Politics & Issues | St. Louis Public Radio

Politics & Issues

Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

A lawsuit has been filed in Jefferson City to stop Missouri voters from going to the polls in November to decide whether to raise the state’s fuel tax.

The proposal is part of a House bill passed on the final day of the 2018 regular session. It would gradually raise Missouri’s fuel tax from 17 cents a gallon to 27 cents by July of 2022.

Workhouse protest, July 2017
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Activists will rally Wednesday outside the City Justice Center of St. Louis to launch an effort to shut down the city's Medium Security Institution, commonly known as the Workhouse.

The Close the Workhouse campaign comes as progressive politicians across the country look for ways to address criminal justice reform and large cities, such as Philadelphia and New York, take steps to reform their court systems. Close the Workhouse organizers hope their work can lead to change in St. Louis.

Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley and Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill
Durrie Bouscaren & Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Although President Donald Trump isn’t expected to announce his Supreme Court nominee until next week, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and her best-known GOP rival are already gearing up for a major fight.

That’s particularly true for the Republican, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who’s contending that the future of the U.S. Supreme Court – and McCaskill’s past confirmation votes – should be the pivotal issue in their contest.

Ferguson-Florissant parent Redditt Hudson (left), attorney Dale Ho, and past school candidate Willis Johnson at a press conference announcing a lawsuit against the Ferguson-Florissant schools on December 18.
Diane Balogh | ACLU of Missouri

Updated at 2:25 p.m. July 3 with comments from the ACLU — A federal appeals court in St. Louis has ruled that the way the Ferguson-Florissant School District elects its board members violates the rights of black voters in the district.

A three-judge panel on Tuesday determined that Ferguson-Florissant’s at-large election means black voters have “less opportunity to elect their preferred candidate than other members of the electorate,” even though three-fourths of the district's students are black. The decision upholds a 2016 lower court ruling.

Executive director of Healing Action Katie Rhoades shared her own experience of human trafficking on Tuesday’s “St. Louis on the Air.”
Aaron Doerr | St. Louis Public Radio

Human trafficking remains a problem throughout the world, but it is closer to home than we often realize.

“It’s a tremendous issue here in Missouri,” Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Norman Murphy said regarding both sexual and labor exploitation.

A faded and tattered U.S. flag catches the breeze in the yard of a vacant property in the Gravois Park neighborhood on June 30, 2018.
Brian Heffernan | St. Louis Public Radio

Gravois Park has an unlikely advocate for inclusive development in a 12-year-old girl who wants to see the vacant buildings and lots on her block be transformed into safe, liveable places.

Deyon Ryan’s passion for the issue is partly influenced by her father, DeAndre Brown, who has been vocal on the issue. Deyon wrote about the vacancy problem in school and it caught the attention of local groups.

Protesters march down Market Street in downtown St. Louis with handmade signs while chanting "We care! We vote!" The “Families Belong Together” rally was one of hundreds nationally on June 6, 2018.
Brian Heffernan | St. Louis Public Radio

Demonstrators gathered in the shadow of the Gateway Arch Saturday to protest the separation of more than 2,300 migrant children from their parents at the U.S. southern border.

A brass band wove through the crowd as St. Louis-area residents chanted and waved handmade signs in Kiener Plaza. The Families Belong Together rally in St. Louis was one of hundreds of marches held nationwide on Saturday.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is joined by members of his staff Friday as he signs budget bills.
Governor's office

Less than a month after taking office, new Gov. Mike Parson is putting his stamp on Missouri’s budget priorities.

And he’s gotten some help from an unexpected flurry of new money into state coffers, says state budget director Dan Haug.

On Friday, Parson signed state budget bills that, among other things, call for $99 million in additional spending for public education compared to the current fiscal year. He also has approved more money for school transportation.

Gerard Carmody has been named a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of perjury associated with the prosecution of the Eric Greitens criminal case.
Carmody MacDonald

A St. Louis judge on Friday named a local attorney to oversee the investigation into a former FBI agent who worked with prosecutors on the Eric Greitens case.

Judge Michael Mullen agreed with the city that Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner had a conflict of interest when it came to the agent, William Tisaby, and appointed a special prosecutor. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is investigating allegations that Tisaby lied under oath, and Gardner is a potential witness.

