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.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., has been a leading critic of regulations proposed by the Obama administration.
Jim Howard | St. Louis Public Radio

Last Thursday, just as members of Congress and Americans across the country were getting ready to begin the Memorial Day weekend, the White House quietly announced that new rules to reduce carbon emissions from new, modified and existing electric power plants would not be finalized until August, at the earliest. The rules require fossil-fuel burning power plants, most notably coal-fired plants, to reduce emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels over the next 15 years.

John A Cochran hospital
Bill Greenblatt | UPI | File photo

It has been two years since the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care System in St. Louis has had a permanent director. In that time, at least seven acting directors have filled the top spot on short-term rotations of about 120 days, according to Marcena Gunter, the public affairs manager with the VA in St. Louis.

That, combined with a recent report from the Department’s Inspector General’s Office identifying 45 problems at the facility including, expired medications, unsanitary conditions in patient care areas and improper storage of oxygen tanks and other supplies, has prompted both of Missouri’s U.S. senators to urge VA Secretary Robert McDonald, to move quickly in hiring a new director.

U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, wears a bracelet made to raise awareness of human sex trafficking.
St. Louis Public Radio file photo

WASHINGTON - The House Tuesday gave overwhelming approval to an anti-human trafficking bill, containing provisions sponsored by U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill. The measure won final approval on a vote of 420 to 3.

John Cochran hospital
File photo

Missouri’s U.S. senators, Republican Roy Blunt and Democrat Claire McCaskill, say they are concerned with the latest findings in a review of operations, at the VA’s St. Louis Health Care System.

The review makes 45 recommendations for improvements, ranging from sanitation to management inconsistencies. In a letter to the acting director of the facility, Patricia Ten Haaf, the senators ask to be kept informed of her plans to address the findings and “specific corrective actions. ... Our veterans have earned and deserve the very best in treatment and services,” both write.

A police line in Ferguson Aug. 13, 2014
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

President Barack Obama announced a ban Monday on the federal government providing some military-style equipment to local police agencies. The New York Times reports the ban will apply to “tracked armored vehicles, the highest-caliber firearms and ammunition and camouflage uniforms.”

Office of Sen. Durbin

The day after Democrats in the U.S. Senate blocked a proposal to give the president fast-track trade authority, a compromise has apparently been reached. This in turn would clear the way for a new Asian pact, the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said the Senate is scheduled to take up the first part of an apparent compromise Thursday. 

pond, lake, water
Rishabh Mishra | Flickr

The House of Representatives approved legislation Tuesday evening requiring the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to scrap a proposed rule defining “Waters of the United States.”  At issue is what bodies of water are subject to the federal Clean Water Act.

Agricultural interests have especially expressed concern that the rules would cover ponds and ditches that do not reach navigable water or wells, forcing the landowner to get federal permits for actions that could affect the water.

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

Farmers, biofuel producers and, now, several U.S. senators who back the production of renewable fuels say the Environmental Protection Agency is putting the renewable fuels industry in a state of uncertainty.

Monsanto
St. Louis Public Radio

With news reports that Monsanto may be looking to acquire Swiss Company Syngenta AG, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the number two Democrat in the Senate, is urging the St. Louis area company not to move its tax address overseas, in a practice known as “inversion.”

300 pixel elderly health care
NIH website

Technology is extending the amount of time aging Americans can live in the familiar surroundings of their own home, rather than be placed in a care facility. Marjorie Skubic, director of the University of Missouri’s Center for Eldercare and Rehabilitation Technology, told members of the Senate Special Committee on Aging Wednesday, about an automated in-home health monitoring system that may allow seniors to stay in their own homes for nearly two years longer than they might otherwise be able to.

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