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Politics & Issues

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Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to Republican supporters in East Alton on April 12, 2017.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Illinois lawmakers will need to return for a second special session if they don't send Gov. Bruce Rauner a bill that revamps the K-12 school funding formula by noon Monday.

Gov. Eric Greitens sits down for an interview with St. Louis Public Radio in downtown St. Louis on July 17, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In the span of a week, Gov. Eric Greitens unveiled two high-profile proposals: A proposal aimed at reducing violent crime in St. Louis and a statewide prescription drug monitoring program.

Critics of the Republican governor contended the plans lacked specificity – and questioned whether either proposal would stem the tide of St. Louis violence or opioid abuse. But in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio on Monday, Greitens positioned his two plans as "bold" action that should have been taken a long time ago.

Alaa Alderie, a Syrian refugee, is the owner of Cham Bakery in St. Louis.
File photo | Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Alaa Alderie sought refuge in the United States several years ago, not long after Syrian authorities started looking for him because of his involvement in political demonstrations against President Bashar Al-Assad.

In 2012, he and his parents came to St. Louis, where his brother had arrived earlier, finding success in their new home. Alderie, who is Muslim, considers himself a “lucky refugee.” 

St. Louis-based Express Scripts has announced a new initiative to combat opioid abuse. June 7, 2017
Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s statewide prescription drug monitoring database will come online next month. There’s a key difference between it and databases throughout the U.S. and even in St. Louis County, which actually covers nearly 60 percent of the state.

The program, created by Gov. Eric Greitens by an executive order, will collect who is writing opioid prescriptions and dispensing the drugs, but only the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services can access the data. In every other state, pharmacists and doctors can see that type of data — which is the most successful way to stem opioid abuse, according to Sherry Green of the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws.

The majority of people housed at the Medium Security Institution in St. Louis do not have air conditioning. (July 19, 2017)
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4:40 p.m. with state representative's request — Activists say this week’s near-record heat is dangerous for inmates at St. Louis’ Medium Security Institution and is one more reason the jail needs to be shut down.

The majority of the 700 inmates at the jail, also known as the Workhouse, live in portions that don’t have air conditioning, St. Louis corrections commissioner Dale Glass said. Temperatures are routinely 5 to 10 degrees warmer inside the 51-year-old building than outside; activists allege that’s another violation of inmates’ rights.

Environmental Protection Agency workers met with city health officials at the Clemens House before learning they did not have authorization to test the site for asbestos.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 5:40 p.m. Wednesday with comments from Mayor Lyda Krewson – The day after a recent four-alarm fire engulfed the historic Clemens House on Cass Avenue, neighbors got together with brooms and shovels to start cleaning up the debris left scattered across their yards.

“We started talking and started looking and then we decided — wait a minute, we don’t know what we’re sweeping up here,” said Larry Chapman, a retired carpenter who lives on Helen Street.

State Rep. Courtney Curtis says policymakers should have been making developing north St. Louis County a priority from the beginning.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 3:50 p.m. — Missouri state Rep. Courtney Curtis is blaming two thefts and bank errors for campaign-finance problems that prompted the Missouri Ethics Commission to fine him more than $114,000.

Curtis, a Democrat from Berkeley, says he is appealing the commission’s allegations, which were issued Friday, that he violated various campaign finance laws and improperly used some campaign money for personal expenses.

Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, July 2017
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 Sen. Andrew Koenig to the program.

Koenig is a Manchester Republican and the main sponsor of abortion legislation that’s being considered in the Missouri legislature’s current (though interrupted) special session. Senators are expected to return on Monday.

Flickr | steakpinball

Updated July 18 at 1:30 p.m. with comments from the ACLU of Missouri — The Missouri Human Rights Act does not provide protections for gender identity, the Missouri Court of Appeals reinforced Tuesday.

The 2-1 decision stems from a case in which a 17-year-old transgender boy in the Kansas City area sued because he was not allowed to use the boys' restroom or locker rooms at his high school.

Susannah Lohr

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has raised slightly more than $100,000 since April 1 for his official campaign committee, which has taken a back seat in recent months.

Greitens' latest report, filed Monday with the state Ethics Commission, shows that he spent about $127,000 in campaign money during the same period.

