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Politics & Issues

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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

Parts of St. Louis would have the highest sales tax in Missouri under the half-cent increase the Board of Aldermen’s budget committee passed Wednesday.

Many committee members reluctantly voted for the increase, which will fund raises for police and firefighters if voters approve the measure this November. Should it pass, St. Louis’ sales tax would be at least 9.7 percent, going up to nearly 12 percent in some special taxing districts.

Wednesday's Legal Roundtable featured a panel of law experts, William Freivogel, Greg Magarian and Mark Smith.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

A lot of news coming out of the U.S. Supreme Court this week. First, a ruling that allows parts of President Donald Trump’s travel ban to go forward. And then, a ruling on case involving a Missouri church, Trinity Lutheran in Columbia, that sought a state grant to put a soft surface on its preschool playground that was denied funding.

The Illinois Capitol in Springfield
Flickr | jglazer75

Illinois lawmakers are looking at a Democrat-pushed budget plan that would raise income taxes and make steep spending cuts as a way to end the budget impasse.

Already, the state has been without a spending plan for two years, and the next fiscal year begins Saturday.

Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

A Missouri appeals court helped labor groups Tuesday, giving them a backup plan in their attempt to block the new right-to-work law that’ll take effect Aug. 28.

The court ruled that the state must restore the original ballot language for initiative petitions that seek a constitutional amendment to make sure Missouri can’t have any right-to-work laws. Such laws bar unions and employers from requiring workers to pay dues or fees.

Colorful photos hang on the walls at HCI Alternatives in Collinsville. The marijuana dispensary is set up like a typical doctor's office.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A small building nestled off Interstate 70 in Collinsville looks like a typical doctor’s office, until you get inside and look up close at the colorful artwork on the walls. They’re portraits of marijuana plants.

At this dispensary, about 12 miles east of the Missouri border, patients and the medical staff have lively conversations about the various medical marijuana products available, from brownies and blueberry-flavored candies to transdermal patches.

Stephen Webber, June 2017
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Webber joins St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies for a candid episode of the Politically Speaking podcast.

Webber is a former state representative from Columbia who was elected last year as party chairman. He took on that role after narrowly losing a state Senate race to Republican Caleb Rowden.

Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Missouri
Ryan Famuliner | KBIA

Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision involving a Missouri church ultimately could make it easier for religious institutions to seek out state money for non-religious needs.

The justices ruled 7-2 in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, which had sought a state grant to put a soft surface on its preschool playground, but was denied funding. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote it is “odious to our Constitution” to exclude the church from the grant program.

House Speaker Michael Madigan speaks with reporters on Sunday, June 25, 2017, after the first meeting of Illinois' four legislative leaders in six months.
Brian Mackey | NPR Illinois

As Illinois closes in on a second full year without a budget, the top leaders of the General Assembly met Sunday for the first time this year. There are some signs of progress.

A crew removes a bronze sculpture from the Confederate Memorial Monday afternoon. (June 26, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4:30 p.m. with comment from Louis Gerteis  — The Confederate Memorial will be removed from St. Louis' Forest Park this week, likely by Wednesday.

The Missouri Civil War Museum and the city of St. Louis settled a lawsuit last week over who owns the memorial, though the action wasn’t announced until Monday morning. The museum will cover the cost of removing and storing the statue, as well as finding an appropriate place to display it — but it can’t be in St. Louis or St. Louis County.

Downtown St. Louis,  looking east
File photo | Brent Jones | St. Louis Beacon

After the difficult process this year of piecing together Missouri’s budget, lawmakers believe they’ve found a way to get more money for vital state services: Cutting tax credits.

But a report from state Auditor Nicole Galloway’s office shows that even with big changes to popular incentives, it could be years before the state saves a significant amount of money.

Missouri Department of Transportation St. Charles County camera

Crumbling roads and old bridges have long been something lawmakers say they should work on.

Now, a task force created to study Missouri's transportation system will begin holding public meetings this week.

