Politics & Issues | St. Louis Public Radio

Politics & Issues

St. Louis County Police Board members Ray Price and Michelle Schwerin
JULIA O'DONOGHUE | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

At a meeting in Florissant to get public comment on selecting a new St. Louis County police chief, residents said they want a leader with integrity and the ability to communicate effectively with people from different communities. 

Several people who attended the meeting Wednesday also said the county’s new chief should come from within the department’s ranks.

“We need someone who has strong relationships with the community and is ready to lead on day one,” said Terry Wilson, a councilman and school board member in Jennings. 

Visitors to North Main Street in St. Charles start to head home after bars close on a Friday night in early August. The street has seen smaller crowds on weekends recently, and bar owners say a new liquor ordinance isn't helping. (Aug. 2 2019)
File Photo | Nicolas Telep | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Charles City Council passed a law Tuesday night that creates a Liquor License Appeals Board and modifies the punitive point system for bars and restaurants. 

Before, penalized owners would appeal to the same commission that issued them the points. Mayor Dan Borgmeyer said that was unfair.

Now, both the commission and the board will each have five members, including restaurant and business owners from North Main Street. 

Site of the Northside Regeneration Urgent Care, pictured in September 2019.
File Photo | Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis board responsible for the city’s real estate and financial decisions on Wednesday granted NorthSide Regeneration an extension on its troubled north St. Louis urgent care development. 

The Board of Estimate and Apportionment has given developer Paul McKee until August 2020 to secure financing for building the roads and part of the HealthWorks Hospital facility. The board also bumped the development’s next construction deadlines from June 2021 to September 2021. The full health facility project must still be completed by June 2023. 

This interview will be on “St. Louis on the Air” over the noon hour Thursday. This story will be updated after the show. You can listen live.

St. Louis’ Municipal Court is hosting a warrant amnesty program Feb. 24-27. It’s an opportunity for people with outstanding bench warrants —  excluding DUIs, leaving the scene of an accident and prostitution — to be able to pay their original fines and costs without penalty.

Mark Mantovani
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 11:45 a.m. with comments from Mantovani

The Democratic primary for St. Louis County executive is becoming a little more crowded.

Mark Mantovani announced Wednesday he will run for St. Louis County’s top post, less than two years after he nearly upended an incumbent county executive. 

That puts him on a collision course with St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman, who have already announced they're in the August race.

Under a plan circulating through the Missouri General Assembly, appellate judges would once again take part in the state legislative redistricting process.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

As the Missouri General Assembly is poised to give voters another chance to decide how to draw state House and Senate maps, one of the lesser-discussed parts of the debate is how judges will gain expansive power if voters scrap the Clean Missouri system.

Under a ballot measure that recently passed the Senate and will likely be approved in the House, bipartisan commissions will have first crack at redistricting instead of a demographer. But the truth is the commissions have been historically irrelevant because they tend to deadlock along party lines and then turn over authority to appellate judges. 

There’s been little insight into how the judges actually came up with House and Senate districts — until now.

St. Louis County jail
File photo

The St. Louis County Council is taking more time to review a contract to provide tablets to inmates after a complaint from the jail’s current vendor about the bidding process.

But Council Chairwoman Lisa Clancy, D-Maplewood, said she has yet to find any wrongdoing.

“I’m still doing my due diligence to make sure this is a sound recommendation, but so far, I have a lot of confidence in this process,” Clancy said. “This is a [bidding process] that prioritizes lowering and eliminating fees on people in the justice center, and that’s a good direction to go in.” 

Moms Demand Action advocates at statehouse on Feb. 18, 2020.
Jaclyn Driscoll | St. Louis Public Radio

Hundreds of gun-restriction advocates visited the Missouri Statehouse on Tuesday to encourage lawmakers to pass stricter gun control measures. 

The specific legislation Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action want would prohibit anyone with a domestic offense conviction or an order of protection from purchasing a firearm.

Illinois Lawmakers Take Aim At 'Prior Authorization' In Health Insurance

Feb 18, 2020
Isabella McKenna (center) speaks at a press conference alongside (from left to right) Sen. Linda Homes, Rep. Greg Harris and Illinois State Medical Society President Paul Pedersen.
Mike Smith | NPR Illinois

Illinois lawmakers want to reduce delays in medical care caused by the requirements of insurance companies.

They said the process, known as “prior authorization,” is time-consuming and raises unnecessary obstacles for people in need.

Isabella McKenna has been dealing with arthritis since she was age 14. She said several times in her life, she had to wait for prior authorization to get medical care, often leaving her impaired.

Updated at 8:43 p.m. ET

Ex-governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich was released from federal prison Tuesday evening following a commutation earlier in the day from President Trump that cut short his punishment on corruption charges over his attempt to sell the Senate seat vacated by then-President Barack Obama.

