Rob Schaaf | St. Louis Public Radio

Rob Schaaf

Why Missouri's The Last Holdout On A Statewide Rx Monitoring Program

May 21, 2019
U.S. map illustration
LYDIA ZURAW | KHN ILLUSTRATION / GETTY IMAGES

Missouri retained its lonely title as the only state without a statewide prescription drug monitoring program — for the seventh year in a row — after the legislative session ended Friday.

Patient advocates, politicians, experts and members of the medical community had hoped this would finally be the year Missouri would create a statewide electronic database designed to help spot the abuse of prescription drugs. After all, Republican Gov. Mike Parson had pushed for it and, more important, its longtime opponent was no longer in office to block it.

Just two months ago, Missouri voters approved a constitutional amendment to change how the state draws legislative boundaries. The state's lawmakers, who return to session this week, aren't having it and may seek to nix or rewrite the anti-gerrymandering law.

Missouri was one of four states where voters last year decided to make significant changes to the redistricting process in the name of curbing partisanship and reducing political influence on legislative and congressional maps.

Both the governor and Legislature in Missouri are in charge of the congressional redistricting process. But they're directly involved in approving state legislative maps.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies take a deep look at Amendment 1 on the latest edition of Political Speaking.

The measure, widely known as Clean Missouri, combines a host of ethics-related alterations with an overhaul of state legislative redistricting. Out of all the things on the Nov. 6 ballot, Clean Missouri is eliciting the most unusual political alliances.

Sen. Rob Schaaf, former Sen. Jim Lembke and Sean Soendker Nicholson
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum welcomes Sean Soendker Nicholson, Sen. Rob Schaaf and former Sen. Jim Lembke to the program to talk about a ballot initiative known as “Clean Missouri.”

Clean Missouri is a multi-faceted ethics proposal that seeks to curb lobbyist-paid freebies, make it more difficult for lawmakers to become lobbyists, tweak campaign finance laws and, perhaps most notably, overhaul how state legislative districts are drawn.

Erin Achenbach | St. Louis Public Radio

Some former Missouri House members who now serve in the Senate are voicing concerns over how a House special committee is investigating the indictment of Gov. Eric Greitens.

Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, chair of the Special Investigative Committee on Oversight, closed Wednesday’s meeting to the public, during which the committee began taking testimony from witnesses – and he’s indicated that most if not all testimony will be taken in private.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens helped engineer a freeze on low-income housing tax credits. And that decision is likely to stand unless the legislature makes substantial changes to the program.
File photo I Carolina Hidaglo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens upset a bipartisan contingent of legislators when his interim appointees made major public policy decisions.

That includes how the Republican governor and his appointees in December 2017 helped halt state low-income housing tax credits, an incentive that encourages developers to produce affordable housing for the working poor and elderly.

File | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

The search has begun for Missouri’s next education commissioner, even though there currently aren’t enough board members to vote on hiring Margie Vandeven’s successor.

Ten people applied for the job by Monday’s deadline. But Board of Education President Charlie Shields said they can’t even review their applications until there are at least five voting members on the State Board.

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri lawmakers routinely have denied requests to make their emails available through open records requests. Now, a conservative nonprofit group is challenging the policy with a lawsuit that, should it succeed, will give the public more insight into how legislators make decisions.

Gov. Eric Greitens speaks in front of the Capitol during a rally in support of the Noranda bill on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
File photo | Krissy Lane | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri House expects to send the Senate a bill Wednesday that would reopen a shuttered aluminum plant in the Bootheel region — long known as Noranda — and build a new steel plant next door.

What the Senate will do remains to be seen, considering at least one Republican is using the special session to again harangue fellow GOPer Gov. Eric Greitens for his agenda-pushing nonprofit.

Republican Sen. Rob Schaaf, of St. Joseph, sponsored the Senate drug monitoring bill.
Courtesy of Harrison Sweazea, Missouri Senate Communications

Rob Schaaf rose Monday to speak on the Missouri Senate floor, capping what seemed to be a tough few days. One of his fellow GOP senators had highlighted how the 60-year-old from St. Joseph rented a room from a well-known lobbyist. And the nonprofit linked to Gov. Eric Greitens was making personal attacks on Schaaf’s political decision integrity — and giving out his cellphone number.

