Jo Mannies

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter.  She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jo Mannies and Marshall Griffin go “on location’’ to welcome Missouri state Sen.-elect Lauren Arthur.

A Democrat, Arthur has touched off a minor political earthquake with her June 5 success in handily winning a state Senate seat in suburban Kansas City that had been held by Republicans for 12 years. Both parties are examining her success to figure out how to duplicate it, or cut it short, in November.

New Missouri Gov. Mike Parson says that improving the state’s roads and bridges appears to be one of the top issues all over the state that has bipartisan support.

Parson ended his 10-stop listening tour on Wednesday by visiting the Cortex business complex in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis. He said that in all of his meetings — in rural and urban areas — civic and business leaders called for improving Missouri’s infrastructure.

“I think it’s so important that we move forward on infrastructure. We just can’t keep kicking the can down the road and expect any different result,” he said. “And it really does matter how we move forward as a state to do that. So I think we’re going to be working hard on that.”

President Donald Trump is joining some fellow Republicans who are attacking U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill for using her family’s private plane to make campaign stops around the state.

Said Trump in a Wednesday-afternoon tweet:

“Senator Claire McCaskill of the GREAT State of Missouri flew around in a luxurious private jet during her RV tour of the state. RV’s are not for her. People are really upset, so phony! Josh Hawley should win big, and has my full endorsement.”

At issue is the senator’s recent campaign tour to visit with military veterans around the state. Although she often traveled on a campaign RV, McCaskill has acknowledged that she also at times used her family plane.

The St. Louis County Council plans to recommend that federal or state law enforcement agencies investigate whether County Executive Steve Stenger broke any laws when he moved some county operations to the old Northwest Plaza shopping center.

The 26-page report circulated this week by the council’s Ethics Committee takes aim at Stenger over his administration’s efforts to help redevelop the Northwest Plaza site in St. Ann.

The report – to be formally presented to the full council next week -- calls for the state attorney general or the U.S. attorney to look into the matter.

New Missouri Gov. Mike Parson called for “debating with respect’’ as he pledged Monday to set a new tone in the state Capitol while staying true to the Republican Party’s conservative policies.

To illustrate his point, Parson met privately with Republicans and Democrats – including most of the state’s members of Congress – before addressing the General Assembly to formally mark his takeover of state government.

Parson’s 15-minute speech was conciliatory in its message, even as it was filled with veiled criticisms of his predecessor, fellow Republican Eric Greitens. The former governor resigned less than two weeks ago amid scandal and controversy over his personal and political behavior.

A few weeks ago, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill headlined a packed campaign event in St. Louis that attracted lots of supporters but few reporters.

That episode reflected what had been the norm for months for many candidates running for office. McCaskill, a Democrat, noted that the public and the press have been almost exclusively focused on the troubles plaguing the state’s Republican governor, Eric Greitens.

“What has happened in Missouri is kind of what’s happened in Washington,” she said. “It ends up being about the governor’s indictment, or the payment to the porn star. And then it makes it harder to get the information out on the positive things I’ve gotten done.”


While movers were emptying out the executive mansion, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens was busy during his final day in office clearing off his desk.

And that includes signing at least 77 bills into law.

He also issued pardons for five people in prison and commuted the sentences of four others to prison time already served. Pardons wipe the crime off a person’s record, while commuted sentences remain — even though the person is freed.

Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Parson will officially leave his old job and become the state’s 57th governor when he is sworn in at 5:30 p.m. Friday.

His low-key events, closed to the public but open to the press, include a 4 p.m. prayer service at the First Baptist Church in downtown Jefferson City. A public reception will be held at a later date, a spokeswoman said.

The morning after Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens announced he was resigning, Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Josh Hawley was in Springfield highlighting his endorsement from the political arm of Missouri Right to Life, the state’s top anti-abortion group.

The attorney general’s apparent aim was to reach out to social conservatives – and quickly change the subject from the political cloud that Greitens’ sex scandal has cast over Missouri Republicans for months.

That move fits in with the advice offered by former state Republican Party chairman John Hancock.