The White House announced that Blagojevich is among 11 people who received clemency.

Donald Hutson died after taking synthetic cannabinoids, or K2, at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in 2018. An internal investigation by the Missouri Department of Corrections revealed officers did not follow departmental policy while restraining him.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Donald Hutson’s family had been waiting for his release from prison for decades.

But in September 2018, Hutson died at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center after taking the illegal drug K2.

St. Louis Public Radio first reported on his death last year as part of a long-term investigation examining overdoses in Missouri prisons. Our reporting uncovered disturbing details about the night Hutson died, spurring more questions. 

Republican Rep. Holly Rehder of Sikeston sponsored the House drug monitoring bill.
Tim Bommel | Missouri House Communications

The Missouri House of Representatives passed legislation on Monday to create a statewide prescription drug monitoring program. 

The program, designed to prevent opioid abuse, was approved 98-56. The measure now moves to the Senate, where it has failed in recent years at least partially because some members say it is an invasion of privacy and they do not want to create a government list. 

More than 80% of the state’s population is covered under St. Louis County’s PDMP, and this measure would essentially expand that statewide, with added protections. 

State Rep. Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, at a press conference address Medicaid issues on Feb. 17, 2020.
Jaclyn Driscoll | St. Louis Public Radio

Some Missouri House Democrats are calling on the governor to stop the removal of people from Medicaid rolls until the state can get a better handle on children losing their coverage.

In recent weeks, Republican leadership in Missouri has publicly recognized that roughly 60,000 children who still qualify for coverage have been dropped from Medicaid. Previously, Gov. Mike Parson and Republican leaders in the statehouse have said the drop in the Medicaid rolls was because of a better economy and restructuring the outdated Medicaid system. 

Thomas Hawk | Flickr

Missouri lawmakers are considering a proposal that would allow some inmates 65 or older to be released from prison early. 

The sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Tom Hannegan, said a small number — about 100 inmates — would be eligible for an early parole hearing. 

Communities across the Metro East are working to ensure accurate counts of their communities. The results of the census determine how federal, state and local funding is distributed.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Communities across the Metro East are ramping up their efforts to get an accurate count when the U.S. Census Bureau begins collecting responses in less than two months. 

The once-a-decade headcount determines congressional representation and how billions of dollars in federal and state funding is distributed. Locally, critical revenue for cities and some communities' home rule status are at stake.

Rachel Dalske, of Florissant, votes at the St. Louis County Board Of Elections on Oct. 25, 2018.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Election officials in the city of St. Louis and St. Charles County saw a rise in voter registration ahead of the March 10 presidential primary.

A major reason for that spike is the increased popularity of Missouri’s online voter registration system, which is getting a big promotion from popular social media outlets like Facebook, officials said.

Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, speaks on the Senate floor Tuesday about his economic development legislation. The Senate passed Hough's bill after a 28 hour filibuster.
File photo I Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Senate Republicans were nearly unanimous in their support for a ballot measure that could do away with a state legislative redistricting system that voters approved in 2018.

Lincoln Hough of Springfield was the lone Republican to vote against the measure last week. He said it’s premature to seek a repeal of the Clean Missouri system before state legislative redistricting happens next year.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar speaks with a St. Louis Public Radio reporter at his office in downtown Clayton on Tuesday. Nov. 5, 2019
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The latest edition of Politically Speaking’s weekly roundup show zeroes in on two big stories that made waves in St. Louis County government: Police Chief Jon Belmar’s retirement and the settlement of Lt. Keith Wildhaber’s discrimination case.

Those two events occurred within hours of one another. And St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum, Julie O’Donoghue and Rachel Lippmann explained how they’ll impact county government going forward.

Republican Rep. Holly Rehder of Sikeston sponsored the House drug monitoring bill.
Tim Bommel | Missouri House Communications

The Missouri House of Representatives is set to vote Monday on legislation that would create a statewide prescription drug monitoring program

The House gave preliminary approval to the measure 95-56 on Wednesday. 

Missouri is the only state in the nation that does not have a statewide PDMP, which is designed to help catch misuse and abuse of prescription opioids. 

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens walks out of the Civil Courts Building in downtown St. Louis after his felony invasion of privacy charge was dropped. May 14, 2018
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 5:30 p.m. with Greitens' comments on Facebook

After almost 20 months and nearly two dozen subpoenas, the Missouri Ethics Commission closed an investigation into former Gov. Eric Greitens’ campaign by fining him $178,000 — which could be significantly reduced with a prompt payment.

Soon after the ethics commission handed down its decision, Greitens took to Facebook for the first time since May 2018 to react to the news — and hint at a political comeback.

While Greitens signed a consent order about failing to disclose in-kind donations, the ethics commission dismissed a slew of other allegations against the former governor. That included running an illegal shadow campaign operation to avoid the state’s campaign-donation laws.

