Capitol Reports, August 20, 2012

In Legislative News, Missouri Press News On
- Updated

Headline:  Missouri Republican U.S. Senate candidate vows to stay in race after “legitimate rape” comment. [Entered: 08/20/2012]

By Jordan Shapiro

U.S. Rep. Todd Akin resisted calls from fellow Republicans to step aside in the race to unseat Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill after his controversial comments on rape and abortion.

Several top Missouri Republicans, including Sen. Roy Blunt and former Sens. Kit Bond, John Ashcroft, Jim Talent and John Danforth, called on Akin to withdraw from the race after he said during a television interview with KTVI in St. Louis that a woman’s body can prevent pregnancy in a “legitimate rape.”
But Akin has vowed to stay in the race and resist the calls to drop out from what he dubbed the “liberal elite” and “party bosses.”

“Just because somebody makes a mistake doesn’t make them useless. We need a conservative in the United States Senate, and I am running to replace Claire McCaskill and get our country back on track,” Akin said in a statement on Monday, Aug. 20.

Akin had until Tuesday, Aug. 21, to withdraw from the race without penalty. He still can exit the race by Sept. 25, but it would require a court order and Akin would have to pay to reprint the ballots.

Should Akin withdraw from the race the Republican state committee would have two weeks to nominate a replacement to challenge McCaskill.

While national Republicans ranging from presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called on Akin to leave the race, his opponent encouraged him to stay.

McCaskill almost immediately criticized Akin’s comments, but stopped short of calling for him to leave the U.S. Senate contest.

* Get the print story. [ ]


Headline:  The St. Louis Cardinals are turning to Missourians’ pocketbooks to build Ballpark Village [Entered: 08/24/2012]

By Stacey Kafka

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis Cardinals President Bill DeWitt are asking the state for $17 million in tax credits to develop the area around Busch Stadium.

The Missouri Development Finance Board met Tuesday, Aug. 21, to hear DeWitt’s proposal for the area around Busch Stadium. He said the tax credits would be used to prepare the site for later development.

“You’ve gotta clean up the site all around before you do anything. What we’re planning in this phase to get all that utility street work ready for future development, which we think will happen much more quickly because of what we’re doing,” DeWitt said.

As in the past, tax credits are already drawing resistance from lawmakers. Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, said the plan was not a good investment for Missouri taxpayers.

“Missouri is the nationwide leader in job loss, while we’re spending ever more dollars in what’s nothing more than redistribution of wealth back to campaign contributors,” he said.

In 2013, Missouri is projected to redeem $685 million in tax credits. The Missouri Development Finance Board will meet again on Sept. 18 to decide the fate of the Ballpark Village tax credits.

* Get the radio story[ ]


Headline:  Judge places November health care ballot language in limbo [Entered: 08/21/2012]

By Phill Brooks
A Cole County circuit judge has ordered local election officials to hold off printing the November election ballots until a decision is made on wording on a health care ballot issue.

The temporary restraining order was issued in response to a suit filed by the lieutenant governor and Republican legislative leaders. It challenges the secretary of state’s language describing a measure that would prevent the governor from establishing a state health exchange under the federal health care law without legislative approval.

The circuit judge scheduled arguments on the case for Tuesday, August 28.

* Get the proposal, SB 464 [ 12].

* Get the secretary of state’s description [].


Headline:  Committee of former judges opposes Amendment 3. [Entered: 08/23/2012]

By Eric Stoyanov

A group of former state Supreme Court judges spoke out Thursday, Aug. 23, against a ballot measure that would change the selection process for Missouri’s top judges.

The amendment, approved by state lawmakers during the last legislative session, would give the governor the power to appoint a majority of the commission members tasked with selecting nominees for non-partisan judgeships.

Retired Supreme Court Justice William Ray Price said supporters of the amendment are attempting to “concentrate power” in the executive branch, in order to buy judicial appointments.

“What they really are trying to do is concentrate power in one political office that they can affect by big money contributions. They aught to be honest and say that’s what’s going on. They want to be able to buy judicial appointments like they try and buy everything else in Jefferson City,” he said.

Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Saint Louis County, who sponsored the amendment, said it will give the executive branch the power to properly check the judicial branch.

