Politics & Issues

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Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Typically when December ends, journalists tend to become reflective about the highlights and lowlights of the past year. This reporter is no exception, as the scandal, tragedy, transition, conflict and hilarity of the past 12 months gave everybody who covers Missouri politics a lot to think about.

So yes, this is an article rounding up all of the big moments from the past year. But renowned financier Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson inspired me to take this retrospective in a different direction.

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost of Illinois' 12th congressional district talks to 'St. Louis on the Air' host Don Marsh on Feb. 19, 2015, at St. Louis Public Radio in St. Louis.
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

Shortly after arriving on Capitol Hill last year, Illinois Congressman Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, told a story about how he and his new colleagues were told that for the first few weeks they might be asking themselves the question, "How did I get here?” At the time, he also said, they were told that after a few weeks the question they’d be asking themselves would likely change slightly, to “How did they get here?”

Mike Brownlee, 32, of Kirkwood, (right) fills out a survey about the municipal court system outside Sunset Hills City Hall. Researchers from Saint Louis University are studying courts in St. Louis County in hopes of addressing inequalities.
Kameel Stanley / St. Louis Public Radio

In the past year, politicians, government officials and community advocates have been in a tug-of-war over the future of municipal court operations here.

Many say consolidation is the answer. Others worry about unintended consequences to smaller municipalities whose budgets rely heavily on revenue from court fines.

Here’s something that’s not talked about as much:

What do the people who actually get caught up in these systems think?

 

Runners pass the Confederate Monument in Forest Park.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Mayor Francis Slay wants a memorial to Confederate war dead out of Forest Park — a move that means the 101-year-old granite statue will likely head to storage.

Nick Varvel / Flickr

The Missouri Department of Conservation would have to pay up if two new legislative proposals become law.

One pre-filed bill would require the department to pay for any property damage caused by "wild otters, elk, or bear."

Rep. Lacy Clay, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver
Provided by the office of Rep. Clay

Rep. Lacy Clay, D- University City, says he hopes 2016 will see more progress in Congress on legislation that grew out of the shooting death of Michael Brown. 

 

2015 began with the events of Ferguson fresh in the minds of lawmakers on Capitol Hill.  Many, including Clay, introduced bills to address everything from police access to - and use of - surplus military-type equipment, calls for more body cameras and increased training for law enforcement officers.

 

Lt. Governor Peter Kinder
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who’s among a crowd of Republicans running for governor next year, joins St. Louis Public Radio’s Jo Mannies and Jason Rosenbaum for the latest Politically Speaking podcast.

It's Kinder's second appearance on the show.

A native of Cape Girardeau, Kinder has been a major player in state politics for more than two decades, beginning with his 1992 election to a state Senate seat. He briefly considered a bid for state auditor in 1998.

(via Flickr/kcds)

Legislation being proposed in Missouri would establish a sales tax holiday for new gun purchases.

The pre-filed bill is sponsored by Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Nixa.  He has not yet responded to requests by St. Louis Public Radio for an interview, but he issued a brief written statement on Monday.

Brent Jones / St. Louis Public Radio

Has Indianapolis’ massive merger with its suburbs back in the 1970s saved taxpayers tons of money? Or has the public’s voice been muted by the huge city government that’s replaced all the smaller ones?

Those questions, in effect, are among the topics of upcoming studies by CitiesStrong, a new nonprofit made up of at least a dozen  current and former local officials in St. Louis County.

via Flickr | s_falkow

Two small Missouri cities are drawing heat from the state auditor for charging court fees that aren’t allowed by state law.

Democrat Nicole Galloway found that the municipal courts in St. Ann, and Foristell, in St. Charles County, were both generally well-run. But in reports released Tuesday, her office said both charged fees that were not authorized by state law.

Credit: Gail Wechsler, Jewish Community Relations Council

The word for charity in Hebrew is Tzedakah. The word for charity in Arabic is Sadaqah. Their pronunciation is similar. An emphasis on charity is just one of the similarities the two religions — and Christianity — share, said Gail Wechsler, one of the Jewish co-chairs for the Jewish and Muslim Day of Community Service taking place Christmas Day.

Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

 

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, is sponsoring what he calls the biggest “reform” to the Department of Housing and Urban Development in more than 50 years.

 

The legislation addresses long-standing issues in public housing across the U.S.

 

“What we’ve done with this bill is open up 19 different sections of the law, somewhere between 65 and 70 provisions that we believe make some significant changes in the way HUD operates,” Luetkemeyer told St. Louis Public Radio.

 

University of Illinois

In the 1950s and ‘60s, two labor leaders were influential in St. Louis through their involvement with a new kind of ideology: the “total persons” movement. Both were involved with Teamsters Local 688, forming a political alliance that would shape public services, civil rights and economic justice in the region. Their names were Harold Gibbons and Ernest Calloway. 

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s the holiday season, and like many of you, we’re taking stock.  

Taking stock of what we accomplished with this We Live Here project; the stories and topics we’ve covered; and where we hope to go in the future.   

St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis speaks to demonstrators in the Board of Aldermen's balcony. The Board passed a financing plan aimed at keeping the St. Louis Rams in town.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen gave its blessing to a measure aimed at keeping the St. Louis Rams in town.

Now, it’s up to the NFL’s owners to see if this potentially expensive gambit paid off.

Gambling revenue from the Casino Queen is a major source of revenue for the city of East St. Louis.
Paul Sableman | Flickr

Cash-strapped East St. Louis has received an overdue gift from the state just in time for the holidays: $2.5 million worth of back taxes from the Illinois gaming board.

Normally East St. Louis receives a portion of gaming revenue spent at the Casino Queen on a monthly basis. But until Illinois passed a partial budget earlier this month, the state comptroller’s office didn’t have the authority to release the funds.

Cool Valley Mayor Viola Murphy stands near a grassy path near South Florissant Road. She says a new state law limiting traffic fine revenue will make it harder for her city to pay for new sidewalks.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Viola Murphy can’t afford a new sidewalk for her town. For now, she’ll have to settle for a grassy path created with the imprints of pedestrians.

Murphy is the mayor of Cool Valley, a 1,200-person north St. Louis County municipality that borders Ferguson and Normandy. She was able to get a federal grant to create a sidewalk along one side of South Florissant Road. But because of a new state law that caps traffic fine revenue, her city can’t afford the match for the other side.

Provided by campaign

Law professor Josh Hawley, now a Republican candidate for Missouri attorney general, is calling on the state’s legislative leaders to take action to protect opponents of same-sex marriage.

Hawley has sent a letter to House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, and Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, in which he asks them “to make sure religious liberty is at the top of the agenda’’ when the General Assembly reconvenes next month.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 5:17 p.m., Dec. 18 -- Dueling versions of legislation would each create a prescription drug monitoring program in Missouri, the only state that doesn't have one.

Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, announced Thursday that she would again be sponsoring the House version of the bill, which was pre-filed Friday.  It would give doctors and pharmacists easy access to recent drug purchases by patients as a way to combat doctor shopping.

Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Mathematical algorithms power almost everything these days, from trades on the New York Stock Exchange to your Facebook feed. Now, the St. Louis County police department is betting it can reduce crime by using something called predictive policing.

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