Volunteers clear brush from a community garden in the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood June 24, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

At a community garden half a mile north of Powell Hall, Marcia Martin spent Saturday dragging branch trimmings into piles to clear out the greenery that had overrun the garden. Martin and her husband were joined by about a dozen other volunteers working on the lot at the corner of Montgomery and Coleman in the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood.

“When we started on this project you couldn’t see the grass,” said Martin, 60, of St. Louis. “There were four of us down here working, and then all of these other people showed up. It was just amazing.”

Missouri union members at an anti-right to work rally in St. Charles on Oct. 4, 2016.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 11:15 a.m. June 26 with comment from Ashcroft — Missouri’s top labor group says the union effort to go to the ballot box next year to block “right to work’’ remains on course, despite a judge’s ruling Thursday that changes the ballot language.

The state AFL-CIO already has collected “tens of thousands of signatures,’’ said spokeswoman Laura Swinford. But those signatures were on petitions that contained the original summary ballot language that had been approved by Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.

Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City, 2016
Ethan Weston | Flickr

On Friday’s “Behind the Headlines," we took a look at a top news story from the week.

This week, host Don Marsh was joined by St. Louis Public Radio reporter Jo Mannies to discuss Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens's interactions with the Missouri legislature and the recent special sessions.

U.S. Department of Justice attorney Jude Volek, center, listens to activists in the Ferguson community June 22, 2017 after an update on the progress Ferguson is making on mandated changes to its police and courts.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

For the first time since it was adopted, Ferguson residents and activists got a chance Thursday to give their take on how the city is doing at making federally mandated changes to its municipal court and police department.

Everyone who spoke appreciated the opportunity to weigh in, but the reviews given to U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry were decidedly mixed. 

Gov. Eric Greitens signs the Foster Care Bill of Rights into law. (June 22, 2017)
Marshall Griffin|St. Louis Public Radio

Gov. Eric Greitens on Thursday signed into law a bill designed to improve the safety and quality of life of children in Missouri's foster care system.

 

At the heart of the measure is the Foster Care Bill of Rights, which begins by stating the “best interests of the child shall be the first priority of the children’s division” of the Department of Social Services.

Painkiller
Tom Walker | Flickr | http://bit.ly/22McgqC

Last year set a record for the number of drug overdose deaths in the St. Louis region, most of them opioid-related. Gun violence has also long been a problem in St. Louis. Although there’s no evidence to prove the rise in the prevalence of both issues is related, the solution to them is interconnected, advocates say.

St. Louis County officers join Clayton police in Februrary at a protest outside of Sen. Roy Blunt's office in downtown Clayton.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Officers with the St. Louis County Police Department will see, on average, a 30 percent pay raise on Jan. 1, 2018,  thanks to revenue from a new sales tax that voters approved in April.

The news, announced Thursday by St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, puts even more pressure on officials in the city of St. Louis to find money for their own police pay raises.

Sens. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, and Bob Onder, R-Lake Saint Louis, talk with St. Louis Public Radio's Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies at Picasso's coffeehouse in St. Charles. June 21, 2017
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

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.

A statue of former U.S. House Speaker Champ Clark stands before the Pike County Courthouse. Democrats like Clark controlled most of northeast Missouri's offices for decades. Now, the GOP rules the roost.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

BOWLING GREEN, Mo. — For decades, as other parts of rural Missouri turned red, voters in northeast Missouri sent Democrats to Jefferson City and backed Democratic statewide candidates.

That changed starting in 2010, though Republicans and Democrats said the most marked shift was in November 2016, as then-candidate Donald Trump touched a nerve with residents who’d seen jobs leave and economic fortunes sour. 

Today is the first day of summer and that means it’s the start of the busy season for Lise Bernstein. As the president of Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice, Bernstein is working her organization’s campaign to distribute free gun locks all summer.

Since the Lock It For Love program began in the spring of 2015, more than 1,800 gun locks have been handed out across St. Louis and St. Louis County. Organizers try to pass out gun locks in St. Louis zip codes where the risk for youth violence is high. That’s according the St. Louis Regional Youth Violence Prevention Task Force Community Plan,  which was released in 2013.

