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Politics & Issues

Police in Ferguson fired tear gas to disperse protest crowds Sunday night. 05/31/20
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 10 a.m. on Monday with information about arrests and police injuries

Demonstrations on Sunday continued throughout the St. Louis area over George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis and turned chaotic in Ferguson for a second straight night.

Police fired tear gas canisters to break up a group of several dozen protesters after some members of the crowd lobbed fireworks and water bottles at officers holding riot shields and batons outside the Ferguson Police Department headquarters. Boards covered many of the station’s windows, which protesters smashed the night before with baseball bats and rocks.

The protests continued for hours after an 8 p.m. curfew imposed by Ferguson Mayor James Knowles’ state of emergency declaration. 

Live Updates: Coronavirus In The St. Louis Region

1 hour ago
CareSTL Health's COVID-19 testing site in north St. Louis will reopen on April 27.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

9 a.m. Monday, June 1

Good morning. Welcome to June. 

Summer camps open today in St. Louis, but they look a little different. Kids will be kept in small groups for the duration and not allowed to mingle. Meals and hands-on activities will be pre-packaged. For the full story, read/listen to Summer Camps Are Happening, But Parents Wonder If It's Better To Play Camp Counselor.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and county municipalities are trying to hash out a deal to send federal money to municipal police and fire departments.
David Kovaluk I St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County could send roughly $47 million of federal coronavirus relief money to municipalities to help pay for police and fire-related services.

St. Louis County received $173.5 million in federal funds from the CARES Act, which Congress passed earlier this year to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. And St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis appear to be in agreement that $47 million should be sent to municipalities to help with public safety costs.

Geese on the ballfield at Willmore Park in the Princeton Heights neighborhood of St. Louis on May 31, 2020.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis officials are likely to vote Monday on a new contract to keep geese from the city’s big parks.

Nuisance goose control is nothing new for the city parks department, said director Greg Hayes. But the current contract is expiring, which means the city has to go through the bid process.

Protesters used a sustained volley of fireworks against police Saturday night at a protest in downtown Ferguson May 30, 2020. Police eventually fired smoke grenades back.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 7 a.m. May 31 with police information.

Protesters brought havoc and destruction to Ferguson’s police headquarters and the city’s downtown at the end of a night of protests against police brutality mirrored around the nation Saturday.

The demonstrations and their ensuing vandalism were sparked by the death last week of George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer restrained him by kneeling on his neck. Protests began in that city and have since spread across the country.

Hundreds of activists gathered in downtown St. Louis to protest the death of George Floyd. May 29, 2020
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

Hundreds of demonstrators marched in downtown St. Louis on Friday evening as people took to the streets in many major U.S. cities in solidarity with days of protests that followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

Protesters blocked both eastbound and westbound traffic on Interstate 70 for nearly three hours beginning around 11:20 p.m. They also started a fire on the highway pavement. Police did not clear protesters off the highway, and those blocking traffic eventually dispersed after 2 a.m. 

St. Louis County Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway
David Kovaluk I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest episode of Politically Speaking, St. Louis County Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway talks with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum about how the county is spending federal coronavirus money.

She also addressed how county police should respond to protests over George Floyd’s death.

Dunaway is a Chesterfield Democrat who represents the council’s 2nd District. That takes in cities like Creve Coeur, St. Ann, Maryland Heights and Chesterfield. She was elected to her post in 2019, filling out the rest of Sam Page’s term on the council after he became county executive.

The City of St. Louis has decided to not issue earnings tax refunds to people working from home as a result from the coronavirus pandemic. 5/19/20
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson has announced a plan to distribute $64 million in federal aid intended to bolster the city’s response to the coronavirus. 

Some of the largest shares of funding will pay for housing assistance, small-business aid and protective equipment, testing supplies and cleaning services. Krewson said she hopes that the funding will ease the economic fallout for people who have been hurt most by the pandemic. 

Gov. Mike Parson answers a reporter's question at a press conference in Clayton on May 29, 2020.
David Kovaluk I St. Louis Public Radio

Gov. Mike Parson said it made sense to give local governments like St. Louis County power to enact stricter coronavirus-related regulations than the rest of the state, saying a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for every corner of the state.

This comes as some St. Louis County residents have been criticizing County Executive Sam Page’s administration for not reopening certain businesses, such as gyms and fitness centers.

A poll worker sets out "I voted today" stickers at the St. Louis County Board Of Elections on Oct. 25, 2018.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Under normal circumstances, Heather Robinett and Ella Jones wouldn’t be running for mayor of Ferguson right now. 

