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Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Attorney General Eric Schmitt is the latest guest on Politically Speaking, where the GOP statewide official talked with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum about his first few months in office.

Gov. Mike Parson appointed Schmitt to succeed Josh Hawley, who resigned as attorney general after being elected to the U.S. Senate. Before taking on the role of attorney general, Schmitt served as state treasurer and as a state senator.

(via Flickr/david_shane)

The Missouri Supreme Court is weighing a challenge to a law that has changed rules for municipal courts, in particular banning judges from sending someone to jail for failure to pay a traffic fine.

It also lowered the amount of revenue local governments can get from traffic citations; it capped those revenues at 12.5 percent in St. Louis County and at 20 percent across the rest of Missouri.

Members of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment conduct a silent protest during a public hearing on municipal court reform on Nov. 12, 2015.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Lawyers who are leading the effort to reform the municipal courts in St. Louis, tell of injustices they have witnessed in the courts and callous indifference among some of the municipal judges. They say the system is made up of modern-day debtors’ prisons.

They provide examples.

Members of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment conduct a silent protest during a public hearing on municipal court reform on Nov. 12, 2015.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Nearly two years ago, Michael Brown's death brought to light abusive municipal court practices in the St. Louis area. A new report released by auditor Nicole Galloway on Wednesday shows the problems exist statewide.

"We've seen repeated challenges that prevent Missourians from having the municipal courts they deserve," Galloway said in a statement accompanying the report. "Courts should operate efficiently, effectively and fairly, and these audits shine light on problems and make recommendations, so that work can begin toward regaining citizen trust."

Vinita Terrace trustee Mary Tevlin speaks in favor of a proposed merger with Vinita Park at a public hearing on May 24, 2016.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated June 29 with ballot approval - The St. Louis County Boundary Commission had approved a proposed merger between Vinita Park and Vinita Terrace. The issue now goes on the ballot in both towns. No one who spoke at a public hearing in May opposed the idea.

Vinita Park already provides a number of services, including policing, for its smaller neighbor.

Vinita Park police logo
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

On Tuesday, the St. Louis Boundary Commission will, for the first time in its 25 years, take public testimony on a proposed consolidation.

Rep. Robert Cornejo, R-St. Peters, sponsored the municipal governance overhaul in the House.
File photo I Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri lawmakers have approved, and sent to the governor, an expansion of last year’s municipal overhaul, a bill that also includes a measure making it easier for cities to disincorporate.

This year’s bill would curb ordinance violations, such as tall weeds or housing code problems. It would also reduce the maximum traffic fine to $225. It would also create a sliding scale for non-traffic fines.

police car lights
Jason Rojas | Flickr

A follow-up to last year's municipal court reform bill, commonly known as Senate Bill 5, has passed the Missouri House.

This year's measure, Senate Bill 572, would limit fines for minor traffic violations at $300 and limit municipal code violations at $500. Rep. Robert Cornejo, R-St. Peters, carried the bill in the House.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, Beyond Housing President and CEO Chris Krehmeyer and Normandy Mayor Patrick Green joined host Don Marsh in discussing Senate Bill 5, which deals with municipal court overhaul. Recently, a Cole County judge rejected major parts of the law. More background on that here.

Normandy Mayor Patrick Green (center) speaks to the media during a news conference last year. Green says it doesn't make much sense to spread out Proposition P money based on population.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

As he stood with his fellow mayors in corridor of the historic Wilson Price Hunt House, Normandy Mayor Patrick Green declined to gloat over the judicial body blow dealt to a landmark overhaul of municipal governance.

Instead, Green took the opportunity to extend a hand to lawmakers who had substantially restricted the percentage of fine revenue St. Louis County cities could keep in their budgets. The truce offer, though, had a caveat: St. Louis County cities had to be treated the same as the rest of the state.

An aerial view of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency at 3200 South 2nd Street, the current headquarters for NGA West.
NATIONAL GEOSPATIAL-INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

In our weekly "Behind the Headlines" segment, “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh discussed the top news stories that caught St. Louisans’ attention this week, with the people that produced them and contributed to them.

