Aviva Okeson-Haberman | St. Louis Public Radio

Aviva Okeson-Haberman

When Aviva first got into radio reporting, she didn’t expect to ride on the back of a Harley. But she’ll do just about anything to get good nat sounds. Aviva has profiled a biker who is still riding after losing his right arm and leg in a crash more than a decade ago, talked to prisoners about delivering end-of-life care in the prison’s hospice care unit and crisscrossed Mid-Missouri interviewing caregivers about life caring for someone with autism. Her investigation into Missouri’s elder abuse hotline led to an investigation by the state’s attorney general. As KCUR’s Missouri government and state politics reporter, Aviva focuses on turning complicated policy and political jargon into driveway moments.

About 1.8 million Missourians are not under a stay-at-home order as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state rose to 1,834 Thursday, according to a KCUR analysis. 

Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson has so far declined to issue a statewide order, instead saying cities and counties are best equipped to make the decision for their area. Most Missourians, about 70%, are under a county or city stay-at-home order. 

Updated at 10 a.m. March 4 — As the race for the Democratic presidential nominee narrows, Missouri voters will weigh in on Tuesday with their preference. 

While most of the attention is focused on the heated Democratic primary, voters can choose to cast a ballot for the Republican, Libertarian, Green or Constitution party nominee. Here’s what you need to know about your vote. 

The Missouri Senate conservative caucus formed just last year, but its six senators are already shaping the direction of Jefferson City politics. The caucus was among the staunchest supporters of a sweeping anti-abortion bill, which is being challenged in court. They also broke with their party to oppose one of Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s key workforce development proposals (though it eventually passed). 

And the caucus could get some concessions in the 2020 session using their threat to filibuster as a bargaining chip, though it also could further the division within the Republican Party if they kill priorities like a prescription drug monitoring program. 

More and more young people are vaping, which has led states like Vermont and Illinois to tax vaping products. That’s unlikely to happen in Missouri. 

In 2014, Missouri lawmakers decided that vaping products and alternative nicotine products shouldn’t be taxed or regulated as tobacco products, part of a bill that banned selling vaping products to minors.

While a couple of bills introduced for this year’s session deal with vaping, none add a tax and the governor hasn’t indicated support for a tax. Illinois, meanwhile, expects to get about $15 million in 2020 due to a new 14.5% tax.

Updated Nov. 25 at 5 p.m. with additional data— Missouri’s reporting system for adult abuse and neglect is undergoing significant changes after an investigation by the state’s attorney general. 

The investigation ended Monday, Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office told KCUR. It recommended seven changes, including a new online reporting system in order to address the thousands of unanswered calls to the state’s hotline, as well as redirecting callers who are simply looking for information about local resources — not calling to report abuse. 

In the spring of 1989, Missouri lawmakers were motivated to figure out how climate change would affect the state’s economy, political future and social capital. 

A year after California started looking into climate change, the Missouri General Assembly created a commission of 14 experts and politicians to study the issue and come up with solutions. The result was more than 100 policy suggestions, covering everything from the use of solar and wind energy to transportation and teaching about climate change.

Three decades later, experts say Missouri hasn’t achieved its goals. 

Rachel Shriver is set to graduate from the University of Missouri-Kansas City next year but she’s already thinking about how her two kids are going to pay for college a decade from now. 

She’s had a tough path to this point: She had her first kid when she was young and most of her family never made it to college. “I'm just hoping to have a better life with my kids … that’s the whole reason I’m in school,” Shriver said.

Missouri's methods of reimbursing community providers who care for people with developmental disabilities are complex, confusing and conflict with federal Medicaid rules. That’s because providers are reimbursed at vastly different rates for the same level of care.

It’s a situation that’s also leading to low pay for the providers’ workers and exacerbating the state’s already high turnover. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services put the state on a five-year corrective action plan earlier this year. So to address the issue, the Division of Developmental Disabilities will request $58.1 million from Missouri lawmakers next year on top of the $20 million extra it received this year. Many providers say it’s long overdue.

Missouri executed its first prisoner since 2017 on Tuesday night. Despite the man’s rare medical condition, no complications were reported. 

At a 2018 campaign stop in Blue Springs, then-Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley spoke to crowd of about 50 people.
File photo | Aviva Okeson-Haberman | KCUR

In a scathing letter to Facebook this month, Missouri U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, along with three of his Republican colleagues, renewed his criticism of the social media giant, saying the company censors conservative voices.

It’s Hawley’s latest call for more government scrutiny and regulation of tech companies stemming from concerns like data privacy, internet addiction and censorship. 

Missouri workers providing care for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities make less than a Walmart or Target worker, even after a pay increase that went into effect last month. 

The low pay is the main reason about half of Missouri workers quit each year, according to Missouri Developmental Disabilities Division Director Val Huhn.

Missouri state Rep. Rebecca Roeber, a Republican from Lee's Summit, died Tuesday in her sleep. 

Before Kenneth Wilson became a Missouri House member, he worked his way up the ranks in the Platte County Sheriff’s Office. It was there, he said, his view of crime went from “bad guys go to jail” to seeing dads lose their jobs because they were jailed for not being able to pay child support.

And that’s when Wilson, a Republican from Smithville, thought there must be another way. 

Beyoncé tickets. Pricey steak dinners. Royals games. 

Lobbyists used to be able to spend thousands in an effort to influence Missouri lawmakers. Voters approved a $5 dollar limit on gifts for lawmakers in November. A KCUR analysis of data released this month by the Missouri Ethics Commission shows there’s been a 94% decrease in spending from the 2019 to 2018 legislative session. 

In this year’s session, lobbyists spent less than $17,000 on lawmakers. That’s a significant drop from the about $300,000 spent in the 2018 session.