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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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Capitol Perspectives: Nullification

by Phill Brooks

I have become intrigued by how similar are the debates surfacing this year in Missouri’s legislature protesting federal laws, compared with the conflicts that confronted President Andrew Jackson nearly two centuries ago.

History, in a way, may be repeating itself as I have been reminded listening to legislative complaints about the federal government while, at the same time, reading Jon Meacham’s biography of Jackson.

A major portion

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Capitol Perspectives: A Different Look at Lobbyists

by Phill Brooks

Secretary of State Jason Kander had an interesting observation when he announced his proposal to restrict special interest money in government and politics.

“It’s easy for politicians to vilify lobbyists,” Kander said. “Ironically ethics reform is likely more popular among lobbyists in Jefferson City than it is among legislators.”

I tend to agree with Kandor’s impression. I’ve heard some lobbyists complain at how they feel pressured to

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Capitol Perspectives: How Can They Say No?

by Phill Brooks

How can they say no?

That was the essential question raised years ago by the late sports broadcaster Howard Cosell. His question is at the center of the Missouri legislature’s decision to offer up to $1.7 billion in state tax dollars to entice Boeing to expand in Missouri.

Cosell strongly criticized the approach of NFL teams in demanding millions of taxpayer dollars for new stadiums to keep

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Capitol Perspectives: Nixon’s Change in Tactics

by Phill Brooks

This past week we saw a major change in the tactics used by Missouri’s governor to deal with the state’s General Assembly. Without that change, Jay Nixon might not have had a chance at what could be one of his greatest governmental achievements — attracting Boeing to make one the biggest industrial investments in Missouri history.

Throughout Nixon’s six years as governor, legislators from both parties have

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Capitol Perspectives: A Dysfunctional Relationship

by Phill Brooks

State government experienced an unusual turf war this past week that blew up a planned meeting between legislators and the governor on fundamental changes to Medicaid.

The governor wanted the meeting to be on his turf, the Governor Office Building across the street from his mansion. But the chairs of the legislature’s Medicaid committees insisted on their own turf, the House Lounge just across the hall from

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Capitol Perspectives: The Departure of Indicted MO Legislators

by Phill Brooks

Rep. Steve Webb has added a new twist in the long history of how Missouri officials handle criminal charges. The St. Louis County Democrat was charged with stealing contributions that had been given for an event by the legislature’s Black Caucus.

At first Webb, told the House Democratic leader he would resign. But the next day he announced he would not. A Democratic staffer said the turnaround

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Capitol Perspectives: My Time in Prison

by Phill Brooks

The recent decision by the governor to reopen the abandoned state penitentiary for tours has reminded me of my own time behind the walls decades ago. No, I was not sentenced to prison. Rather, I was given an unprecedented level of access for a reporter to a prison holding Missouri’s toughest criminals. It was a degree of access unthinkable today. That change says something fundamental about how

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Capitol Perspectives: Rain Making in Government and Politics

by Phill Brooks

Another petition campaign has been launched in the long history of ballot issues to restrict government officials from using their offices to get money. Some of the biggest ethical steps in changing the rainmaking culture of state government have required Missouri voters to take charge after inaction by the General Assembly.

Prior to the early 1970s, there was no requirement for disclosure of campaign contributions. That changed

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