interact and learn from each other.

Evans will be formally elected at the Network’s luncheon and business meeting during the NCSL Legislative Summit in Los Angeles on August 2. The first official Women’s Network meeting of her term will take place at the NCSL Capitol Forum in Washington, D.C., December 5-8.

St. Louis Post Dispatch: Proposal would raise Missouri's marriage age to 17 from 15

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Read full story on StLToday.com

JEFFERSON CITY • The Missouri House gave initial approval Wednesday to a measure that would raise the legal age of marriage to 17 from 15 years old. 

Currently, if a 15-year-old applies for a marriage license, a county's recorder of deeds is obligated to issue one. In addition to increasing the age requirement, a judge would also have to rule that the marriage is advisable.

Rep. Jean Evans, R-Manchester, who has introduced the measure the last two years, said her bill would help protect girls from being abused. Sometimes parents force their young daughters into marriages to traffic them, she said.

"This was another piece of the puzzle" to ending human trafficking, she said, referencing other measures that have been introduced to combat the crime.

While Democrats were generally supportive of the measure, some Republicans expressed reservations about Evans' proposal.

Rep. Wanda Brown, R-Lincoln, said the legislation would circumvent the rights of parents.

"I'll never vote to take away parental rights of my parents in my district," she said, "and then tell those same parents I think a judge can make a better decision than they can."

Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, said he knew people who had married young and it wasn't a "predatory" situation. He said he wanted to protect those people's rights.

"We're binding the hands of people," Brattin said on the House floor Wednesday.

"Not adults, just children," Evans responded.

Some expressed concern that it might violate religious freedoms. Evans said the bill does nothing to stop two people from having a religious marriage ceremony but does prevent those under the age of 17 from getting a marriage license from the state.

The ultimate point of the bill is to protect minors in dangerous situations, not infringe on deeply held beliefs, Evans said.

Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, and Rep. Nick Marshall, R-Parkville, said the law would send the wrong message — namely, that teenagers could engage in premarital sex.

"We send the message that 14-year-olds, 15-year-olds, 16-year-olds can engage in intercourse with impunity," Marshall said.

To get on the "right side of God," those teenagers would then have to jump through hoops to get married, he said.

Brattin agreed. Forcing teenagers to marry is "horrible," he said, but "there are also people who are trying to do it in a God-honoring way."

Brown then joined in.

"Teenage marriage is not ideal," she said, "but sometimes it's necessary."

Last year, Evans' bill passed the House with only one "no" vote, but it never made it to the Senate floor.

The legislation is House Bill 1630.

Read full story on StLToday.com

The Tim Jones Show - On Demand: MO State Rep. Jean Evans

Former Missouri Speaker of The House Tim Jones is the host of The Tim Jones Show every Sunday night from 7p to 9p on FM News Talk 97.1 in St. Louis, MO and online at 971talk.com. In this On Demand Audio/Video originally airing on 8-13-17 Tim has a conversation with Missouri State Representative Jean Evans about all things happening in our Missouri legislature.

This Week in Missouri Politics Featuring Jean Evans - June 25, 2017

On Sunday’s episode of This Week in Missouri Politics, host Scott Faughn welcomes special guest Mary Kogut, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, to talk about the special session surrounding abortion and what her take has been on the legislation being sent back to the Senate by the Missouri House.

Faughn is joined by exciting panel full of lawmakers on the panel to talk special session and the possible U.S. Senate Republican Primary Showdown that could be brewing. M’evie Mead of Planned Parenthood and Reps. Stacey Newman, Diane Franklin, and Jean Evans participate in the panel discussion.

PODCAST: Politically Speaking: Rep. Evans on bridging the party divide in Jefferson City

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jenny Simeone welcome state Rep. Jean Evans to the program.

The Manchester Republican is serving her first term in the Missouri House. She represents the 99th state House District, which takes in Manchester, Valley Park and Twin Oaks.