This week, we discussed the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's pick of north St. Louis as the 'preferred site' for its new facility and the political/economic implications of such a choice. We also discussed the Missouri legislative session and political climate in Jefferson City as well as Senate Bill 5 and Ferguson's new police chief.

Joining us:

Elijah Haahr
Mallory Daily | St. Louis Public Radio intern

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies are pleased to welcome state Rep. Elijah Haahr to the show for the first time.

The Springfield Republican was first elected to the Missouri House in 2012. Haahr represents a somewhat suburban area of Springfield, an area that encompasses a very popular Bass Pro Shop. And he is chairman of the House Emerging Issues Committee, which has been a staging area for some high-profile pieces of legislation.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

On Wednesday, St. Louis on the Air hosted a discussion with Rev. Starsky Wilson and Thomas Harvey about municipal court reform. Wilson was a co-chair of the Ferguson Commission and is president and CEO at the Deaconess Foundation. Harvey is the co-founder and executive director of ArchCity Defenders.

Attorney David Pittinsky stands with mayors of numerous St. Louis County cities on Thursday. Pittinsky is leading a lawsuit against a state municipal overhaul.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio | File photo

Updated with decision to appeal - A Cole County judge has rejected major parts of the most significant public policy achievement in the wake of Michael Brown’s shooting death.

It’s a decision that serves a major victory for African-American-led St. Louis County municipalities, and likely places the future of municipal governance overhaul in the hands of the Missouri Supreme Court.

police car lights
Jason Rojas | Flickr

A Cole County judge is weighing a legal challenge over a new state law placing new limits on how much revenue from traffic fines local governments can use in their budgets.

Senate Bill 5, passed last year by Republican lawmakers and signed by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, caps revenue from traffic fines at 12.5 percent for local governments in St. Louis County and 20 percent for those elsewhere in Missouri.  The new regulations for municipal courts, including not jailing someone for failure to appear in court for minor traffic violations, are not being targeted in the suit.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, claimed that a third of Ferguson's budget was derived from civil fines. That statement is not true.
Flickr I ambientjohn

As voters in Iowa head off to caucus, a GOP presidential contender touched on the Ferguson unrest in the party's most recent debate. But U.S. Sen. Rand Paul's assertion about Ferguson's budgetary practices isn't lining up with the facts.

During last week’s GOP presidential debate, the Kentucky Republican senator was asked about expanding body cameras for police officers. Here's what Paul said:

Sen. Eric Schmitt
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 6:40 p.m. Jan. 26 with Senate vote - The Missouri Senate has given first-round approval to legislation that would place further limits on cities using fines to collect revenue. Last year's municipal court reform law restricted the percentage of money from traffic fines that could be used in city budgets. The sponsor, Republican Eric Schmitt of Glendale, says this bill would place fines from municipal code violations under the same caps:

Sen. Eric Schmitt
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

A Republican lawmaker is taking another look at how municipalities govern themselves around the state — and especially in St. Louis County.

Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, handled legislation passed in the spring that reduced the percentage of traffic fine revenue cities could have in their budgets. But the legislation did not restrict non-traffic revenue, such as fines for not keeping up a property. (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch pointed that out earlier this year).

Schmitt’s pre-filed bill, according to a release from his office, would “limit how much revenue they can keep from not only traffic violations, but also other ordinance violations — such as letting your grass grow too high.”

Attorney David Pittinsky stands with mayors of numerous St. Louis County cities on Thursday. Pittinsky is leading a lawsuit against a state municipal overhaul.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio | File photo

A dozen St. Louis County cities are challenging a far-reaching municipal overhaul, which was arguably the most significant state action taken in response to the unrest in Ferguson.

The lawsuit, filed in Cole County Court where the state offices are located, takes aim at a new law, still referred to as Senate Bill 5, that lowers the percentage of traffic-fine revenue cities can keep. It also sets standards for St. Louis County cities and provides new guidelines for how municipal courts should operate.