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Politics & Issues

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Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens speaks to reporters after the 2017 adjourned. Greitens didn't have the smoothest relationship with legislators — including Republicans that control both chambers of the Missouri General Assembly.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Eric Greitens’ successful campaign to become Missouri’s governor was based on the premise that politicians were ruining the state and that an outsider’s help was needed.

But with the 2017 legislative session in the books, some of the elected officials Greitens decried believe he got in their way and took an unwarranted, heavy-handed approach — despite the fact that the Republican stands to implement policies his party waited generations to complete.

Tameka Stigers, left, and Ivy Perry, right, braid LaQuinn Laws hair in June 2015 in St. Louis.
Provided | Institute for Justice

This spring a few Missouri state lawmakers fought and failed to pass a proposal that would have stripped the requirement for hair braiders to obtain a cosmetology license.

Under current law, those who want to pursue hair braiding as a profession must attend 1,500 hours of cosmetology classes and spend at least $12,000.

Members of the Missouri Senate work through the final day of the General Assembly's legislative session in 2017.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s workers will bear the brunt of sweeping policy changes that were approved during the 2017 session.

With Republicans firmly in control of the governor’s office and both chambers of the legislature, they took the opportunity to back long-awaited policy proposals, including making it harder for employees to sue for discrimination and blunting the power of labor unions.

The Vietnam War memorial in Wentzville has been expanded and now includes lighting and landscaping. May 2017
Provided by city of Wentzville

The city of Wentzville will cut the ribbon on an updated memorial to Vietnam War veterans at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The city recently expanded the memorial site and added landscaping, lights, and a ramp, so disabled veterans can visit. The memorial is at 209 W. Pearce Blvd., next to the fire department.

Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, thet director of the St. Louis Lambert International Airport discussed privatization, REAL ID, growth at the airport and more on Tuesday's "St. Louis on the Air."
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

During peak air travel season this summer, St. Louis Lambert International Airport will see about 260 flights per day, with about 71 total non-stop flights. This June, Terminal 2’s E Concourse will expand by four more gates to accommodate Southwest Airlines travel. 

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, St. Louis Lambert International Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge joined host Don Marsh to discuss recent growth at the airport, REAL ID compliance, the recent spate of airline controversy and talks about privatizing the airport. 

File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Supreme Court capped the amount of money cities can take in from traffic fines and fees at 20 percent statewide in a ruling issued Tuesday.  It also throws out parts of a law that was the Missouri legislature's main attempt to deal with the aftermath of Michael Brown's 2014 death in Ferguson.

Investigations following Brown's shooting by a police officer revealed the extent to which small cities in St. Louis County relied on their municipal courts to fund city services, with the burden falling heavily on poor defendants of color.

Republican state Reps. Jay Barnes, center, and Justin Alferman converse with Rep. Shawn Rhoads during the last day of the Missouri General Assembly's legislative session.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

It may have seemed like a mad-dash finish for Missouri’s Republican-majority legislative body, pushing dozens of bills to Gov. Eric Greitens’ desk before the end of the 2017 regular session.

But St. Louis Public Radio veteran political reporter Jo Mannies, who has covered Missouri politics for 40 years, said the end of the session wasn’t that unusual, when compared to previous ones — with a few notable exceptions. Among those exceptions was the lack of debate on issues that are generally popular with social conservatives, including gun rights and abortion restrictions.

Members of the Missouri House of Representatives throw paper in the air to mark the end of the legislative session in Jefferson City.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When the Missouri legislature convened on Jan. 4, it was anticipated that with a Republican governor and GOP majorities in both houses, a record number of bills might become law. But as it drew to a close, one Republican senator said the session may be groundbreaking in terms of its lack of productivity.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, we spoke with St. Louis Public Radio reporters Marshall Griffin, Jo Mannies and Jason Rosenbaum about what did and didn’t pass.

"There are a lot of growing pains here," Griffin said. 

Samantha Jenkins was incarcerated for 67 days, unable to afford her own bail. In that time she lost both her jobs and housing.
Provided | ArchCity Defenders

Updated May 15 with ongoing fundraising — The creators of #BlackMamaBailoutSTL — Arch City Defenders, the St. Louis Action Council, and Decarcerate St. Louis — want to continue helping the women they bailed out long past Mother's Day.

