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Capitol Perspectives: Ferguson, Police and Reporters

by Phill Brooks

Cops lobbing tear gas at reporters. Journalists handcuffed and arrested while trying to do their jobs. Reporters threatened while covering a story of international significance. A TV news crew having its camera shut down by police.

Those scenes from Ferguson portrayed an animosity to journalists by police that does not reflect my reporting experience in more than four decades working with law enforcement officials. Just the opposite.

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Capitol Perspectives: Mixed Legislative Record for Missouri’s Governor

Much of the attention of this legislative session has focused on Gov. Jay Nixon’s failed efforts for Medicaid expansion. But there is another side to the story. Despite an overwhelming Republican majority in both the House and Senate, Nixon has scored some major victories.

On the last day of the session, the legislature sent him a bill to establish an early childhood program in public schools that would start before

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Capitol Perspectives: Civilizing the Legislature

by Phill Brooks

Every year about this time as the legislature enters its closing days, I think about the near carnival atmosphere in past decades when Missouri’s General Assembly entered the final rush. Back when the legislature went to midnight on the last day, it was party time for many — literally.

Some legislators set up bars in the hallways outside their Capitol offices offering free drinks. Jefferson City high

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Capitol Perspectives: Tax Cut Tactics

by Phill Brooks

The history of the tax-cut fight between the governor and the legislature has caused me to wonder if there are not some hidden tactics at play. By nature, journalists are skeptical about coincidences. And what’s happened this year is almost an identical repeat of last year.

Like last year, soon after the tax-cut bill came to the governor’s desk, Jay Nixon proclaimed his administration had found a

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Capitol Perspectives: Characters in the Senates Past

by Phill Brooks

Sitting in the Senate’s recent memorial service for deceased members reminded me how different the chamber has become from the Senate I first covered more than four decades ago. As I was recounting some of those memories to a fellow statehouse reporter after the ceremony, he said it must have been a lot more fun to cover back then.

It sure was. To my student reporters, I

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Capitol Perspectives: Unfinished Business

by Phill Brooks

If you sense that Missouri government has become unable to resolve major state problems, take a look at the agenda facing your state lawmakers after they returned from their spring break. It’s a laundry list of lingering problems that have plagued the state for years without resolution:

- Finding solutions for unaccredited urban schools.

- Fixing the state’s broken school-funding system.

- Addressing the ballooning loss of

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Capitol Perspectives: ‘Dead on Arrival’ Legislative Bills

by Phill Brooks

Every time as legislators prepare to take off for their spring break, I am surprised by the large number of bills filed so late in the session that there’s no real hope for passage. Legislators sometimes are candid about the prospects of these dead-on-arrival bills.

“It’s my hope to do nothing with that bill,” Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, explained to his colleagues when he introduced the

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Capitol Perspectives: Legislative Difficulties with Education

by Phill Brooks

The Missouri Senate’s recent debate on how to handle troubled schools demonstrates the history of how difficult it has been for lawmakers to find lasting solutions to the problems and issues facing public schools.

Over the decades, I’ve listened to countless hours of lawmakers debating the same issues; over and over again. They’ve repeatedly debated school choice, equity in education funding, failing schools, support for private schools,

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Capitol Perspectives: Ways Politics Impact the Legislature

A colleague recently suggested to me that the March 25 deadline for candidates to file for the August primary is going to have a dramatic effect on the second half of the Missouri legislative session.

In particular, he thinks it will lead to passage, at least in the House, of the governor’s call to expand Medicaid eligibility that has been so harshly criticized by Republicans. The thought is that after

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