Robert Koenig | St. Louis Public Radio

Robert Koenig

Robert Koenig

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This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – Missouri ranks among the worst 10 states with “the highest levels of gun violence” in recent years while its gun-control laws are relatively lax, a new study of gun violence indicators says.

The report by the liberal Center for American Progress think tank found a rough correlation between high levels of gun violence and weak state gun laws. But gun rights and libertarian groups criticized the report’s methodology as biased.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – With the price of flood insurance on the rise and climate change likely to worsen Midwest flooding, a scientific panel wants federal emergency officials to modernize the outmoded tools used to analyze the probability and impact of floods.

Such a change, if adopted by FEMA, could have major consequences in Missouri and Illinois, where debates over flood insurance, FEMA flood mapping, and flood damage from the Mississippi and Missouri rivers have dominated much of the discussion in the Metro East and other low-lying regions.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – Senators call it the “vote-a-rama,” a rapid-fire series of votes on dozens of amendments to the budget resolutions that may or may not have anything to do with the government’s budget.

That’s what was happening late Thursday, Friday and possibly into Saturday’s wee hours as senators tried to finish the budget so they could leave town for their spring “work period.” More than 400 potential amendments were filed, but Senate leaders hoped to pare down the actual number of votes to 30 or so.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – For Mayor Jo Anne Smiley of Clarksville, Mo., clean water is key, given that the Mississippi River provides drinking water to 18 million Americans.

For Alton, Ill., Mayor Tom Hoechst, the emphasis is on efforts to help farmers to prevent erosion that leads to sediment buildups that require river dredging. And, of course, the need for more federal investment in river locks and dams.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – As long-delayed water resources legislation moves through Congress, lawmakers and river-city mayors want to make sure the downstream results are beneficial to the Mississippi River region.

This week, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and some river colleagues – including the mayors of Clarksville, Mo., and Alton and Grafton, Ill. – visited Capitol Hill to present their agenda for improving Mississippi commerce, ecology and transport to lawmakers who represent river states.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – With federal funds shrinking but river commerce rising, Illinois lawmakers want to jump-start major infrastructure projects – such as rebuilding key locks and dams on the Mississippi River – by allowing public-private partnerships.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – As victims of sexual assault in the military told their stories to a Senate panel on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and other senators called for reforms in military procedures to help stop widespread abuses.

“The focus of our efforts should be on effective prosecution,” said McCaskill, D-Mo. “There’s no reason a general who’s never heard the testimony of factual witnesses should be able to wipe out a verdict with the stroke of a pen.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: “If you think we’re going to spend a billion dollars of our money over there, you are sadly mistaken.” – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, 2003.

WASHINGTON – Ten years ago this month, the U.S. government embarked on a war to topple the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. That conflict and the ensuing occupation ended up costing American taxpayers, by some estimates, about $800 billion.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – A bill to name the new Interstate 70 bridge across the Mississippi River the “Stan Musial Memorial Bridge” has been approved by the U.S. Senate but has not yet made it out of a committee on the House side of the Capitol.

The Senate passed the bill, backed by all four senators from Missouri and Illinois, by unanimous consent late on Monday. The lawmakers praised the vote in a joint statement on Tuesday.

A similar House bill backed by U.S. Reps. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, and John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, has not yet been approved by the Transportation committee.

A spokesman for Davis said Tuesday that the freshman congressman – now the region’s only lawmaker on the transportation panel – planned to redouble his efforts to get approval for the bill to name the new span after Stan the Man, who died in January at age 92.

“There’s nobody I’d rather see welcoming folks into St. Louis than our hometown hero, Stan Musial,” said U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., after the Senate vote.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo, praised the St. Louis Cardinal All-Star as “a true hero to so many Americans, both on and off the field.” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said naming the bridge after Musial “would be a fitting honor to a great American hero and the values he stood for.”

And U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., said Musial “gave his all to the St. Louis and Metro East region and this is just one small way we can honor that legacy.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – After nearly three months of debate following the mass shooting of 20 first graders at a Connecticut school, Congress on Thursday began the legislative process of determining which initiatives are politically feasible in the effort to deter gun violence.

At a markup session of the Senate Judiciary Committee, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and other senators discussed separate bills that would: ban assault weapons; require criminal and mental-health background checks of all gun buyers; crack down on illegal gun trafficking; and provide help to bolster school security.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, one of the moderates whom President Barack Obama called last week to discuss budget issues, said Tuesday that the $85 billion in sequester cuts is likely to stay but might be re-targeted.

“I think it’s doubtful that we will change the $85 billion in cuts,” McCaskill told reporters. “I still think it’s possible that we will change the impact of those cuts so . . .  it makes more sense where and how we are cutting.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – The day before the sequester budget axe was due to fall, there was plenty of posturing on Capitol Hill but apparently precious little progress on reaching a deal to avert the across-the-board cuts.

While U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the Senate would consider today a Democratic bill that aims to replace the sequester with a “balanced approach” including some revenues, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said GOP senators would block that plan. A separate Republican proposal also will be offered.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – Hardly anyone really wants it to happen. Absolutely no one wants to take the blame for it. And there are plenty of options to avoid it.

But sequestration – the slasher spending provision inserted into a deficit-reduction law to scare Congress into agreeing on a more rational approach – is about to strike on Friday.

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