On the Trail | St. Louis Public Radio

On the Trail

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger confers with Councilman Pat Dolan at a Dec. 19, 2017, meeting of the St. Louis County Council.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s recently-enacted donation limits don’t affect county and municipal candidates, which means contenders for, say, the St. Louis County Council or county executive’s office can take contributions of unlimited size.

That could change, if some members of the council get their way.

House Republicans talk during the last day of the legislative session. May 17, 2017
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Democrats across the country are jubilant after the party took a Jefferson County-based House seat that was held for nearly eight years by a Republican.

It’s a morale boost for a state party that’s seen its legislative fortunes evaporate over the past few election cycles. And it’s a win in a county where state Democratic candidates have won before and need to excel in order to win tough elections later this year.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens helped engineer a freeze on low-income housing tax credits. And that decision is likely to stand unless the legislature makes substantial changes to the program.
File photo I Carolina Hidaglo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens upset a bipartisan contingent of legislators when his interim appointees made major public policy decisions.

That includes how the Republican governor and his appointees in December 2017 helped halt state low-income housing tax credits, an incentive that encourages developers to produce affordable housing for the working poor and elderly.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s voter-approved contribution limits curbed the amount of money that some candidates could take from a political donor. What it didn’t do is stop a candidate from encouraging big contributors to send money to political action committees that could help their electoral pursuits.

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

State Rep. Jim Neely, one of a handful of doctors in the Missouri General Assembly, believes medical marijuana would help people with terminal illnesses.

That includes his daughter, who died of cancer several years ago.

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 used his personal backstory and resume, not alliances with elected officials, to carry him to the Missouri governorship. The Republican made castigating “career politicians” a standard part of his rhetorical pitch — even after the 2016 election season ended.

But as details emerge from a sex scandal that tarnished his image and put his political career in jeopardy, the elected officials Greitens derided aren’t coming to his rescue. Some are twisting the knife.

Former Gov. Jay Nixon stands next to his official portrait last week in Jefferson City. (January 2018)
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

When lawmakers gaveled themselves back into session on Jan. 3, most people focused on tension between Gov. Eric Greitens and the Missouri Senate — or how the GOP-controlled legislature may struggle to solve big policy problems over the next few months.

But for a brief moment on Thursday, legislators from both parties took a break from the Jefferson City rigor to shower praise on former Gov. Jay Nixon.

Jumira Moore, 8, watches as her mother, Timira Saunders, fills out a ballot at Central Baptist Church in St. Louis on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s indisputable that 2017 produced enough policy and political storylines to keep bespectacled reporters busy. But an even-numbered year brings elections — and the potential for a whole different texture to the state’s politics.

Eric and Sheena Greitens hold their sons, Joshua and Jacob, while speaking to reporters after casting their ballots the St. Louis Public Library in the Central West End on Tuesday.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 5 p.m. Friday with more data from state agencies: At least 580 Missouri state government employees have taken advantage of paid family leave since Gov. Eric Greitens’ executive order in March.

While some state lawmakers are glad the benefit is available, they worry about what it’s costing the state.

Donald Trump leaves the stage after a March 2016 speech at the Peabody Opera House.
File photo I Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Missouri residents backed President Donald Trump by overwhelming numbers in last year’s election.

But some of his backers told St. Louis Public Radio that they aren’t completely happy with how he’s reacted to last weekend’s events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where one person was killed and more than a dozen people were injured when a car rammed through a crowd of anti-white supremacist protesters, and two state troopers died when their helicopter crashed.

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 lawmakers routinely have denied requests to make their emails available through open records requests. Now, a conservative nonprofit group is challenging the policy with a lawsuit that, should it succeed, will give the public more insight into how legislators make decisions.

Bob McCulloch is sworn in for another term as St. Louis County Prosecutor in 2015.
File photo | Bill Greenblatt | UPI

The St. Louis County Council gave Prosecutor Bob McCulloch — with unanimous consent — a retirement-pension boost last year. That same council might take it away.

The council will begin hearings Tuesday on a bill to do just that, with several council members contending that County Executive Steve Stenger mislead them last year. He denied that charge and said his adversaries on the council knew exactly what they voted on, deepening the rift that’s been exposed in recent months.

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.

Fast food workers take part in a protest organized by Show Me $15 outside a McDonald's on Natural Bridge Road in St. Louis on March 15, 2017. They want the city's $10 minimum wage increase to be enforced immediately.
File photo | Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

If it were up to Cynthia Sanders, St. Louis would sue to stop a state bill from voiding the city’s minimum wage increase. Sanders, a janitor who saw her pay go from $8.50 an hour to $10 an hour earlier this year, said it’s not right for workers like her to get a raise “and then just take it back.”

It isn’t clear whether there will be a lawsuit, but if so, Mayor Lyda Krewson won’t be the one behind it. The Democrat told St. Louis Public Radio in a statement that while she strongly supports the city law bringing the minimum wage up to $11 an hour by 2018, the legislature has the right to overturn it.

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.

Jackson County Committeeman Jalen Anderson speaks to a group of Pike County Democrats last week in Bowling Green.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

BOWLING GREEN, Mo. — After Missouri Democrats were routed in rural areas last year, the party’s leaders promised to be more aggressive in fielding candidates for the legislative districts ceded to Republicans.