Pat White is the president of the St. Louis Labor Council.
Pat White

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a significant legal blow to public-sector unions earlier this week with its decision in Janus v. AFSCME, an Illinois union-dues case. The ruling comes as Missouri voters gear up to decide Aug. 7 whether to pass a right-to-work referendum, Proposition A, that would impact collective bargaining in the private sector.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh went Behind the Headlines with a discussion about the state of organized labor in the bi-state region in light of the ruling. Joining him for the conversation was the president of the St. Louis Labor Council, Pat White, who described the court decision as “another attack on working men and women.”

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

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen Friday gave its approval to a $1.1-billion spending plan that includes more money for vacant-building demolition and help for the homeless.

The 22-2 vote, with one alderman abstaining, marked the end of what had been a difficult budget process. Aldermen had to find ways to close a $14-million gap, despite several new sources of revenue, and the city’s budget committee often had trouble holding meetings because not enough members showed up.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, in a photo taken at St. Louis Public Radio on June 28, 2018
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jo Mannies and Rachel Lippmann welcome Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft – who’s in the midst of a flurry of pre-election activity.

A Republican, Ashcroft was elected during the state’s GOP election landslide of 2016. That year, Missouri voters also approved a photo-ID requirement at the polls.

The Senate took a crucial step Thursday to making sure that, among other things, the hungry are fed, farmers have crop price protections and land is preserved beyond Sept. 30 — that is, the day the farm bill expires.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated June 29  - It’s unclear if Missouri lawmakers will try next year to ban gifts from lobbyists, due in part to changing leadership in the House and Senate.

The two lawmakers who backed this year’s bill to ban most gifts from lobbyists have left the Legislature. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, who sponsored the bill in the House, is now Gov. Mike Parson’s legislative director, and the senate backer, Mike Kehoe, is now lieutenant governor.

St. Louis County Councilman Ernie Trakas
Alex Heuer I St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Councilman Ernie Trakas’ political future is now up to a judge, who will likely rule before the summer ends whether Trakas violated the county charter by doing legal work for school districts.

If the answer is yes, then Trakas – who represents much of south county – would be removed from the council.

St. Charles County Circuit Judge Dan Pelikan held a brief hearing Thursday morning and ordered lawyers for both sides to submit any additional legal arguments within 30 days. Pelikan could then rule at any time, although the lawyers predict it likely will be August at the earliest before he announces his decision.

June 27 2018 HUDZ meeting.
Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Louis aldermanic committee approved a resolution Wednesday that calls for federal and state authorities to investigate developer Paul McKee.

A team of volunteers will demolish five vacant homes in the JeffVanderLou neighborhood on June 30, 2018, including this home on Labadie Avenue.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

The days are numbered for five crumbling buildings in north St. Louis.

As part of the "Clean Sweep" program, hundreds of volunteers will come together on Saturday to demolish vacant homes in the JeffVanderLou neighborhood. The program, spearheaded by Better Family Life and the Regional Business Council, is part of an ongoing community effort to revitalize St. Louis neighborhoods.

Supreme Court
Kjetil Ree | Flickr

Labor leaders in Missouri’s public and private sectors say the U.S. Supreme Court’s latest ruling curbing public-employee unions doesn’t appear to have a direct impact in Missouri.

The court ruled 5-4 today that public-employee unions cannot collect fees or dues from workers who decline to join the union. But in Missouri, labor leaders say public-employee unions in the state already must get their members to voluntarily pay dues.

Left, Richard Quinn and Alicia Corder spoke with host Don Marsh about the FBI’s efforts to diversify its agents on Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis on the Air

While attending Indiana State to become a surgeon, Alicia Corder took a criminal justice class and her entire life plan changed.

“It’s not anything I had considered before,” she said describing a time she heard from an FBI agent about their work. “But there was something about the way he spoke about the people he worked with and the mission he served, and his passion and dedication to it that I was absolutely struck by it. And the next week, I went and changed my major and ended up going to law school and geared everything after that to becoming an agent.”

The St. Louis Council at its meeting on June 26, 2018. The empty chair belongs to County Executive Steve Stenger, who has skipped most of the meetings this year.
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council is planning to set up a special task force to tackle the region’s opioid problem, and is offering up to $1 million in grants to encourage people to come up with solutions.

In a rare show of solidarity, the council voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of the plan.

The county already has a prescription drug monitoring program. But Councilman Mark Harder, a Republican from Ballwin, said the 11-member task force is a necessary addition.

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