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Politics & Issues

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Eastern Reception Diagnostic and Corrections Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri.
File photo | Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The new leaders of the Missouri Department of Corrections say they’re working to shake off the negative image due to numerous lawsuits filed in the last five years by current and former corrections officers, who alleged widespread harassment, intimidation and retaliation.

Gov. Eric Greitens made a brief call to reform the agency after he took office and brought in a new director, Anne Precythe. And last month, a House subcommittee released a list of recommendations to address the agency’s issues. But some corrections officers say things won’t change until some of the current supervisors and high-ranking officers are fired.  

Republican Josh Hawley won the endorsement of the Missouri Farm Bureau for attorney general.
File photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri is the only state in the U.S. using consumer-protection laws to pursue a website that’s accused of advertising illegal sexual activity such as human trafficking, Attorney General Josh Hawley says.

Hawley’s office says it has filed a lawsuit Thursday in state court in St. Charles as a way to try to force Backpage.com to turn over documents that Hawley contends may be helping traffickers evade prosecution in the state and elsewhere. It’s the second time Hawley has sought court intervention in recent weeks.

FBI and ATF agents enter the the home of James T. Hodgkinson, the man identified as shooting a Republican member of congress, in Belleville, Illinois on June 14, 2017.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

The Belleville man who authorities say opened fire Wednesday as Republicans practiced for the annual Congressional Baseball Game was distressed about the changing political climate of the country under GOP leadership.

James T. Hodgkinson, whom the FBI identified as the gunman, had been living in Alexandria, Virginia, for the past two months, his wife, Suzanne Hodgkinson told ABC News. He left behind his life in Illinois, where he had occasional run-ins with law enforcement and frequently criticized Republican fiscal policies in letters to the editor. 

He also belonged to anti-Republican groups, including one called “Terminate the Republican Party,” the Belleville News Democrat reported.

Hodgkinson, who volunteered for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, once wrote in a letter to the newspaper, “‘I have never said life sucks, only the policies of the Republicans."

Updated at 10:15 p.m. ET

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana has undergone surgery and will need further operations, after being shot by a man who opened fire with a rifle on an early morning baseball practice for Republican members of Congress in Alexandria, Va. Scalise was the most seriously injured of four victims of the shootings.

James Hodgkinson of Belleville protests outside of the United States Post Office in downtown Belleville in this file photo from 2012.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News Democrat

 

Updated June 14 at 1:10 p.m. with comment from lifelong acquaintance -  Metro East residents are coming to terms with the notion that one of their neighbors has been identified as the shooter at a Congressional Republican baseball practice Wednesday morning in suburban Washington, D.C.  

Many national media outlets are quoting unnamed federal law enforcement officials as saying the gunman was James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville.

A worker adjusts a lift after the removal of the top piece of the Confederate Memorial in Forest Park last week. (June 8, 2017)
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Getting the Confederate Memorial out of St. Louis' Forest Park will take at least a week longer than expected, according to the mayor's office.  

Koran Addo, spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson, said Tuesday that the company tasked with taking down the 32-foot-tall granite and bronze statue needs to bring in more equipment to lift the biggest piece, which weighs about 45 tons. 

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks to law enforcement officials. (03/31/17)
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, as the investigation continues into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Republican Sen. Bob Onder, of Lake St. Louis.
File photo | Tim Bommel | Missouri House Communications

Updated at 7:45 p.m. with changes to Onder's bill — Missouri’s GOP legislative majority is virtually unanimous in its opposition to abortion, but the divisions within their ranks were laid bare by a number of competing abortion regulation bills filed in the second special session of the year.

Commerical planes parked at a St. Louis Lambert International Airport terminal.
St. Louis Lambert International Airport

Updated at 8:10 p.m. with how much it'll cost to switch to a REAL ID license — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens signed a bill Monday aimed at averting a scenario in which Missouri residents could have been turned away at airports starting in January for lack of valid identification.

The legislation will give residents the option to get driver's licenses or other identification cards that comply with the federal REAL ID Act. Compliance with the tougher proof-of-identity requirements is necessary at airports, some federal facilities and military bases.

Gov. Eric Greitens speaks with reporters after touring Our Lady's Inn, a St. Louis pregnancy center for women experiencing homelessness, on June 8, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When it goes into its second special session Monday, the Missouri General Assembly will focus on a frequent — and arguably, favorite — target: local control.

On issues ranging from gun rights to anti-discrimination regulations, Republican leaders have made it clear that they believe there should be a consistent law across Missouri. That’s why since 2007, they’ve approved bills to bar communities from enacting stricter gun laws, overturned Kansas City’s higher minimum wage (there’s an action pending against St. Louis’ higher wage, too), and tossed out Columbia’s plastic bag ban.