State Senator Rob Schaaf addresses Lt. Gov. Mike Parson on the last day day of the General Assembly's legislative session.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Republicans had a lot to be optimistic about when the General Assembly convened in January. For the first time nearly a decade, the GOP held the reins of power in the executive and legislative branches — giving the party a prime chance to pass longstanding policy initiatives.

That optimism turned out to be warranted, especially when it came to overhauling the state’s labor and legal climate. But the process was anything but smooth. 

Amy Johnson and Dahlia Goldstein-Larocco, 7, do a yoga pose known as the bridge during the grand reopening of the Kingshighway Bridge May 13, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

One of the main routes connecting north and south St. Louis is open to traffic after two years of construction.

The Kingshighway Bridge just south of Interstate 44 closed in July 2015 so the 75-year-old structure could be rebuilt.

Commuters, residents and business owners celebrated the grand reopening Saturday by streaming across the bridge on foot, bicycle and golf cart before it opened to cars.

St. Louis Public Radio journalists Erica Hunzinger (L) and Rachel Lippmann (R) joined us for Behind the Headlines.
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

On Friday’s “Behind the Headlines” with St. Louis on the Air, we took an in-depth look at some of the top news stories of the week.

We checked in on the Missouri legislature’s last day of their 2017 session. We also heard about MetroLink’s promised security upgrades after a string of violent incidents this winter and spring.

House Democrats, including Rep. Bruce Franks Jr., raise their hands to speak about the $10-an-hour minimum wage in St. Louis.
File | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Forty-five bills to Gov. Eric Greitens later, the Missouri General Assembly adjourned Friday having dealt with some high-priority items like right to work, banning cities from raising their minimum wage, complying with a federal ID mandate and making it harder to sue for workplace discrimination.

But other sought-after bills fell by the wayside, including one that would have allowed Missouri to shed its status as the last state in the U.S. without a prescription drug monitoring program and another getting rid of lobbyist gifts to officeholders — something Greitens campaigned on.

Officials are considering the addition of turnstiles to the MetroLink system.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Two homicides on or near MetroLink trains less than a month apart this year put crime on the transit system back in the spotlight, to the point that officials set aside $20 million for public safety and changed how the system that spans the Metro East and the St. Louis area is policed.

Those efforts and talk of adding turnstiles will mean nothing, however, if the people who ride the rails and buses don’t feel safe. Plus, closing off the system by adding turnstiles will take millions of dollars and several years.

Rebeccah Bennett and Zack Boyers joined St. Louis on the Air tomorrow to discsuss what Forward Through Ferguson is working on.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

“We live in the same world, but don’t share the same reality. Realities are as unique as fingerprints.”

So says Rebeccah Bennett, one of two new co-chairs of Forward Through Ferguson.

Forward Through Ferguson is the organization that grew out of the Ferguson Commission, which was created by former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon in response to events that unfolded in Ferguson following the police shooting death of Michael Brown in August of 2014.

Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Day at the Missouri Capitol, 2013
MoBikeFed | Flickr

Missouri lawmakers solved the puzzle over federally mandated IDs on Thursday night, sending Republican Gov. Eric Greitens a bill that would ease travelers’ and military members’ worries come January.

It was one of several pieces of legislation that reached the finish line ahead of the 6 p.m. Friday deadline for the 2017 session. Here’s a look at Thursday’s action:

There was another setback Wednesday for efforts to end Illinois' budget stalemate.

Senate Democrats attempted a series of test votes on items in the so-called “grand bargain.” But Republicans refused to go along, saying more negotiation is needed to reach a deal they can support.

A controversial abortion measure was approved Wednesday in the Illinois Senate. It would expand government funding of the procedure.

People mill about the Missouri Capitol building on Wed., May 10, 2017.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri House and Senate traded a few bills Wednesday, including an amended one that would bring more specificity to a state ban on so-called "sanctuary cities." But nothing was sent to Gov. Eric Greitens all day.