 

But Schaaf made it abundantly clear he wasn’t slinking away, issuing a blunt message to the Republican governor.

Gov. Eric Greitens signs legislation aimed at expanding Uber and Lyft throughout Missouri.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

It’ll be easier to use ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft throughout Missouri, especially airports, under the bill signed Monday by Gov. Eric Greitens.

Gov. Eric Greitens speaks during his first State of the State address in Jefferson City.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4:15 p.m. with Kansas City Star receiving comment from Chambers — Missouri state Sen. Rob Schaaf has his hands in a lot of important legislation this session, yet he’s still made time to criticize Republican Gov. Eric Greitens over his new nonprofit.

A New Missouri Inc., which isn’t beholden to campaign finance laws and doesn’t have to disclose its donors, is fighting back, publishing a digital ad this week that says the St. Joseph Republican is “siding with liberals” and “playing personal political games.”

File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

After hours of debate Thursday evening, the Missouri Senate passed the bill that would create a statewide prescription drug monitoring program by a 22-9 vote. But opponents added language that could be problematic when the bill returns to the House in the final weeks of the 2017 session. 

Missouri is the only state in the U.S. without a prescription drug monitoring program, and Gov. Eric Greitens has said he backs the creation of one.

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 6:55 p.m. with more details — In an unexpected move, state Sen. Rob Schaaf said Tuesday night that he now backs the House version of a prescription drug monitoring program, putting Missouri on track to become the last state in the nation to establish such a program.

The Republican from St. Joseph, who had opposed the House bill due to privacy concerns, said at a news conference that he changed his mind due to overwhelming support from medical professionals and from Gov. Eric Greitens. 

File Photo |Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is the state’s first chief executive to set up nonprofit groups that can raise unlimited amounts of money from unknown donors.

The governor’s chief advisor, Austin Chambers, says there’s nothing unusual about it — and he’s right. Governors in Michigan, Illinois, Massachusetts and Georgia, as well as New York Mayor Bill DiBlasio, are among the politicians who have set up similar nonprofit organizations, or have allies who have set them up.

File photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

The start of December is the start of Missouri lawmakers pre-filing legislation for the 2017 legislative session.

One that has been controversial for some time is the effort to limit the power of labor unions by turning Missouri into a so-called right-to-work state. The effort in the House is being led by Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston.

Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston
File photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s failure to set up a statewide prescription drug monitoring program during the 2016 legislative session will continue to affect other states. 

Each of the eight states bordering Missouri already has a program that notifies doctors when their patients have been prescribed dangerous amounts of addictive painkillers from multiple providers. Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, says without a program of its own, Missouri is negatively affecting the efforts of others to stop drug dealers and prevent addiction.

Margaux Harris, 7, granddaughter of Rep. Mike Lair, throws papers in the air shortly after members of the House did the same to mark the end of the legislative session.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

For the most part, the dwindling moments of the 2016 session of the Missouri General Assembly were familiar: Paper got tossed. Press conferences transpired. And lawmakers get to spend the next few months far away from Jefferson City (with the exception, of course, of the legislators that represent that town).

But the last week of session did provide some notable insights and surprises: From the passage of a wide-ranging gun bill to the somewhat surprising resignation of a state senator, there was plenty of news to keep bespectacled reporters busy.

A capsule of pills.
FDA | file photo

Prescriptions for opioids like hydrocodone and Vicodin that have been dispensed have quadrupled since 1999. Because these drugs are highly addictive, 49 states have implemented a drug monitoring program to ensure doctors don’t over-prescribe their patients. 

Just one state lags behind: Missouri.

St. Louis County Councilman Sam Page is a strong supporting of a prescription drug monitoring program.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

With a statewide prescription drug monitoring program likely to run into intractable legislative opposition, the St. Louis County Council decided not to wait.

The council gave final approval without opposition to legislation that would set up a database tracking when certain prescription drugs are dispensed. It’s aimed at stopping someone from getting narcotics at multiple pharmacies.

Sam Sextro lights candles across the street from the Edward Jones Dome while mourning the city's loss of the Rams. Sextro and a friend, who ran a St. Louis University High Rams fan club, met outside the stadium Wednesday for a "final tailgate."
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When Stan Kroenke ended his self-imposed exile from the media yesterday, he wasn’t bringing good tidings to St. Louis sports fans.