James T. Hodgkinson appears in a St. Clair County Sheriff's Department booking photo on Dec. 31, 1992.
St. Clair County Sheriff's Department

James Hodgkinson, the Belleville, Illinois, man who shot and wounded a Republican congressman and four others June 14 at a Congressional baseball practice acted alone, investigators said Wednesday.

"The FBI is investigating this shooting as an assault on a member of Congress, and an assault on a federal officer," said Andrew Vale, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office. "We also assessed that there is no nexus to terrorism." In this context, terrorism means international groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda.

The final tally of the house vote during special session on June 20, 2017.
Tim Bommel | Missouri House Communications

A much larger abortion bill is on its way back to the Missouri Senate, after the House loaded it up with more regulations Tuesday.

It’s the exact opposite approach the upper chamber took last week, which removed several items as a means of keeping Democrats from blocking it via filibuster. The bill passed 110-38 along party lines after four hours of debate.

Michael Brown Sr. stands at the back of the Ferguson Community Center's event space during the public comment portion of a 2016 Ferguson city council meeting.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The city of Ferguson has settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Michael Brown.

Federal district Judge Richard Webber accepted the settlement on Tuesday. The amount that Michael Brown Sr., and Lezley McSpadden will receive from the city, former police chief Tom Jackson, and former police officer Darren Wilson will remain confidential.

Philando Castile's sister, Allysza Castile, speaks outside the Ramsey County Courthouse in St. Paul, Minn. after a not guilty verdict was delivered in the trial of Officer Jeronimo Yanez on June 16, 2017.
Lorie Shaull | Flickr

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis American.

Philando Castile’s family in St. Louis was watching on June 16 as a Minnesota jury acquitted the police officer who fatally shot Castile, a 32-year-old black man, during a traffic stop last year in suburb of St. Paul, Minn.

“Everyone’s heart fell to the ground,” said Stacy Castile, Philando Castile's uncle who lives in St. Louis. “We just lost him all over again.”

Areli Muñoz Reyes, who is enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, attends St. Louis Community College at Forest Park and is studying to be a teacher
Jenny Simeone-Casas | St. Louis Public Radio

Young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children, and received temporary Social Security numbers and work permits under an Obama-era program can keep their protections — for now.

 

Breaking a promise made on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump announced last week that he would extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but hasn’t said for how long. Missouri is home to almost 4,000 DACA permit holders.

Alderwoman Megan Green, June 2017
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Alderman Megan Ellyia Green joins St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies for a second time on the Politically Speaking podcast.

Green has represented the city’s 15th Ward, which is just south of Tower Grove Park, since her special-election victory in 2014. She first was elected as an independent, rankling some Democrats, but now is a bona fide Democrat and holds state and national party posts.

Nedim Ramic and Anna Crosslin discussed the issues refugees face today in light of World Refugee Day on June 20.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Tuesday marks World Refugee Day, a designation made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The number of refugees and displaced persons in the world is higher than it has ever been since World War II, with some 65.5 million people displaced throughout the world right now.

Rep. Diane Franklin, a Republican from Camdenton
File photo | Tim Bommel | Missouri House Communications

Unsatisfied with the extent of the Senate’s new proposed abortion restrictions, a Missouri House committee restored some provisions Monday, including one that gives the attorney general the ability to enforce any abortion law at any time.

Republicans on the House Committee for Children and Families said they added back the provisions, which had been stripped from the bill the Senate passed last week as a means of protecting against Democratic filibusters, because they didn't want to be a rubber stamp for the Senate.

Lisa Servon, Ray Boshara and Veta Jeffrey discussed the growing trend of Americans opting out of traditional banking.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Unbanking – you may have heard the term before, but what does it actually mean? On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, we discussed “The Unbanking of America” with author Lisa Servon, who researches why a growing number of people in the United States are turning to alternatives other than traditional banks.

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