St. Louis Public Radio’s Politically Speaking podcast team of Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies were on the road again Wednesday, this time to Picasso’s coffeehouse in the historic downtown of St. Charles. The two welcomed state Sens. Bob Onder and Bill Eigel, Republicans who represent much of St. Charles County.
Onder, of Lake St. Louis, and Eigel, of Weldon Spring, focused on a variety issues and fielded a number of tough questions from the audience. Each praised Gov. Eric Greitens for calling a special legislative session, now underway, to deal with the abortion issue. Both are outspoken opponents of abortion.
“It’s always a good time to meet to defend the lives of the unborn,’’ Eigel said.
Onder said he expects the final version of the legislation will achieve two objectives: protect the pregnancy-resource centers operated by abortion opponents, and block St. Louis’ provision that bars employers and landlords from discriminating against women who have had abortions, use birth control or are pregnant.
The Senate originally crafted a bill, which was dramatically changed by the House and now heads back to the Senate. Onder said he's optimistic about its passage. "I would summarize that the House bill covers everything in the governor's call," the senator said. "And I think the amended bill will meet a good reception in the Senate."
- Both said the state needs to address ways to curb spending in the Medicaid program, which provides health care coverage for the poor and the disabled. The federal government provides the bulk of the program’s money, with the state providing the rest. Eigel said 40 percent of the state’s overall budget, including the federal aid, goes toward Medicaid.
- Both reinforced their opposition to the federal Affordable Care Act, despite criticisms from some in the audience. The two senators had opposed the Act’s recommendation for Medicaid expansion, and contended that the ACA had helped drive up insurance costs.
- Both predicted that the General Assembly will soon address the state’s growing tax credit program, which costs the state about $600 million a year. Eigel said the program — which offers tax breaks for low-income housing, historic preservation and various economic projects — has unfairly picked “winners and losers.”
- Both said the General Assembly needs to tackle the state’s transportation needs, which include rebuilding much of Interstate 70 and other substandard roads and bridges.
Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum
Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies
Follow Bob Onder on Twitter: @BobOnderMO
Follow Bill Eigel on Twitter: @BillEigel
Music: "Solider's Grin" by Wolf Parade