“This idea that the current system is not political is a fallacy. It is political, except it’s just controlled by a very small group of Missourians,” Lembke said.

* Get the text story [].

* Get the radio story [].

* Get the proposed amendment, SJR 51 [ 12].


Headline:  Divided Federal Appeals Court blocks air pollution regulations. [Entered: 08/22/2012]

By Andrew Weil

By a vote of 2 to 1, a US Federal Appeals court struck down an Environmental Protection Agency ruling that sought to cut back on pollution carried by wind across state lines. The EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule would have affected more than two dozen states, including Missouri.

The court’s majority decision, published on Tuesday, Aug. 21, found the EPA exceeded its statutory authority.

“It is not our job to set environmental policy. Our limited but important role is to independently ensure that the agency stays within the boundaries Congress has set. EPA did not do so here,” wrote Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

The National Resources Defense Council called on the EPA to immediately appeal the decision, saying in a statement that “it will take years for EPA to adopt replacement health safeguards that all three judges recognize to be necessary and required by law.”

In response to the overturned regulations, Saint Louis-based Ameren Missouri released a statement saying the utility company is in position to continue to comply with regulations and is fully committed to reducing emissions.

* Get the court decision [$file/11-1302-1390314.pdf].


Headline:  Capitol Perspectives – Campaign 2012: Advertising or Policy [Entered: 08/24/2012]

By Phill Brooks

I have a confession as I resume Capitol Perspectives this fall for you: I am not looking forward to the fall campaign season.

For someone who has spent almost his entire adult life covering politics and government, you’d think I’d be looking forward to what promises to be a hot political season.

But, instead, I’m dreading what I fear will be a journalistic nightmare trying to get access to candidates and meaningful responses about the major issues facing our state.

After the 2010 campaigns, one colleague jokingly vowed to refuse to cover the 2012 campaigns if the candidates continued to make access so difficult for reporters. It was just a joke, but it’s an indication of the growing frustration in covering political campaigns.

Political campaigns have changed dramatically since I began as a rookie reporter.

Back then, most candidates were easily accessible to reporters. They held regular and lengthy news conferences in the statehouse. They issued detailed policy papers that reflected extensive thought and staff research. They seemed truly eager to talk with reporters about their views.

That’s not the pattern today. Access to many candidates is restricted. News conferences on complicated policy issues have been replaced by made-for-television media events in the major markets. Little of substance about public policy may be discussed, but the pictures sure look pretty.

Years ago, I sensed that the driving motivation for many candidates was to change public policy. Positions were taken on difficult issues in order to claim a voter mandate.

The best example was Mel Carnahan’s campaign for governor in 1992. He made a tax increase for education a key issue in his campaign. As a result of his election, he entered office with a voter mandate that helped get through one of the biggest tax increases in the state’s history.

Today, many candidates seem to avoid taking politically risky positions on a major policy issue in order to win a mandate. Candidates seem more driven by a desire to win an office, rather than in changing policy.

Money, of course, is another factor in the change in the political landscape. There’s so much cash available for political campaigns that candidates no longer need to rely on what strategists call “free media.” They can buy all the broadcast time and newspaper advertising they need to communicate without the risk of being forced off message by pesky reporters.

Trackers have had a significant impact. A tracker is a campaign staffer who follows the opposition candidate almost everywhere, shooting video in hopes of catching the candidate making an off-hand, stupid comment. To frustrate trackers, some candidates refuse to release their schedules until the last moment, preventing long-term campaign-coverage plans by reporters.

Richard Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign has been cited as the watershed in the change in modern campaign practices. In his book “The Selling of the President,” Joe McGinniss wrote about the Nixon campaign’s adoption of advertising tactics to sell the candidate. At the time, it was a new approach. Today, unfortunately, it’s standard practice for many candidates.

Todd Akin’s experience may cause candidates to be even less accessible and candid with reporters. A former journalism friend of mine told me he’s concerned the Akin episode will have a chilling effect.


[Phill Brooks has been a Missouri statehouse reporter since 1970, making him dean of the statehouse press corps. He is the statehouse correspondent for KMOX Radio, director of MDN and a faculty member of the Missouri School of Journalism. He has covered every governor since the late Warren Hearnes.
Past columns are available at]


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