Jim Howard

Washington correspondent

Howard covers news from Washington, D.C., of importance to the St. Louis region.  His beat includes following the legislative activities of area lawmakers on Capitol Hill as well as developments from The White House, Supreme Court and numerous federal agencies and departments.  Prior to joining St. Louis Public Radio, he was a longtime newscaster and producer at NPR in Washington.  Howard also has deep roots in the Midwest.  Earlier in his career, he was statehouse bureau chief for Illinois Public Radio, where he directed news coverage of state government and politics for a 13-station network.

Tear gas was used in Ferguson. Nov. 24 2014
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The four regional law enforcement agencies that responded to the events in Ferguson last year in the first 17 days after Michael Brown’s death lacked protocols, consistent training and policing philosophies, according to a draft summary of a Justice Department report.

The John Cochran veterans facility on North Grand Boulevard.
Donna Korando | St. Louis Public Radio

The Department of Veterans Affairs is looking for a few good directors, actually more than a few. System wide the department has been dealing with a lack of qualified candidates to run its beleaguered health-care facilities. In St. Louis, the top job has been posted seven times since 2013.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., says the “majority of the time they posted this position, they got no applicants.” To remedy that shortage of qualified applicants, McCaskill is introducing legislation today to allow VA facilities to increase pay for directors.

National Human Genome Research Institute

The National Institutes of Health would see its largest increase in funding in more than a decade under a plan being considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday. It is set to take up a $153 billion spending plan approved earlier this week by the subcommittee that oversees funding for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education.  That plan includes a $2 billion  increase for NIH.

Dominick | Flickr

The U.S. House Tuesday night gave overwhelming approval to legislation changing the way the Environmental Protection Agency reviews and evaluates potentially toxic and dangerous chemicals used in commerce. On a vote of 398 to 1, the House supported the measure, HR 2576, sponsored by Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville.

The Toxic Substances Control Act, written in 1976, is seen as a failure by many business and environmental organizations that, along with members of Congress, say it has built-in weaknesses and unnecessary complexities that prevent the EPA from doing its job.

File photo | St. Louis Public Radio

A bipartisan group of lawmakers from Missouri and Illinois are cosponsoring legislation to make labeling of genetically modified foods voluntary as a national standard and to block individuals states from adopting their own laws.

Barring a federal law to circumvent it or court action to block its implementation, beginning next year, a Vermont law requires companies to label genetically engineered food.

Blunt – Flickr/Gage Skidmore; McCaskill – Flickr/SenatorMcCaskill

A group of about a dozen U.S. senators, including Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., are proposing to create a new agency to help local and state governments leverage private dollars for critical infrastructure projects. The bill is called the BRIDGE Act, which stands for Building and Renewing Infrastructure for Development and Growth in Employment.

(via Flickr/ Senator Blunt)

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who’s up for re-election next year, is getting some national exposure by delivering this week’s Republican Address.  The platform gives Blunt a chance to be seen going head to head with President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats on federal spending priorities as lawmakers craft a budget.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has promised to help get a contribution limit measure on next year's ballot. But other Democratic officials have promised such a move and haven't delivered.
Courtesy of Claire McCaskill's Flickr

Last year the Consumer Protection Division of the Missouri attorney general’s office received 57,000 complaints about a wide variety of scams and fraud, ranging from illegal debt collecting practices to identity theft, according to Deputy Attorney General Joe Dandurand. 

“However, the No. 1 complaint of Missourians – by a significant margin – is about unwanted and illegal telemarketing calls,” Missouri's Deputy Attorney General Joe Dandurand told the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging today.

Sen. Dick Durbin
Jim Howard | St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is pointing to recently released filings from Swiss agricultural giant Syngenta as proof that Monsanto is looking to move its “tax address” out of the United States in a move known as a “corporate inversion” in which U.S. companies move their headquarters out of the U.S. — on paper at least — to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

Ina Bass and Elsie Shemin-Roth, the daughters of World War I Sgt. William Shemin, accept the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama.
Jim Howard | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated from the ceremony - WASHINGTON - It took nearly 100 years, approval from Congress and the decades-long determination of an admiring daughter, but Tuesday, President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously to Army Sgt. William Shemin, a World War I veteran who had been overlooked at the time to receive the nation’s highest military honor for multiple acts of bravery in 1918, because he was Jewish.

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