But these aren’t normal times. The coronavirus pandemic pushed the April 7 municipal and school elections to June 2. 

These contests are taking place in a radically different electoral landscape than the beginning of the year. Not only are some jurisdictions increasingly gravitating toward absentee ballots, but candidates like Robinett and Jones are using social media, direct mail and phone banking to reach out to voters for Tuesday’s election.

Nicole Gorovsky, Bill Freivogel and Dave Roland are guests on the Legal Roundtable.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio, Dave Roland

Students from regional universities are suing to recoup tuition and fees after in-person classes and on-campus living were cut short by the coronavirus. St.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a health organization in East St. Louis will lend its help to the state's COVID-19 contact tracing initiative. Meanwhile, the governor said Wednesday the state’s casinos will remain shuttered for now.

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois is arguing a lawsuit between a state representative and Gov. J.B. Pritzker should remain in circuit court, after state Attorney General Kwame Raoul's office moved the case up to the federal level.

A voter fills out a ballot at Central Baptist Church on March 10, 2020.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 9 p.m. with lawsuit filed against the initiative

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced Tuesday that the question of whether to expand Medicaid will be placed on the August primary ballot, a move he said is more about policy than politics. 

Parson said that expanding Medicaid to insure more low-income people will be a “massive spending initiative” and that the state needs to know where it stands financially. 

The coronavirus pandemic meant fewer cars on the road in downtown St. Louis. That enabled crews to pave streets that had been torn up by utility work, like a section of Washington Avenue pictured here on May 21.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a big drop in traffic on St. Louis-area roads, and that’s been helpful for the region’s street and transportation departments.

“It makes it much easier for them to get equipment and materials to and from the job site, as well as it makes the job sites much safer for everyone to work in, which increases productivity,” said Joel Cumby, the construction engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation’s District 8, which includes the Metro East.

Illinois Approved A Mostly Vote-By-Mail Election For November. Here's How It Will Work

May 22, 2020
The Illinois Capitol in Springfield has been quiet all spring until the legislature reconvened last week.  April 2020
Ben Orner | Capitol News Illinois

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Lawmakers on Friday approved a bill that would expand Illinoisans’ ability to avoid the ballot box, and possibly coronavirus,in November.

The major expansion to vote by mail in Illinois law would only affect the Nov. 3 presidential election in an effort to keep voters safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

Monsignor Vince Bommarito of St. Ambrose Catholic Church on The Hill, Jeremy Bedenbugh, Lead Pastor of The Journey Church in Tower Grove, Alderman Joseph Vollmer, Mayor Lyda Krewson and Alderman Stephen Conway open Kingshighway Bridge May 13, 2017.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Alderman Joe Vollmer is the latest guest on the Politically Speaking podcast. The 10th Ward Democrat talked to St. Louis Public Radio’s Rachel Lippmann about balancing the city’s budget in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and how he’s dealing with it as a small business owner.

Vollmer represents parts of North Hampton, Southwest Garden, Tower Grove South and the Hill. He’s been an alderman since 2003.

A lawmaker who portrays himself as an outsider found himself on the outside Tuesday. A group of protestors, meanwhile, made their voices heard as state lawmakers convened for the first day of a special legislative session.

The City of St. Louis has decided to not issue earnings tax refunds to people working from home as a result from the coronavirus pandemic. 5/19/20
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis is changing the rules for taxing telecommuters, a move tax experts say could make the city’s earnings tax vulnerable to legal challenges.

Noncity residents working away from their St. Louis offices because of the coronavirus outbreak must continue to pay the city’s earnings tax, according to city officials. 

The change aims to protect one of the city’s largest sources of revenue: a 1% income tax for people who live or work in the city. Last year, St. Louis collected more than $230 million from the tax, about a third of the city’s total revenue. The money is used to pay for street repairs, city employee salaries and general city services. 

Walter Barton
Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

Updated at 7:45 p.m. with Barton's death

Walter Barton was executed Tuesday evening at the state prison in Bonne Terre.

Barton is the first person to be executed in the U.S. since March 5. Texas and Tennessee have postponed scheduled executions during the coronavirus outbreak. 

St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch speaks with reporters following a swearing in ceremony for elected county officials. Jan. 1, 2019
File Photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Legislation set to be introduced at the St. Louis County Council next week would give the council some say over the length of states of emergency and public health orders.

Republican Councilman Tim Fitch said Tuesday he wants to change the county’s charter to limit an initial state of emergency declaration to 15 days. Any extension would need approval from two-thirds of the council. The change would also apply to public health orders.