Listen to the entire conversation with Rep. Evans.

Evans won a four-way Republican primary last year, which was tantamount to victory in a district that tilts toward the GOP. Before she entered elected office, Evans worked as a realtor and a financial advisor. She also coached volleyball for Westminster Christian Academy.

Since joining the Missouri House earlier this year, Evans sponsored bills to raise the age someone can get married in the state from 15 to 17 years old. Evans is also carrying a bill aimed at expanding the use of hemp oil (known as CBD) to treat serious diseases. Currently, the substance can only be used to treat epilepsy.

A few highlights from the show:

  • Evans said she comes from a Democratic leaning family. But one of the reasons she became a Republican is because “I want change and I feel like we’ve become the party of change.”
  • She said she’s forged solid relationships with House members of both parties, adding that lawmakers can find ways to work together even if they disagree sharply on key issues.
  • One instance of sharp divergence was on legislation that would bar cities from raising their minimum wages. Evans supports that bill, which would effectively nullify an ordinance raising St. Louis’ minimum wage to $11 an hour. “We both want to help the community, that’s why it gets personal,” she said. “Because both sides feel that the other side doesn’t get it, the other side wants to hurt … and that’s why it gets heated and emotional.”
  • Evans said Missouri is gaining a reputation for being a haven for forced child marriages. She also says that there are long-term consequences for minors that marry so young. “What I learned through this process is that women who marry before the age of 18 are much more likely to end up in poverty, addicted to drugs, and in an abusive situation,” she said.

News 4 Investigates: State Bill Filed to Raise Marriage Age in Missouri

Read the full article and view the video on KMOV.com

What’s the right age to get married?

While it varies for many, Missouri lawmakers are now getting into the business of marriage. This is the direct result of a News 4 investigation that revealed children ages 15, 16, and 17 are getting married in the state, and some are even being brought to Missouri specifically to get married.

Newly elected state-rep. Jean Evans had one major reaction when she viewed our News 4 investigation from July.

“Disgust,” she said.

Especially concerning are cases like this: A father who brought his 15-year-old daughter all the way from Idaho to Kansas City to marry the adult man who'd raped her all because, unlike many other states, it's legal in Missouri for children as young as 15 to wed.

“We don't want to be known for that. We want to be known for the Cardinals, the Royals, the Arch, not something like that,” said Evans.

“Unfortunately, there are parents involved with trafficking of their children. It's not something we want to think about, but it's the truth,” she said.

News 4 ran the numbers from the state. In the past four years, close to 800 16 and 17 year-olds were married in Missouri.  Even 100 15-year-olds entered a marriage contract in that time frame.

Numbers that are upsetting for many reasons, Evans said, but for one, children that age can’t even legally give consent for sex.

“So why would you be allowed to marry them. We are updating our marriage law to be in line with other statutes," she said.

Evans and other advocates believe the young marriage age in Missouri may be fueling sex trafficking in the state.

“Unfortunately there are parents involved with trafficking of their children. It's not something we want to think about, but it's the truth,” said Evans.

She wants other initiatives to combat trafficking too, but as a start, Evans filed a bill at the capitol this week that would raise the minimum age for marriage to 17.

This is one thing we can do as a state to cut down on sex trafficking and protect our children.

Evans has been working with US Congresswoman Ann Wagner on the issue of sex trafficking too.

Read the full article and view the video on KMOV.com

ABC 12 Coverage: Missouri Legislator Hopes to Put a Stop to Human Trafficking with New Marriage Bill

JOPLIN, Mo. - According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Missouri is the 20th highest state for human trafficking cases. And, a new Missouri state representative is setting out to change that number.

"What we hope to do is to stop the flow of traffickers coming to our state to marry off 15- and 16-year-olds to abusers," explained State Representative Jean Evans.

Evans has filed House Bill 270 which aims to change the legal consent age when it comes to marriage.