Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

Jo Mannies

Political Reporter

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.

Ways to Connect

Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley and Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill
Durrie Bouscaren & Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Although President Donald Trump isn’t expected to announce his Supreme Court nominee until next week, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and her best-known GOP rival are already gearing up for a major fight.

That’s particularly true for the Republican, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who’s contending that the future of the U.S. Supreme Court – and McCaskill’s past confirmation votes – should be the pivotal issue in their contest.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is joined by members of his staff Friday as he signs budget bills.
Governor's office

Less than a month after taking office, new Gov. Mike Parson is putting his stamp on Missouri’s budget priorities.

And he’s gotten some help from an unexpected flurry of new money into state coffers, says state budget director Dan Haug.

On Friday, Parson signed state budget bills that, among other things, call for $99 million in additional spending for public education compared to the current fiscal year. He also has approved more money for school transportation.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, in a photo taken at St. Louis Public Radio on June 28, 2018
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jo Mannies and Rachel Lippmann welcome Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft – who’s in the midst of a flurry of pre-election activity.

A Republican, Ashcroft was elected during the state’s GOP election landslide of 2016. That year, Missouri voters also approved a photo-ID requirement at the polls.

St. Louis County Councilman Ernie Trakas
Alex Heuer I St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Councilman Ernie Trakas’ political future is now up to a judge, who will likely rule before the summer ends whether Trakas violated the county charter by doing legal work for school districts.

If the answer is yes, then Trakas – who represents much of south county – would be removed from the council.

St. Charles County Circuit Judge Dan Pelikan held a brief hearing Thursday morning and ordered lawyers for both sides to submit any additional legal arguments within 30 days. Pelikan could then rule at any time, although the lawyers predict it likely will be August at the earliest before he announces his decision.

Supreme Court
Kjetil Ree | Flickr

Labor leaders in Missouri’s public and private sectors say the U.S. Supreme Court’s latest ruling curbing public-employee unions doesn’t appear to have a direct impact in Missouri.

The court ruled 5-4 today that public-employee unions cannot collect fees or dues from workers who decline to join the union. But in Missouri, labor leaders say public-employee unions in the state already must get their members to voluntarily pay dues.

The St. Louis Council at its meeting on June 26, 2018. The empty chair belongs to County Executive Steve Stenger, who has skipped most of the meetings this year.
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council is planning to set up a special task force to tackle the region’s opioid problem, and is offering up to $1 million in grants to encourage people to come up with solutions.

In a rare show of solidarity, the council voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of the plan.

The county already has a prescription drug monitoring program. But Councilman Mark Harder, a Republican from Ballwin, said the 11-member task force is a necessary addition.

Former Secretary of State Jason Kander, left, hosts podcast with national AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka on June 23, 2018.
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Democrats appear to be banking their political future on linking the state’s fight over a “right to work’’ law, known as Proposition A, to the effort to re-elect Missouri’s last remaining Democrats holding statewide office.

A referendum over Proposition A will be on the August ballot. The two Democrats facing re-election this year – U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and state Auditor Nicole Galloway – will go before voters in November.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California, addresses a packed audience at Thursday's annual NAACP dinner held June 21, 2018 in downtown St. Louis.
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat and rising national star, delivered a two-pronged address in St. Louis on Thursday that appeared to be aimed at elevating her own profile while also boosting fellow Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Both officials were star attractions at the St. Louis County NAACP annual dinner, held at the downtown Four Seasons Hotel.

Many of Harris’ keynote remarks focused on challenges facing like-minded Americans who are upset over various actions by President Donald Trump’s administration.

The St. Louis County Council rejected legislation aimed at regulating rental property in unincorporated St. Louis County.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council’s focus on redevelopment efforts at the old Northwest Plaza site – and its related accusations against County Executive Steve Stenger – are now igniting concerns among St. Ann officials and civic leaders.

St. Ann city administrator Matt Conley was among several who contended that the council’s political fight with Stenger is hurting the city’s efforts to attract businesses to the former shopping center site, which once was a regional magnet for shoppers.

Former St. Louis County police chief at his campaign kickoff for St. Louis County Council
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jo Mannies and Rachel Lippmann welcome former St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch – who’s jumping into the political arena.

Fitch often made headlines in his former job. He didn’t hesitate to go public with some of his concerns, even when it put him at odds with then-County Executive Charlie Dooley.

Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley and Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill
Durrie Bouscaren & Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and her best-known Republican rival, Josh Hawley, agree on one thing: health care — including its rising costs — is a top issue in their race this year.

And they accuse each other of misleading the public on the matter.

Take, for example, insurance coverage of pre-existing conditions such as cancer, diabetes or pregnancy.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, right, examines equipment as Patriot Machines vice president Robert Burns gives him a tour of the plant.
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley says he is continuing to investigate former Gov. Eric Greitens for possible wrongdoing.