The Missouri General Assembly's 2020 session was shortened considerably due to concerns over COVID-19.
Illustration by David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio, Photos by J. Stephen Conn, Phillip Wong, Reading Tom, David Kovaluk, and Giveawayboy| Flickr

Sen. Paul Wieland has seen a lot of startling events during his 12 Missouri legislative sessions.

The Imperial Republican has witnessed resignations of House speakers, deaths of statewide officials and implosions of gubernatorial administrations. But Wieland says he’s never gone through anything like 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic massively altered the Legislature’s workload and focus.

Lawmakers throw paper in the air on May 15, 2020, to celebrate the end of the 2020 Missouri legislative session.
Jaclyn Driscoll I St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri lawmakers capped an unprecedented 2020 legislative session by expanding access to absentee ballots during a pandemic and passing a wide-ranging crime bill — even as other priorities failed to get final approval.

And while the session featured some major budget moves aimed at combating the coronavirus, lawmakers from both parties expressed frustration about missed opportunities — and how the legislative process unfolded.

St. Louis Firefighter Cedric Ross talks with other firefighters while wearing a protective mask in St. Louis on Wednesday, April 15, 2020. All St. Louis firefighters are practicing safety from the coronavirus, by wearing the masks when on calls.
Bill Grenblatt | UPI

The highly contagious coronavirus has forced police and fire departments, often the most public-facing of city services, to change the way they interact with the public.

Whether it's disinfecting police cars and ambulances or limiting in-person response to serious crimes, departments across the region are adapting to keep their members safe.

Madison County Resolution Has No Legal Protection For Defying Illinois’ COVID-19 Orders

May 13, 2020
Many Collinsville businesses are remaining closed or limiting customers to curbside and carryout purchases. Collinsville and several other Madison County cities are siding with the rules set by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and not the Madison County resolution.
Derik Holtzmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Madison County resolution suggesting businesses can reopen despite statewide coronavirus restrictions offers no legal protection for business owners, according to state’s attorney Tom Gibbons.

“The resolution does not have legal effect,” Gibbons said. “It has no enforceability. It can’t be enforced against someone. It can’t be enforced by someone. No business can take that resolution to court and win a case on it.”

The resolution protects the county from legal liability, however, because it does not force anyone to abide by its guidelines, Gibbons said.

St. Louis-area businesses remain closed as the coronavirus pandemic drags on. Weeks of reduced income, or none at all, has stretched small businesses thin.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

Business owners in Madison County are weighing their options after the Board of Health passed guidelines that allow them to reopen.

Those guidelines allow all businesses, including gyms, stores and bars, in the county to reopen at 25% capacity, in defiance of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive orders that close them. 

The columns at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
St. Louis Public Radio file photo

Four years ago, Dan Kolde sued the University of Missouri. His clients, a California-based nonprofit called the Beagle Freedom Project, had sought to obtain records about the dogs and cats the university was using for research. 

Those records were indisputably open to the public under Missouri’s Sunshine Law. What fell into dispute was the cost. The Beagle Freedom Project had made their request as narrow as possible, asking only for records the university was required to maintain for federal inspectors. Still, the university announced it needed $82,222 from the nonprofit to produce them.  

Democratic members of the Missouri House listen to debate on May 13, 2020. The House sent a measure changing the state legislative redistricting process to voters.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

The way Missouri draws its state House and Senate districts will be up for referendum later this year after the House Wednesday backed a ballot initiative aimed at repealing the so-called Clean Missouri redistricting system.

It’s a move that could greatly increase the power of appellate judges to draw state legislative districts — and make compactness a bigger priority in mapmaking than competitiveness and partisan fairness.

Missouri Department of Conservation

Missouri feral hog hunters soon should be able to donate the meat to local food banks.

The recently passed state budget bill that is on its way to Gov. Mike Parson includes an expansion of the Share the Harvest Program, which will allow hunters to donate feral hogs in addition to deer to local food banks.

Under the program, the state pays meat processors to prepare the animals for donation to food pantries and other agencies that feed those in need.

The measure also doubles the amount of money the state is putting toward the program, from $150,000 to $300,000.

The Feb. 28 tornado killed one man and destroyed more than 100 Perryville area homes.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

As Gov. Mike Parson stepped to a podium to address the media earlier this month, he had more on his mind than just the coronavirus pandemic. 

The night before, strong storms damaged property in two different areas — Laclede and Bates counties — a stark reminder that natural disasters are lurking during Missouri’s springtime. Parson used his opening remarks to emphasize that Missouri’s emergency management personnel are ready to deal with things like tornadoes, floods and severe storms as the coronavirus pandemic continues.