© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Powerful state senator promises Slay he will block bills aiding firefighters in pension fight

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 5, 2012 - State Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, is weighing in on the city of St. Louis’ fight over firefighters’ pensions, by assuring Mayor Francis Slay that he will block any attempts to pass bills in Jefferson City that favor the firefighters’ stance.

Crowell noted in a letter to the mayor that he wields significant power as the chairman of the Senate pensions, veterans’ affairs and general laws committee.

“I am writing to pledge my full cooperation in your efforts, but I want you to know that I will not support or allow passage of state legislation that masquerades as reform or pushes costs off to a future generation,” Crowell wrote in the letter, made available to the Beacon. “Too many states, cities and counties have pursued this failed strategy, and eventually they and their taxpayers will pay a much higher price.”

Crowell continued, “It is my intention to seek passage of legislation on the state level if necessary that returns control of the system to the city of St. Louis. Short of that, I will oppose any legislation that does not meet the common goal of reforming to an actuarial certainty the firemen’s retirement system.”

Crowell added that he supports Slay’s proposed changes in the firefighters’ pensions and opposes an alternate plan pressed by Local No. 73 of the International Association of Firefighters.

The senator wrote that, in his opinion, the firefighters’ proposal “is wholly inadequate and as such, I assure you that it will not clear the Senate this session. I prevented passage of similar legislation last year and will do so again this year.”

Sources say Crowell has sent letters with even stronger language to several members of the region’s state Senate delegation, including Sen. John Lamping, R-Frontenac, who is close to the firefighters’ group.

The firefighters are going the legislative route, believing that the General Assembly might be a better place than City Hall to press their case.

Crowell is term-limited after this session, which means the firefighters may need to wait at least until the 2013 legislative session to press their case. That would put the issue smack in the middle of the next mayoral race.

Crowell, by the way, has not always been on Slay’s side. The senator has sought for years to curb the state’s tax credits for renovation and restoration of historic structures – a program used extensively to rebuild downtown St. Louis and some neighborhoods.

Jo Mannies Beacon political reporter

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.