St. Louis city police officers attempt to block demonstrators during an anti-Trump rally in downtown St. Louis in November 2016.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Two measures introduced at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen Friday would ask residents or local nonprofits to pay more in taxes to boost the salaries of the city’s police officers, and stem a tide of departures for better-paying departments.

The sponsor of the measures, Alderman Steve Conway, wants his colleagues to act quickly on the measures. The current police contract expires July 1, the same day that the St. Louis County Police Department unveils its new pay rates, and city police union officials are worried that the exodus of officers will only speed up without some movement toward higher wages.

Lord Alan Watson was in St. Louis this week for the Churchill Museum's award to Sen. John Danforth. He spoke with St. Louis on the Air about British and American politics as well as the award.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

On Friday’s “Behind the Headlines” with St. Louis on the Air, we discussed the week's news from a different sort of angle than we normally do.

This week, host Don Marsh was joined by Lord Alan Watson to talk about the Churchill Museum's award to Sen. John Danforth as well as his take on the British elections, the Trump administration and the political leadership today as compared to Churchill's time.

Patrick Henry Elementary School in St. Louis.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 12:40 p.m. with comment from Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft — Civil rights groups sued the state of Missouri on Thursday over the funding for its voter ID law, which went into effect June 1.

 

The lawsuit filed in Cole County Circuit Court argues that Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office is not providing “mandated funding for voter education, free voter IDs and birth certificates and training of poll workers.” The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, the national ACLU and civil rights group Advancement Project on behalf of the Missouri NAACP and the League of Women Voters.

Brendan Koch, of Arnold, Missouri, looks at the Confederate Memorial after crews removed the top of it Thursday morning. June 8, 2017
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Former St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said he’d take down the Confederate Memorial in Forest Park in 2015. That didn’t happen, so it fell to Mayor Lyda Krewson, who promised a plan to get it done almost as soon as she took office in April.

Two months later, the 32-foot-tall granite and bronze statue is being taken apart — slowly, as some pieces weigh as much as 40 tons. Some say the credit for the quick action doesn’t belong to Krewson but rather members of the community who’ve been vocal in recent weeks.

Panelists Redditt Hudson, left and Rick Frank, left, listen to former St. Louis police officer Bill Monroe at a forum about the search for a new chief on June 8, 2017.
Wiley Price | St. Louis American

The new chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department will have a lot to deal with upon taking over, both within the department and in regaining community trust.

A crowd of about 30 people outlined their concerns regarding the search process at a meeting Thursday night held by the Ethical Society of Police, which represents officers of color. They also made it clear what they wanted from the new chief.

Workers attach straps to the granite top of the Confederate Memorial in Forest Park on June 8, 2017.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Updated at 11:20 a.m. June 8th with removal of statue's top — Work began Thursday morning in Forest Park to take down the controversial Confederate Memorial.

Crews removed the top of the statue a day after the St. Louis streets department set up barricades in the area. A spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson said it will take a while to remove the monument completely.

James Comey, former Director Federal Bureau of Investigation, discussed the impact of technology on the work of law enforcement in October 2014
Brookings Institution | Flickr

Former FBI Director James Comey is testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. Before Comey was fired on May 9, he led the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential ties between Trump associates and Russia. That probe is now led by a special prosecutor.

A traffic stop by the Missouri State Police, June 2016.
Missouri Department of Transportation

Law enforcement agencies across Missouri that use DWI checkpoints to catch drunk drivers won’t be able to use federal money to pay for them starting July 1. That's when the new fiscal year gets underway.

The Missouri Dept. of Transportation handles the state’s allotment of National Highway Safety Act money from Washington, and this year the Republican majority in the legislature chose to only allow one dollar to be used for checkpoints. It’s tucked into a budget bill that Gov. Eric Greitens has yet to sign.

Ethical Society of Police president Sgt. Heather Taylor speaks to a forum on disparities in the St. Louis police and fire departments on July 7, 2016. Her organization has called on chief Sam Dotson to resign.
File photo | Wiley Price | St. Louis American

The union that represents officers of color in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department wants to know what the public wants to see in a new police chief.

The Ethical Society of Police is hosting the first community forum Thursday night at Vashon High School beginning at 6 p.m. Its president, Sgt. Heather Taylor, said the society plans to schedule at least one more forum, and conduct a survey.

Amanda Mohl, Dr. Rumi Price and Carmen Guynn, all advocates in the area of human trafficking, joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh to discuss the issue in the region.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

In this month’s issue of The Atlantic, author Alex Tizon writes of a woman who spent 56 years in his family’s household as a slave. “My Family’s Slave,” which has inspired copious dialogue and backlash about the author’s intent, uncovered a side of human trafficking we rarely talk about.

Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

As promised, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is calling lawmakers back to Jefferson City — for the second time — to target organizations and local governments that support abortion rights.

The session begins next Monday. “I'm pro-life, and I believe that we need to defend life and promote a culture of life here in the state of Missouri,” the governor said in his announcement on Facebook.

Dan Buck, the CEO of Big Sports Properties LLC, updates the Chesterfield City Council on his POWERplex project on June 5, 2017. A missed deadline means the complex won't be built in the city.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

A proposed $55 million indoor-outdoor sports complex in the Chesterfield Valley, billed as the largest in North America, won’t move forward because the developer failed to meet a June 1 deadline to secure funds from St. Louis County for water and sewer lines.

St. Louis Public Radio reported last week that the deal for the POWERplex was in jeopardy because Big Sports Properties LLC, run by Dan Buck, had not provided given Chesterfield officials the required documents. Rather than negotiate a new deal, Buck said Monday night that he’ll take the project — and its estimated $6 million in tax money a year — elsewhere.

The intersection of Collinsville and St. Louis avenues in East St. Louis is where a mob of white rioters first gathered before they rampaged through the city, seeking out and killing black residents.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Andrew Theising was sitting behind the steering wheel of his car, pointing out the pathways of city streets that vanished long ago beneath a parking lot in downtown East St. Louis.

“This is where the homes were burned,’’ he said, solemnly. “This is where African-Americans were hung from the streetlights. This was the height of the violence and the bloodshed.’’

David Noble, Kimberly McKinney and Gary Newcomer discussed the state of housing affordability in the region on Monday.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Homeownership is associated with a slew of positive outcomes: better health, higher likelihood of sustained employment, safer communities, self-sufficiency in families and more. And yet, the dream of homeownership is becoming further out of reach for many families in the St. Louis region.

Biddle Housing Opportunities Center. Biddle is partly run by the St. Patrick Center, a homeless service provider. Biddle is not only an emergency shelter, but also provides help for homeless, including finding housing. May 5, 2017
Marie Schwarz | St. Louis Public Radio

David Perry is a tall and muscular-looking guy. He has a construction job. His appearance and circumstances might not reveal it, but Perry is homeless.

For nearly six months he has been on the waiting list for housing at the St. Patrick Center, an organization that works with the city to end homelessness. 

Greitens' Cabinet appointees shown clockwise from top left: Sarah Steelman, Chris Chinn, Anne Precythe, Carol Comer, Joel Walters, Chlora Lindley-Myers, Randall Williams, Charles "Drew" Juden
Credits listed clockwise from top left / Jason Rosenbaum; Dept. of Agriculture; Tim Bommel, House Communications; Office of Gov. Eric Greitens; Linkedin; City of Sikeston

Updated June 6 to correct that the Department of Mental Health's director is appointed by a commission. Original story from Feb. 22, 2017:

With new administrations come new agency directors, and it’s up to the governor to choose those people. Most of  Republican Gov. Eric Greitens’ Cabinet positions have been approved by the Missouri Senate, while three still must be vetted.

Here’s a who’s who behind the major state agencies:

Gregg Keller, June 2017
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome back Gregg Keller for the second time.

Keller is a St. Louis-based, Republican consultant who runs his own firm, Atlas Strategy Group. He’s worked for a number of Missouri’s prominent GOP officials, including former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent.

Supporter Steve Stepanek of St. Louis waves his Confederate flag at the Confederate Statue in Forest Park on June 3, 2017, in St. Louis.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Tensions are high after more than a week of demonstrations and counter protests over whether to remove the Confederate memorial in Forest Park.

A rally at the monument Saturday featured both shouting matches and moments of dialogue.

The event was organized by Peggy Hubbard, a black woman who wants the monument to stay.

Attendees wave the peace sign as Jamie "KP" Dennis performs Sat., June 3, 2017, at the St. Louis rally for National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis area politicians and organizations rallied against gun violence this weekend, joining a national movement, amid a run of gun-related deaths in the area.  At least seven people have been shot and killed in the city of St. Louis since Thursday.

Activists with Moms Demand Action Against Gun Violence wore orange and held a rally Saturday in Tower Grove Park. Several dozen people attended the event to mark Friday's National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

Public schools and other institutions in Missouri that receive state money likely won’t see any last-minute cuts before the fiscal year ends June 30, budget chief Dan Haug said Friday.

That’s even with the state’s income collections running slightly behind estimates used to craft the current budget.

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