The taciturn billionaire owner of the St. Louis Rams had plunged the region into a yearlong whirlwind after unveiling plans to build a lavish stadium in Inglewood, Calif. And NFL owners overwhelmingly approved his vision during a special meeting in Houston.

Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston
File photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 5:17 p.m., Dec. 18 -- Dueling versions of legislation would each create a prescription drug monitoring program in Missouri, the only state that doesn't have one.

Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, announced Thursday that she would again be sponsoring the House version of the bill, which was pre-filed Friday.  It would give doctors and pharmacists easy access to recent drug purchases by patients as a way to combat doctor shopping.

HOK | 360 Architecture

There are few fans in St. Louis quite like Ram Man.

Ram Man — whose real name is Karl Sides — wears a hat molded in the shape of a snarling beast with spiraling horns. His jersey is adorned with patches celebrating the St. Louis Rams' achievements. And his unique admiration was worthy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But it will take more than extraordinary fan loyalty to keep an NFL team in St. Louis.

The five GOP contenders for governor: Peter Kinder, Eric Greitens, Catherine Hanaway, Bob Dixon and John Brunner
St. Louis Public Radio file photos

It’s fair to say that Missouri state Sen. Rob Schaaf has been a thorn in Gov. Jay Nixon’s side over the proposed riverfront stadium in St. Louis.

The St. Joseph Republican was one of the first members of the legislature to raise serious alarm about Nixon issuing state bonds for the $1 billion project without a legislative or statewide vote. More than 20 senators and some key House leaders have threatened to kill any state appropriation to pay off the stadium bonds if Nixon follows through.

The Missouri General Assembly placed most of this year's amendments on the ballot.
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

If there was one big lesson that John Lamping learned during his tenure in the Missouri Senate, it was that it’s very difficult to pass a bill – but very simple to kill one. 

Case in point: The former GOP lawmaker proposed two-year ban on lawmakers going into lobbying, something that’s taken hold in other states and throughout the U.S. Congress. But Lamping’s proposal never got off the ground.

Gov. Jay Nixon says legislators blew their chance to have a say on bonding for a stadium in St. Louis.
File photo by Bill Greenblatt I UPI

Gov. Jay Nixon is facing explicit warnings from key legislators that they won’t approve payments on bonds for a new football stadium on St. Louis’ riverfront if they aren’t first approved by a legislative or public vote.

But the Democratic governor is dismissing the threats as too little, too late – pointing to inaction during the past legislative session.

Attorney General Chris Koster parts ways with the Missouri Democratic Party on the issue of campaign donation limits. His position on the issue may make already difficult road to capping donations impossible if he becomes governor.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Sen. Rob Schaaf probably wouldn’t be classified as bleeding heart liberal.

Throughout his tenure in the Missouri General Assembly, the St. Joseph Republican took sometimes-provocative conservative positions in battles over Medicaid expansion and unemployment benefits. He's encountered rightward plaudits and gubernatorial jeers for his latest stance against a St. Louis stadium funding plan.

But Schaaf parts ways with his party on campaign donation limits.

A rendering of the proposed riverfront stadium
Courtesy of HOK

After being stuffed in the General Assembly, skeptics of a proposed riverfront stadium in St. Louis are taking their fight to court.

Six lawmakers filed a suit Wednesday in Cole County Circuit Court to, among other things, prevent Gov. Jay Nixon from “extending” state bonds paying off the Edward Jones Dome to fund the new stadium. Office of Administration Director Doug Nelson contended earlier this year that Nixon had such authority, which spurred unsuccessful bills to force either a legislative or statewide vote on the matter.

Sens. Rob Schaaf

On this episode of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies break a bit of ground by welcoming two guests for one show – state Sen. Rob Schaaf and former Sen. Jim Lembke. 

Schaaf is a Republican from St. Joseph, Mo. He's a physician who has played a key role in health care policy over the past few years.

Jason Rosenbaum/St. Louis Public Radio

Former U.S. Sen. Kit Bond was tapped by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce to get Medicaid expansion across the finish line. 

He didn’t succeed. Despite the attempts of several Republicans in the House and Senate to pass some form of expansion this year, Bond told St. Louis Public Radio on Monday that “we were just a few filibustering senators short of getting it done.”

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