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Government, Politics & Issues

Politically Speaking: Rep. Smith on why passing a post-Stockley policy agenda won't be easy

Rep. Clem Smith, D-Velda Village Hills
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Rep. Clem Smith, D-Velda Village Hills

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

The Velda Village Hills Democrat has represented a slew of central and north St. Louis County municipalities since 2011. He will leave the House after the 2018 session due to term limits.

Before talking with Smith, Mannies and Rosenbaum examined the current state of Missouri’s campaign finance system. Since voters approved a constitutional amendment installing donation limits last November, political activists have created scores of political action committees. Those third-party groups, known as PACs, can take an unlimited amount of money to influence political campaigns.

The new amendment did not place any donation limits on county or municipal candidates. And some Republican lawmakers say they want to implement donation limits for those local candidates next year. A ballot initiative known as Clean Missouri also seeks to make some small changes to the campaign finance system.

During Smith’s interview, he discussed some of the fallout from the 2018 legislation session — including the Republican-dominated legislature’s passage of “right-to-work” legislation that bars mandatory union dues. Smith has been a member of a labor union for more than two decades, and supports a statewide initiative to have voters decide if the measure will go into effect.

Here’s what else Smith had to say during the show:

  • He is pessimistic that legislators will pass bills in response to protests over former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley’s acquittal. Some protesters have asked that some of the Ferguson Commission recommendations be implemented. That includes changes to how police officers are trained and held accountable when they kill someone.
  • He pointed to how lawmakers didn’t do much after a Ferguson police officer shot and killed Michael Brown in 2014. “I think you’ll have kind of a double down on ‘let’s silence the revolt,’” he said, adding that lawmakers have already expressed support for legislation stiffening fines for protesters blocking roadways.
  • One idea that deserves consideration, Smith said, is to take St. Louis out of the state’s Non-Partisan Court Plan. That’s where people apply for vacant judgeships and a panel offers three nominees for the governor’s consideration. The governor then appoints one of the contenders to the bench.
  • Smith said the Stockley verdict exposed a number of flaws to the system. Even though the majority of St. Louis’ population is black, most of the city’s judges are white. He said allowing voters to be the decision makers may change that.
  • As far as his future political plans, Smith is “keeping his options open” on whether to run for the state Senate in the 14th District. Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, will leave after 2010 due to term limits.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Music: "Million Dollar Man Theme" and "Flying at Tree Level" by Brand New

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