Hawley said Thursday that his office has two “open investigations” into Greitens, and that he is optimistic new Gov. Mike Parson’s staff will provide help, if needed.

One of the probes is looking into allegations that Greitens and his staff violated the state’s Sunshine Law, in part by using a texting app that erased messages immediately after they are read. At issue is whether office records that should have been retained were destroyed.

State Sen.-elect Lauren Arthur flipped a seat that had been held by Republicans for 12 years.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jo Mannies and Marshall Griffin go “on location’’ to welcome Missouri state Sen.-elect Lauren Arthur.

A Democrat, Arthur has touched off a minor political earthquake with her June 5 success in handily winning a state Senate seat in suburban Kansas City that had been held by Republicans for 12 years. Both parties are examining her success to figure out how to duplicate it, or cut it short, in November.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill answers questions during a town hall at Harris-Stowe State University. Jan. 27, 2018
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

President Donald Trump is joining some fellow Republicans who are attacking U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill for using her family’s private plane to make campaign stops around the state.

Said Trump in a Wednesday-afternoon tweet:

“Senator Claire McCaskill of the GREAT State of Missouri flew around in a luxurious private jet during her RV tour of the state. RV’s are not for her. People are really upset, so phony! Josh Hawley should win big, and has my full endorsement.”

At issue is the senator’s recent campaign tour to visit with military veterans around the state. Although she often traveled on a campaign RV, McCaskill has acknowledged that she also at times used her family plane.

Gov. Mike Parson greets attendees after a meeting with business and community leaders and elected officials at Cortex Innovation Community.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

New Missouri Gov. Mike Parson says that improving the state’s roads and bridges appears to be one of the top issues all over the state that has bipartisan support.

Parson ended his 10-stop listening tour on Wednesday by visiting the Cortex business complex in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis. He said that in all of his meetings — in rural and urban areas — civic and business leaders called for improving Missouri’s infrastructure.

“I think it’s so important that we move forward on infrastructure. We just can’t keep kicking the can down the road and expect any different result,” he said. “And it really does matter how we move forward as a state to do that. So I think we’re going to be working hard on that.”

The St. Louis County Council passed a resolution Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, asking municipalities to spend Proposition P solely on policing. The resolution is non-binding.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council plans to recommend that federal or state law enforcement agencies investigate whether County Executive Steve Stenger broke any laws when he moved some county operations to the old Northwest Plaza shopping center.

The 26-page report circulated this week by the council’s Ethics Committee takes aim at Stenger over his administration’s efforts to help redevelop the Northwest Plaza site in St. Ann.

The report – to be formally presented to the full council next week -- calls for the state attorney general or the U.S. attorney to look into the matter.

File | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

New Missouri Gov. Mike Parson called for “debating with respect’’ as he pledged Monday to set a new tone in the state Capitol while staying true to the Republican Party’s conservative policies.

To illustrate his point, Parson met privately with Republicans and Democrats – including most of the state’s members of Congress – before addressing the General Assembly to formally mark his takeover of state government.

Parson’s 15-minute speech was conciliatory in its message, even as it was filled with veiled criticisms of his predecessor, fellow Republican Eric Greitens. The former governor resigned less than two weeks ago amid scandal and controversy over his personal and political behavior.

Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley and Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill
Durrie Bouscaren & Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A few weeks ago, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill headlined a packed campaign event in St. Louis that attracted lots of supporters but few reporters.

That episode reflected what had been the norm for months for many candidates running for office. McCaskill, a Democrat, noted that the public and the press have been almost exclusively focused on the troubles plaguing the state’s Republican governor, Eric Greitens.

“What has happened in Missouri is kind of what’s happened in Washington,” she said. “It ends up being about the governor’s indictment, or the payment to the porn star. And then it makes it harder to get the information out on the positive things I’ve gotten done.”

Gov. Eric Greitens speaks during a news conference after the end of the 2017 legislative session. Greitens used this opportunity to compare lawmakers to third graders for not passing enough bills.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

While movers were emptying out the executive mansion, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens was busy during his final day in office clearing off his desk.

And that includes signing at least 77 bills into law.

He also issued pardons for five people in prison and commuted the sentences of four others to prison time already served. Pardons wipe the crime off a person’s record, while commuted sentences remain — even though the person is freed.

Gov. Eric Greitens walks back into the Civil Courts Building in downtown St. Louis after delivering a statement to reporters. May 14, 2018
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum, Jo Mannies and Rachel Lippmann reflect on Gov. Eric Greitens’ decision to resign from office.

The move marks a stunning end to what appeared to be a fast-rising political career that began with presidential ambitions and ended with a wave of scandal.

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