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Politically Speaking: Rep. Cornejo on the General Assembly's frantic final days

Robert Cornejo
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
Robert Cornejo

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome back state Rep. Robert Cornejo to the program.

The St. Peters Republican is serving his second term in the Missouri House. He was a guest on the show about a year ago, after one of the wildest ends to a legislative session in recent history.

This year though, the House and Senate functioned a bit more smoothly: For one thing, House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, did not suddenly resign from office. And the Senate didn’t use a “previous question” motion to stifle a Democratic filibuster — at least at the end.

But despite the lack of startling moments, lawmakers did end up passing a number of noteworthy bills: Cornejo, for instance, handled a wide-ranging expansion to a municipal governance overhaul that passed last year. He also steered a beer cooler bill to the finish line, a measure that sparked consternation among some smaller brewers.

While both chambers passed bills aimed at bolstering ethics laws throughout Jefferson City, some contended that lawmakers didn’t go far enough. For instance: Legislators couldn’t reach consensus on a measure to curtail lobbyist gifts. And they also couldn’t pass a bill to publicize the donors to politically active nonprofit groups.

Lawmakers will be back in Jefferson City in September for veto session. Cornejo faces Democrat Mark Routberg in the general election, a contest that could be competitive.

Here’s what Cornejo had to say during the show:

  • Cornejo's bill expanding last year's municipal overhaul makes it easier for cities to disincorporate. He expects there "will be some municipalities that need to look at how they're running their business, because there could be some petitions being filed by some concerned citizens."
  • Cornejo said that no matter what type of ethics bills the GOP-controlled General Assembly passed, critics would have argued that lawmakers didn't do enough. "I know from public perception, we'll be told that we didn't do enough," he said. "But I do think we did pass some good pieces of legislation. Again, not as strong as what we passed out of the House."
  • He said any bill mandating the use of police body cameras would have had a difficult time getting out of the General Assembly. Cornejo said the cost of equipment and storage is very expensive.
  • House Republicans have a strong enough political organization to avoid significant losses this election cycle. He said: "The Republican Party here in Missouri has a better infrastructure in place to help its candidates than the Missouri Democratic Party. With the way our system and infrastructure is set up, we're going to continue to win competitive and close races. Yes, we may have a candidate go out and say something stupid or do something stupid or get caught doing something. But at the end of the day, if you've got a good candidate — there's a better chance they're a Republican than a Democrat."

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Robert Cornejo on Twitter: @CornejoForMo

Music: “Black Celebration” by Depeche Mode

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
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.

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