The governor has spent far more in money raised by his nonprofit group, A New Missouri, which does not disclose its donors or spending. Greitens' senior advisor Austin Chambers said the nonprofit is paying at least $500,000 for the pro-Greitens TV ad campaign that began last week.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has signed an executive order creating a prescription drug monitoring database.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Gov. Eric Greitens signed an executive order Monday to set up a statewide prescription drug monitoring program, ending Missouri's status as the final state in the nation without such a database. 

The order also bypasses another round of debates in the Missouri legislature, which came close to establishing a broad program during the regular session, but failed. Several cities and counties in the state already have set up their own monitoring program. 

Will Ross, the associate dean for diversity at Washington University, is part of a three-person panel tasked with coming up with a plan that could overhaul St. Louis' government.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Will Ross may play a substantial role in ending the more than 140-year separation between St. Louis and St. Louis County.

The Memphis, Tennessee, native is the associate dean for diversity at Washington University and a member of a three-person panel that’s been given a year to put forward a plan to reshape St. Louis’ government. It’s part of an effort from a group called Better Together, which has released a number of studies criticizing the city-county separation.

Jeffrey Jensen, President Donald Trump's nominee to be the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District.
Provided by Husch Blackwell

President Donald Trump on Friday nominated St. Louis lawyer Jeffrey B. Jensen to be the next U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri. 

The top regional prosecutor’s post, once held by Richard Callahan, has been vacant since the Trump administration fired most of the nation’s U.S. attorneys in March.  All nominations must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The Board of Aldermen chambers on July 7, 2017.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

A half-cent sales tax increase that would generate $20 million a year for the St. Louis police and fire departments, and the circuit attorney’s office, is headed for the November ballot.

The Board of Aldermen voted 18-8 Friday to send the legislation to Mayor Lyda Krewson. She is expected to sign it soon.

Now, the work begins on selling it to the voters — something the mayor may have to do without the help of the St. Louis Police Officers Association.

Tierra White holds her two-year old daughter, Taylor, during a Save the Raise rally outside Southwest Diner on Friday, July 14, 2017. The diner's owner has announced it will continue to pay workers $10 an hour.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 1:45 p.m. July 14 with details about push to keep St. Louis wages the same — When it became clear the Republican-controlled state legislature wouldn’t be raising the minimum wage above $7.70 an hour, leaders in St. Louis and Kansas City took matters into their own hands.

But their wage increases will be a thing of the past come Aug. 28, as Gov. Eric Greitens will let go into effect — but not sign — a bill requires all cities to stay at the statewide minimum. It prevents Kansas City from implementing its $8.50 an hour wage in September, and will knock out St. Louis’ recent shift to $10 an hour.

On Friday, St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh will discuss the first St. Louis election under the new voter photo ID law in Missouri with Denise Lieberman and Gary Stoff.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

On Friday’s “Behind the Headlines," we took a look at a top news story from the week. This week, St. Louis saw its first election under the new voter photo ID law for the 28th ward seat. Heather Navarro, a Democrat, won with 69 percent of the vote.

State Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. joined St. Louis on the Air on Thursday to discuss his freshman year as a state representative and his plans for the future.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Democratic State Representative Bruce Franks Jr., representing District 78 in St. Louis, joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh on Thursday to reflect on his first year as a state lawmaker. He also discussed the challenges facing his district and the state of Missouri going forward.

Gov. Eric Greitens speaks in front of the Capitol during a rally in support of the Noranda bill on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
File photo | Krissy Lane | St. Louis Public Radio

There was a sense of urgency when Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens called the first special session on May 18, aimed primarily at reopening an aluminum-smelting operation that had been southeast Missouri’s largest employer.

But in the weeks since Republicans gave the new governor what he wanted, there’s been no communication between smelting-plant officials and the state agency tasked with approving lower utility rates for such projects. However, leaders in the area are pinning their job-creation hopes on the other issue in that special session — a new steel mill that could employ up to 200 people.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s going to get more difficult next month for a worker in Missouri to prove he or she was fired because of their race, gender, age, religion or heritage.

A new law, which Gov. Eric Greitens signed June 30 alongside the state budget, was championed by Republicans, businesses and the state Chamber of Commerce. But opponents want to make sure Missouri’s workers understand what may be in store if they’re suddenly unemployed.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., April 2017
Provided | Office of Sen. Claire McCaskill

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill still doesn’t know who she’ll be up against in the 2018 midterm elections. She’s ready for the fight, however, having banked a little more than $5.1 million.