Accomplishing that goal may require them to promote and fund House and Senate aspirants with socially conservative views on abortion — a strategy that makes some uneasy in a party that largely supports abortion rights. The talk also comes as the legislature holds a special session to strengthen abortion restrictions in Missouri.

Councilman Mark Harder's (left) bill aimed at replacing two bridges in western St. Louis County sparked a war of words between councilmembers and County Executive Steve Stenger.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger always was going to have a hard time getting along with most of the St. Louis County Council. After all, the county voters filled the majority of those seven seats with people who have longstanding disagreements with the Democrat.  

That expected acrimony has come to pass in the form of a dispute over replacing bridges, prompting some council members to question Stenger’s ability to effectively communicate with them.

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard told St. Louis Public Radio that St. Louis' governmental structure is woefully inefficient.
Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard hinted that next year’s legislative session could “shake up” the St. Louis region, especially if lawmakers back plans to combine St. Louis and St. Louis County or merge county municipalities.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Joplin Republican’s proclamation to St. Louis Public Radio elicited a mixed response. Some are willing to have the legislature help pare down the region’s cities, police departments and fire districts. Others, like Vinita Park Mayor James McGee, are not happy at the prospect of the state making wholesale changes to St. Louis’ governance, as opposed to St. Louis area residents.

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. 

Participants in FIRST Robotics tinker with their machine last week at America's Center. The robotics competition is moving to Detroit next year.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Now that the pomp and circumstance of Inauguration Day is wearing off in St. Louis, elected officials must confront a sizable challenge: upgrading the convention center.

 

The head of St. Louis’ Convention & Visitors Commission recommends roughly $350 million of upgrades for both the convention center and the dome that housed the St. Louis Rams. Already, conventions aren’t looking at St. Louis as a destination, CVC President Kitty Ratcliffe said, and without renovations, the dome may have to close entirely.

Judge Jimmie Edwards swears in members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. The ceremony had to be moved outside after a bomb scare at City Hall.
File photo I Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Illustration by Rici Hoffarth I St. Louis Public Radio
Illustration by Rici Hoffarth I St. Louis Public Radio

In a region as fragmented as St. Louis, there’s one commonality uniting scores of towns and cities: high sales taxes.

Hunter Maret of University City watches Proposition 2 election results at Union Station at a pro-soccer stadium gathering Tuesday night.
Ryan Delaney I St. Louis Public Radio

Once St. Louis voters dashed his hopes of bringing Major League Soccer to the city, Dave Peacock didn’t make much of an attempt to modulate his tone.

 

Gov. Eric Greitens and his wife, Sheena, brought their two children to a polling place before the November general election. Greitens signed an executive order extending paid parental leave for some state employees.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

With Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens issuing an executive order extending parental leave to some state employees, the question naturally arises: What’s next?

While important to the thousands of state employees it affects, the Republican governor’s executive order is not comprehensive. It provides paid time off for people who give birth or adopt a child, but only applies to “executive” state agencies run by gubernatorial appointees. It doesn’t affect or every state employee — or private sector workers .

Voters fill out their ballots at Central Baptist Church on Washington Avenue on March 7, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis’ March primaries are in the books. But don’t exhale quite yet: April’s municipal contests throughout the St. Louis region are only 22 days away.

Granted, these are typically low-turnout affairs that don’t attract as much attention as, say, a presidential election, but they’re often critical for taxation decisions. Plus, April elections can serve as pivotal showdowns for deciding the elected leadership of St. Louis County’s multitude of municipalities.

Lyda Krewson, surrounded by family, friends and campaign staffers, checks an update after 85 percent of precincts were tallied. (March 8, 2917)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Only two pushed through the crowded field of St. Louis mayoral candidates with enough support to win: Alderman Lyda Krewson and Treasurer Tishaura Jones, who received more than 60 percent of Tuesday’s vote combined.

 

But in the end, Krewson’s 888-vote edge — the closest result in a Democratic primary in decades — prevailed. The 28th Ward alderman chalked up the win to a robust organization and an appealing policy platform.

 

Candidate Lyda Krewson responds to a question from the audience.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The melee to get closer to becoming St. Louis mayor is mere hours away from its conclusion.

 

The race has featured an endless amount of twists, turns and surprises. And the contest turned a spotlight on the seven Democratic candidates, who attended an array of forums, conducted scores of media interviews and blanketed St. Louis residents with glossy mailers.

 

 

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is one of the more prominent Jewish political leaders in America today. For him, his response to this week’s vandalism at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City  goes hand-in-hand with his “go to the front lines” philosophy.

A hand distributing cash with a dialogue box.
Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger’s political power just got a big boost, even if he wasn’t aware of it.

That’s because the Missouri Ethics Commission just declared that candidates can spend money on, say, political ads for or against other politicians as long as there’s no direct coordination with a campaign. Since municipal and county candidates can take donations of an unlimited size, they could be used as a pipeline to help or hurt other candidates.

Illustrations by Zack Stovall
Illustrations by Zack Stovall

Gov. Eric Greitens is a few weeks away from putting his stamp on the Missouri Supreme Court — sort of.

The Show Me State employs what’s known as the Non-Partisan Court Plan, a process that places constraints a governor’s ability to appoint judges.  

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