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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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Capitol Perspectives: We Won’t Pay for It

by Phill Brooks

As the ballot-issue petition process gets underway to submit a transportation sales tax to Missouri voters, I’ve wondered what my European friends would think. While southern Europe is criticized for refusing to pay for the government services Europeans enjoy, that would not seem to be the case about highway systems.

Europe’s highways are superb. There’s a quality of convenience, pavement, construction and maintenance that far exceeds anything

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Capitol Perspectives: Spokespersons Who Will Not Speak

by Phill Brooks

Earlier this month, Missouri experienced an extraordinary series of government spokespersons who refused to speak.

The week of Oct. 11 was an unusually busy news cycle. The Corrections Department issued a release that it was returning to the European manufacturer a drug used for executions. A few days later, Gov. Jay Nixon suspended a scheduled execution. Nixon’s office announced the immediate replacement of the Agriculture Department director.

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Capitol Perspectives: Powers and Problems for House Speakers

by Phill Brooks

There is a fascinating common element to what’s happening in Washington and Missouri’s House. The common element involves the problems facing House speakers. And the troubles facing both men can best be described by phrases that start with the letter “T.”

For U.S. House Speaker John Boehner the phrase is “Tea Party,” whose supporters are imposing demands that have restricted negotiating a compromise on the budget. For

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Capitol Perspectives: State Budget Withholding

by Phill Brooks

The Missouri Supreme Court’s latest decision upholding Jay Nixon’s budget powers has handed future Missouri’s governors a powerful new tool to control state spending. Even before the court’s decision, our state’s governor had significant controls over state spending plans passed by the legislature.

Unlike the U.S. president, Missouri’s governor can use his veto authority to reduce or completely eliminate one or more separate funding lines in the

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Capitol Perspectives: Missouri Political Comebacks

by Phill Brooks

Former House Speaker Catherine Hanaway’s statement that she’s considering running for Missouri governor reminds me of other major Missouri politicians who sought to return to elective office after years of absence. Like some skeptics I’ve heard in the statehouse, I too first thought that Hanaway’s nearly nine-year absence from political office would be a liability. But on further thought, I realized history might be encouraging for the

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