“There’s no question but that a lot of the grassroots were divided on how they felt about things,” Hancock said. “So I think Job One for candidates is to get the base to coalesce and unite.”

St. Louis County voters will likely weigh in this summer on the ongoing power struggle between the St. Louis County Council and County Executive Steve Stenger.

The council voted 6-1 today to override five of his vetoes. Three of the measures are proposed changes to the county Charter that will be placed on the August ballot.

One of the changes would set campaign-donation limits of $2,600 for candidates for countywide office or the council. All three have provisions that would increase the council’s powers.

Newspaper publisher Scott Faughn emphasized repeatedly to a state House committee that he used his own $120,000 to pay a lawyer — in cash — for a recording of a woman tearfully describing her initial sexual encounter with Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens.

But chairman Jay Barnes wasn’t buying it: “No one believes this was your own money.”

Variations of those exchanges continued for three hours Wednesday as the committee investigating possible wrongdoing by Greitens probes whether his political enemies are trying to bankroll an effort to force him out of office.

The Missouri House committee investigating allegations against Gov. Eric Greitens has rejected his lawyers’ request that they be allowed to cross-examine the panel’s witnesses.

The committee’s decision Tuesday was aimed at preventing what one member called a “filibuster’’ by the governor's legal team in order to slow down their proceedings. The panel noted that the lawyers already had interviewed most of its previous and potential witnesses.

For the first time in memory, the Missouri House skipped its traditional end-of-session celebratory paper toss at 6 p.m. Friday.

And outgoing House Speaker Todd Richardson quoted from Shakespeare’s great tragedy, “Macbeth.”

Such were some of this session’s significant differences, large and small, from its predecessors.

Missouri voters will be asked in November to increase the state’s gas tax by 10 cents a gallon.

The Missouri House approved the proposal Friday, in the final hours of the legislative session, after the Senate had tacked it onto another bill.

The increase would be phased in over 10 years, and would be used to pay for road and bridge projects, and underwrite some of the costs for the Missouri Highway Patrol.

“We just can’t keep putting this off,’’ said state Rep. Kathie Conway, a Republican from St. Charles. “We need the money.”

(Updated Friday, May 18, to reflect change in corporate tax rate)

The Missouri General Assembly has approved significant cuts in income-tax rates for individuals and is expected to do the same for businesses before it adjourns Friday.

But the exact impact on the state’s finances is not quite clear.

State Rep. Elijah Haahr, a Republican from Springfield, is chief sponsor of the bill that drops the individual income-tax rate from 5.9 percent to 5.1 percent over several years. The first rate cut goes into effect next year.

Standing in a light rain in the shadow of the state Capitol, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens blamed “rip-off artists” in the state’s low-income housing program “who thought they ran Missouri” for many of his legal troubles and the threat of his impeachment.

But recalling his past as a Navy SEAL, Greitens declared Thursday that they won’t succeed because he was taught to never quit.

The Missouri House has approved a massive tax bill that, among other things, trims the state’s historic tax credit program, and bars any general-revenue spending for sports stadiums.

The bill approved Wednesday also would punish developers who provide false information to obtain state tax credits by barring them from the state aid for 10 years.

And it would require homeowners who rent out rooms under such programs as Airbnb to pay the local tourism taxes already assessed on hotels.

The Missouri House has overwhelmingly approved a wide-ranging criminal justice bill that would revamp the state’s system.

Among other things, the measure ends the statute of limitations for prosecuting sex crimes when the victim is under the age of 19.

The House also has passed a different bill, which includes a provision that would allow the lieutenant governor to step in and appoint members of boards and commissions if the governor fails to make those appointments within six months after the posts become vacant.

The Missouri House has given final approval to a proposal that would ask voters later this year to put right-to-work language into the state’s constitution.

Monday night’s action is part of a two-pronged effort by predominantly Republican supporters to protect a right-to-work law they passed last year.

Under right to work, unions and employers are barred from requiring workers to pay dues or fees. Supporters say right to work would give workers more freedom and attract more business to the state. Opponents say such a law drives down wages and is a GOP effort to hurt unions because they primarily support Democrats.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has given first-round approval to ballot proposals that would end the city’s residency requirement for most workers, and block the scheduled cut in the board’s size.