That’s almost twice the size of her campaign fund in July 2011, which was the last time she was preparing for a re-election contest.

This story was updated at 1:06 p.m. to include comments by Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley in a phone interview.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley struck back Wednesday at Backpage.com, the controversial classifieds website that sued him the day before, saying “there is no First Amendment right to engage in human trafficking.”

Heather Navarro will serve at least two years on the St. Louis Board of Aldermen for the 28th ward.
HEATHER NAVARRO VIA CAMPAIGN WEBSITE

Updated at 3:50 p.m. July 12 with details from Secretary of State's office about voter ID law — Lyda Krewson’s ascension to the mayor’s office left an open seat on St. Louis' Board of Aldermen. It was filled Tuesday by Heather Navarro, who won with 69 percent of the vote.

Navarro was one of four candidates vying to fill the 28th Ward seat for the remaining two years of Krewson’s term. It was also the first election in the St. Louis area since Missouri’s new voter ID law took effect in June, and there were differing accounts on whether there were issues at the polls.

Donald Trump, Jr. speaking with supporters of his father, Donald Trump, at a campaign rally at the Sun Devil Fitness Center at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.
Gage Skidmore | Flickr

Donald Trump Jr. tweeted images of emails regarding his 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer on Tuesday. An intermediary said he could connect Trump Jr. with people who had information "that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] ... and would be very useful to your father."

Reena Hajat Carroll, the outgoing director of the Diversity Awareness Partnership, reflected on diversity and inclusion efforts in St. Louis over the past 10 years with St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Reena Hajat Carroll, the outgoing executive director of the Diversity Awareness Partnership, is leaving St. Louis after 10 years at the helm of DAP.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Carroll joined host Don Marsh to discuss what she’s learned over her years leading the organization and what work St. Louis needs to do in the areas of diversity and inclusion going forward.

Carroll said that when she first started in the position, she found St. Louis struggling to conceptualize diversity and inclusion outside of solely racial lines. 

Ameren's Callaway nuclear power plant produces about 19 percent of the electricity the company generates in Missouri. It is the only nuclear energy facility in the state.
File photo | Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has extended Missouri’s time to comply with the federal Real ID law, which means Missouri residents can use a current driver’s license to get into federal facilities, military bases and nuclear power plants.

Nationwide, Real ID-compliant identification has been required to get into such facilities since October 2015. Missouri’s extension goes through Oct. 10, Homeland Security spokeswoman Justine Whelan said. The extension was granted Monday. 

Heather Navarro, Celeste Vossmeyer and Steve Roberts Sr. are the three major candidates for the vacant 28th Ward aldermanic seat.
Navarro, Vossmeyer and Roberts via campaign websites

Updated at 1:28 p.m. with details about voter ID law during election — Voters in the 28th Ward will choose their new representative on the St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Tuesday.

Polls in the ward, which covers parts of the neighborhoods around Forest Park, are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. The seat has been vacant since April, when Lyda Krewson was sworn in as mayor. The winner will serve the remaining two years of her term.

Gov. Eric Greitens announces the "St. Louis Safety Plan" in north St. Louis on Monday, July 10, 2017.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis’ crime issue is now the state’s issue, too. At least, that’s what Gov. Eric Greitens indicated Monday when he announced a plan to direct state money and personnel toward the city.

The Republican’s proposal has the support of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, but other elected Democrats are skeptical that it addresses the root causes of the violence. Greitens did not detail how much money the state would spend for these efforts.

Kali takes a swim at the Saint Louis Zoo.
File photo | Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The fate of a sales tax hike to support the Saint Louis Zoo will be in voters’ hands, as Gov. Eric Greitens signed a bill into law Monday.

Jay Ashcroft speaks at the Drury Inn in Brentwood.
File photo | Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft is responding to angry voters throughout the state after he said June 30 that he’d partially comply with a data request from a White House panel investigating voter fraud.

His reasoning, as explained Thursday: He wants fair elections.

The Illinois State Capitol.
J. Stephen Conn | Flickr

On our Friday “Behind the Headlines" segment, we take a look at a top news story from the week. This week, we turned our attention to the Illinois budget and, then, to Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens' actions this week. 

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