Here’s a deeper look at what happened in the Capitol:

Crime scene investigators with the St. Louis Police Department work a scene in the 3600 block of Wilmington Avenue, where an officer shot and killed a woman on May 10, 2017.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Louis woman has died Wednesday after being shot by police because she refused to drop her gun.

Officers began receiving 911 calls about a woman firing a gun in the Holly Hills neighborhood around 11:45 Wednesday morning, interim St. Louis Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole said in a briefing that was broadcast on Periscope.

A MetroLink train
File Photo | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Police Department is investigating at least seven claims that security guards on MetroLink trains and platforms acted like police officers — allegations the Bi-State Development Agency,  which runs the transportation system, denies.

The department wrote its first report about a MetroLink guard attempting to make an arrest on April 8, St. Louis County Police spokesman Sgt. Shawn McGuire said Tuesday, though incidents are alleged to have happened before  that. The security guards are not licensed as officers by the state and therefore don’t have authority to arrest anyone.

Janie Oliphant, left, fixes a LGBT rights flag held by Cody Copp and Samuel Taylor so they can have their picture taken at a rally and march in St. Louis on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017.
File Photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis’ PrideFest celebration will once again be a free event this year.

Last week, Pride St. Louis officials announced a new $5 entry fee. The community immediately responded with concern that many people would no longer be able to attend. Some Facebook posters called the move “unfair” and vowed to stay away in protest.

Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City, 2014
vinwim / St Louis Public Radio

A proposal to finally create a prescription drug monitoring program was revived in the Missouri House on Tuesday, while the Senate came to terms with a 12-year-old federal ID law.

Friday is the end of the 2017 legislative session. Here’s a more detailed look at the action Tuesday (and very early Wednesday), as well as a count of how many bills were sent to Gov. Eric Greitens:

Documenting Hate logo
Provided / ProPublica

St. Louis Public Radio is partnering with ProPublica and other newsrooms across the country to track hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents throughout region — and we need your help.

Have you been the victim of a hate crime or harassment based on your race, ethnicity, gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation? Or, have you been a witness?

Stones painted with ladybugs and hearts now mark the affected headstones. A little girl in Florida painted the stones. May 2017
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Executive director Anita Feigenbaum is standing in the rain, amid repaired headstones at Chesed Shel Emeth, the historic Jewish cemetery in University City that made international headlines last February after vandals knocked over 154 grave markers.

“Starting here, you would just see rows knocked down,’’ Feigenbaum said, pointing from beneath her umbrella. “There’s an example of a monument that was totally knocked down. And broken.”

Bill Greenblatt | UPI

After nearly six hours of contentious debate Monday, the Missouri House passed a bill that makes it harder for people who are fired from a job to prove they were discriminated against.

The start of the last week of the 2017 legislative session also saw the Missouri Senate put a long-awaited prescription drug monitoring program on life support by standing its ground. 

The historic Goldenrod Showboat is currently docked near Kampsville, Ill.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 4:30 p.m., May 8, 2017 — The historic Goldenrod Showboat is sinking in the flood-swollen Illinois River, near Kampsville, Illinois, according to the nonprofit group that's been fighting for years to preserve it.

House Budget Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick, May 2017
Marshall Griffin I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum chats with House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick.

 

The Republican lawmaker from Shell Knob represents the 158th District, which takes in portions of Lawrence, Stone and Barry counties in southwest Missouri. State Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, appeared on Politically Speaking last week to provide the Democratic perspective about the legislature’s waning days.

Rici Hoffarth / St. Louis Public Radio

There’s still plenty of unfinished business as the final week of the legislative session kicks off Monday.

Gov. Eric Greitens is still waiting for his fellow Republicans in the House and Senate to send him bills to ban gifts from lobbyists, create state-funded scholarships that some students could use to attend private schools and allow the Department of Revenue to issue driver’s licenses that comply with federal Real ID standards.

Deb Lavender, May 2017
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | 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 state Rep. Deb Lavender to the program.

 

The Kirkwood Democrat has served in the Missouri House since 2015, representing the 90th District, which takes in portions of Kirkwood and Glendale.

 

Lavender is a physical therapist who garnered a reputation for persistence, running for the House  in 2008, 2010 and 2012 and losing each time to then-incumbent Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood.

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