Keith Wildhaber
JULIA O'DONOGHUE | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Lt. Keith Wildhaber has no plans to leave the St. Louis County Police Department anytime soon, even though the county is going to pay him millions of dollars over the next two years as part of a discrimination lawsuit settlement.

“I got 26 years in. I want to finish my career on my terms,” Wildhaber said Wednesday in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch — the first time he’s spoken publicly since reaching the settlement.

St. Louis County Police car
Paul Sableman | Flickr

Updated at 1:15 p.m. Feb. 12 with comments from Wildhaber's attorneys

St. Louis County has agreed to pay a police officer $10.25 million to settle a workplace discrimination verdict.

A jury in October awarded Lt. Keith Wildhaber, who is gay, nearly $20 million after agreeing that he had been passed over for promotions because of his sexual orientation. The two sides then went into mediation to try to reach a settlement.

Megan Setter (left) speaks during a roundtable discussion at Fort Leonard Wood on professional license reciprocity for military spouses.
Office of the Governor

Spouses of military members are used to moving every few years, and they often have to put their careers on hold when they need a professional license to work in their new state.

A proposal in Missouri’s Legislature would ease that problem by having the state honor professional licenses held by military spouses who are transferred from other states. 

“If we can do this to show our support for our military families and getting our military spouses jobs quickly and easily, that not only benefits that spouse, it benefits the whole family,” said state Rep. Steve Lynch, R-Waynesville.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page speaks with reporters on Feb. 11, 2020, about a settlement for Lt. Keith Wildhaber.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council will consider a bonding plan to pay, at least temporarily, for a discrimination settlement with a St. Louis County police officer.

It’s a move that’s likely to pass, even as St. Louis County Executive Sam Page’s administration will seek to recoup the funds from insurance plans.

Illinois Supply and Provisions in Collinsville sold $5 million of recreational marijuana in January. The dispensary accounted for 13.6% of sales in Illinois.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 3:10 p.m., Feb. 12, with comments from Collinsville's mayor

COLLINSVILLE — Illinois Supply and Provisions recorded $5 million in sales of recreational marijuana in the first month of the year, city officials announced Tuesday. 

The preliminary figures come after a strong month of sales across the whole state. Illinois sold nearly $40 million of legal marijuana in January alone. 

Kip Kendrick and Martha Stevens
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri state Reps. Kip Kendrick and Martha Stevens, both Democrats from Columbia, appeared on Politically Speaking to talk about Medicaid expansion, the possible repeal of Clean Missouri and other topics.

Both Kendrick and Stevens support the Medicaid expansion initiative that is expected to appear on the ballot later this year. 

Kendrick and Stevens said they don’t think Medicaid expansion will cost the state as much money as Republican opponents have suggested. Stevens said adopting Medicaid expansion could save the state money in the long run because the federal government pays a larger portion of the bill. 

Missouri Senate on the second day of the 2020 legislative session Jan. 9, 2020
Jaclyn Driscoll | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Senate approved a ballot item Monday evening that would change how state House and Senate districts are drawn, repealing a system approved by voters in 2018. 

The proposal, which passed 22-9, now heads to the House, where it is almost certain to be approved, and then will head to voters again. They’ll choose between keeping a system they overwhelmingly passed as Clean Missouri, in which a nonpartisan demographer holds much of the power, or a modified version of the previous system. 

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar speaks with a St. Louis Public Radio reporter at his office in downtown Clayton on Tuesday. Nov. 5, 2019
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 6:45 p.m. Feb. 10, with details of Lt. Keith Wildhaber's $10.25 million settlement with St. Louis County

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar will retire April 30 after 34 years with the department, six as chief

“It has been an honor to work with and for the women and men of the St. Louis County Police Department,” Belmar said in a statement released Monday. “The dedication, sacrifice, and bravery of those that work for this department is unmatched. The citizens and businesses of St. Louis County deserve nothing but the best, and I firmly believe they receive that from us every day.”

He was not available for any additional comment Monday, according to the department.

Hundreds of people line up outside of Illinois Supply and Provisions in Collinsville on January 1, 2020 to legally buy recreational marijuana for the first time in Illinois.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

COLLINSVILLE — The first month of recreational marijuana sales at Illinois Supply and Provisions brought hordes of people and their vehicles to a store that didn’t have enough parking for them. 

The dispensary reserved its 45-space parking lot for medical patients and handicapped recreational customers. A maze of metal barriers occupied the spaces directly in front of the store to contain crowds of people wanting to buy recreational cannabis. 

A paramedic sits in an ambulance after a traumatic call.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Researchers at Washington University have found that paramedics and emergency medical technicians are seven times as likely as the general public to have thought about suicide in the past year.

Five emergency medicine doctors surveyed more than 900 paramedics in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Iowa over three months in 2017. The results were published in an industry journal this month.

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