But as yet, Mayor Lyda Krewson has not taken a position on either proposal. And Friday’s vote for either measure wouldn’t be enough if she decides to exercise her veto.

Within days after Mike Hafner began work in January 2015 as a full-time campaign staffer for Republican Eric Greitens, Hafner says he was presented with a copy of the donor list for The Mission Continues, the charity that Greitens helped found.

“We had set a meeting to discuss the donor list, so I could get notes from Eric and build a fundraising plan for his potential candidacy,” Hafner said in an interview Wednesday.

St. Louis County voters will be asked in August whether to expand the County Council’s powers and impose campaign donation limits on candidates running for county offices.

The council gave final approval Tuesday to the proposed charter change, which embraces a number of issues.

Missouri voters could have several marijuana proposals to choose from this fall, along with ballot issues that seek to increase the state’s minimum wage and change Missouri’s process for crafting legislative districts.

Backers turned in signatures for six initiative-petition proposals by Sunday’s deadline. Four of them deal with marijuana.

Two of the proposals would legalize marijuana for medical use, while two others would legalize it for recreational use as well.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill is back on television with a 60-second campaign ad that, like her earlier one, ignores her potential Republican opponents.

The Missouri Democrat’s latest ad, which begins airing statewide today, focuses on the 50 town halls she’s held over the past year. In the ad, McCaskill also observes that she expects some of the town-hall attendees “have not and will not vote for me.”

Several dozen Democratic African-American officials in St. Louis County are endorsing businessman Mark Mantovani for county executive — and opposing incumbent Democrat Steve Stenger.

“We need a person who’s going to work for all the people in St. Louis,’’ said Cool Valley Mayor Viola Murphy at an event Saturday at Mantovani’s new regional campaign office in north St. Louis County.

The group, known as the Fannie Lou Hamer Coalition, is pledging to help Mantovani in the August Democratic primary for the county’s top post. There is no well-known Republican seeking the job.

It’s only April, and already the contest for St. Louis County executive appears to be headed toward the spending record books.

More than four months before the August Democratic primary, incumbent Steve Stenger and Mark Mantovani have – combined – raised and spent more than their predecessors.

Businessman Mark Mantovani — a Democrat challenging St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger — joins St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies for the latest episode of Politically Speaking.

A graduate of St. Louis University High School, Mantovani grew up in the region and is a former lawyer making his first bid for public office. He is arguably the best-known and best-financed of all of Stenger’s potential opponents for the job overseeing the state’s largest county and its 1 million residents.

(Updated at 12:30 p.m. April 19 with Hawley's campaign-finance numbers)  U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill has  widened her financial lead over her best-known GOP opponent, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, which likely will prompt more allied Republican groups to spend money on his behalf.

The Senate candidates’ latest campaign-finance filings, which were due at midnight Sunday, show that McCaskill has just over $11.5 million in the bank. That compares to $2.13 million for  Hawley.  In both cases, the candidates' totals include aid from other political-party committees, as well as individual donations.

Hawley’s money also includes his share of the donations collected during President Donald Trump’s visit to the St. Louis area in March.

Missouri Budget Director Dan Haug says the state’s general-revenue income is expected to be enough to balance the budget for the current fiscal year.

That good news, though, is tempered by the impact of federal and state tax cuts that just began going into effect in January. Haug says those cuts will trim the state’s income by $109 million for the first six months of 2018, or $218 million for the entire calendar year.

“I think costs are generally under control,” the budget director said in an interview. “Revenues are right now on track where we thought they would be.”

A special prosecutor is recommending that St. Louis County Councilman Ernie Trakas forfeit his post because his legal work for school districts violates the county charter.

The prosecutor’s petition, filed late Friday, is expected to set off a process that could force Trakas off the council within a few months. Trakas is part of a bipartisan, four-person council coalition that frequently is at odds with County Executive Steve Stenger, a Democrat.

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