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Steven was born in Thousand Oaks,California, but as the saying goes, he got to Texas as quickly as he could. He is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri and its School of Journalism. During his time at Mizzou, he covered the 2014 and 2015 legislative sessions for MDN. Areas of coverage included taxes, abortion, and right to work legislation.
After leaving Mizzou in May 2015, Steven was hired as an Iowa News Correspondent for iHeartMedia in Des Moines, Iowa at NewsRadio 1040 WHO. Steven then became a overnight news anchor in September 2016 on WHO.
Steven reported live on WHO from the headquarters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during the Iowa Caucuses in 2016. Steven has also co-hosted both the 2016 and 2018 Election Night coverage shows on WHO.
In his downtime, Steven likes to watch TV, read, and scour Twitter multiple times an hour. Steven and his dad also have a goal of visiting every MLB ballpark around the country. They plan to finish that goal in 2020.
Steven Anthony's Blog in 2014 Republicans Hit A Road Block On One of the Speaker's Top Priorities
Back in late August at a rally outside of St. Louis, House Speaker Tim Jones said one of his top priorities of the 2014 legislative session was to make Missouri the 25th Right to Work state in the nation. He said making the Show Me State a Right to Work state would give workers more freedom and prevent them from having union dues go to causes the worker doesn't support.
Fast forward to mid-April and Jones has hit a road block. HB 1770 was put to the test with a vote last Wednesday, April 9. Every House Democrat voted against it and they were joined by 19 Republicans. However, 78 Republicans voted for it, giving the measure it's initial stamp of approval. Good news for Republicans? Not quite. A "constitutional majority" of 82 representatives is needed for a bill to pass the House. This vote leaves House Republicans 4 votes short. To be fair, 11 Republicans didn't vote on the bill at all and 2 voted "present." Some Republicans who didn't vote at all were in the Capitol at the time the vote took place. One such Republican is Budget Chairman Rep. Rick Stream, R-St. Louis County. He told the Associated Press after the vote that he didn't hear the bell that signals "it's time to vote," but even if he did, he wasn't going to go vote.
Stream's notable absence from the House chamber during the tense minutes of the vote underscores how politically sticky Right to Work is for Republicans. Many from Jackson County in Kansas City and St. Louis County do not want to anger labor activists. Others are very critical of Right to Work because they think it's just bad policy. One such person is House Economic Development Chairwoman Rep. Anne Zerr, R-St. Charles. She actually appeared at a pro-labor rally at the Capitol a couple of weeks ago and denounced Right to Work. Remember that she was the person who ushered through the Boeing incentives package back in December.
After the vote, Jones said he will talk with the Republicans who didn't vote and see where they are on the issue. With 4 and a half weeks left in session, House Republicans are conflicted and Senate Democrats would almost certainly filibuster if the bill makes it to the Senate. What does that all mean for one of Jones' top priorities? Stay tuned...
Halfway through session, lawmakers haven't picked up pace of lawmaking
A month ago, I wrote about how I expected lawmakers to "pick up the pace" of lawmaking and passing bills before they went home for spring break.
Well, I was wrong.
Granted, they have perfected many bills since mid-February and they have passed bills out of the House and Senate, but very few bills have been signed by Gov. Jay Nixon. One of those bills Nixon signed is a bill that would limit how much insurance companies could charge chemotherapy patients for pills they take orally. Besides that, no major progress has been made on key issues leading Republican lawmakers set out on accomplishing in January.
Right to work legislation has not passed the House, despite being a top priority of House Speaker Tim Jones. The Senate has passed their version of a bill dealing with unaccredited schools, but the House has yet to take up the Senate bill or their own version. Voter ID legislation has been discussed in the House, but has not made it to the Senate. And the biggest issue of the session has not seen any tangible progress.
Sen. Will Kraus, R-Jackson County, has been the point man between the Senate and Nixon's administration on working to produce a tax cut bill that can pass both houses and be signed by the governor. However, little progress has been made on a bill halfway into the 2014 session. Kraus told me he wants as big of a tax cut as possible, but he realizes he won't get that, so he's trying to broker a compromise with Nixon. However, his fellow Senate Republicans are having none of it. Multiple senators have told me and stated publicly it is because they don't trust Nixon. That is what's holding up a potential tax cut for Missourians.
Many issues are in front of the General Assembly when they return from their spring break on March 24. Appropriations bills have to be passed by May 9 and the session ends on May 16 at 6 p.m. I would expect many late nights as members work on important legislation that impacts millions of Missourians.
A Slow Start to Lawmaking
Even though lawmakers convened for their annual session on Wednesday, January 8, my first day actually covering the Missouri General Assembly was Wednesday, January 22. Spring semester classes at Mizzou didn't start until the 21st. Needless to say, we got a lot of time off for winter break, but I'm not complaining.
Now we're over a month into the session and the Assembly is working at a snail's pace. Very few bills, if any, have been passed out of either chamber. The only things seeing action are the committee rooms. There have been hundreds of committee meetings since January 8. I have covered a hearing every day I have been at the Capitol except for this past Wednesday. That was the first day where I spent my entire day covering bills that were given INITIAL approval (they have not passed... yet) by the House.
The chamber that has made the most noise in the first month of the session is the Senate. They have taken up a bill by Republican Sen. Brian Nieves to nullify federal gun laws in Missouri. If this sounds familiar, it's because it is familiar. The previous gun nullification bill failed by 1 vote in the veto session last September. Nieves says he has fixed the problematic language, but Democrats aren't buying it and as one senator told me, they're confident it won't stand on its own merits in court. This week, however, was a huge week for the bill.
Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, offered an amendment that would require gun owners to report within 72 hours if their firearm was either stolen or missing. She got Republicans to include the amendment in the bill and from what I was told, Nieves was on board with the amendment. Then the National Rifle Association (NRA) got into the fray. They expressed reservations on the amendment, saying it would create a de facto gun registry, something they are adamantly against. Therefore, they came out entirely against the bill. That set off a firestorm in the Capitol (or as we like to call it on Twitter, "#MOLeg"). They told their members to contact their senators and ask that they vote against the bill even though it is gun-friendly in its nature. Nasheed and Nieves held a joint press conference on Thursday and addressed the situation. On Saturday, Nieves posted multiple Facebook posts and tweets which said the NRA was "lying" about the bill.
"I'm Shocked & Disgusted by the dishonest tactics of an organization I've always had a Great Relationship with! NRA is LYING about SB613," Nieves wrote on Twitter.
Republicans in the Senate are also working on a tax cut bill that would be amicable to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, but that seems to be on hold since Nieves and the NRA, once great allies, are now in a public fight.
After finishing an interview with one Democratic representative Wednesday, he said the House has only debated bills for 4 hours this session. Yes, he said 4 hours. That's all in the roughly 22 days they've been in session. I was quite frankly shocked to hear the representative say that. I imagine the pace of things will briskly quicken in the month they have before their "spring break" in mid-March.
Steven Anthony's Blog in 2013 What I learned this semester
When I had an option in August to pick whether I wanted to work at KBIA in Columbia or Missouri Digital News in Jefferson City, I knew where I wanted to work. I wanted to report on state government issues for MDN. I knew the Missouri Legislature would not be in session, but that was okay. Rather than embarrassing myself in front of lawmakers at the Capitol, I could embarrass myself over the phone!
Without question, I got thrown into the fire immediately when I (volunteered) to go to St. Louis and cover Texas Gov. Rick Perry's visit. He was there to promote Texas' business climate and encourage Missouri legislators to pass HB 253, the income tax cut bill. That night, I interviewed House Speaker Tim Jones. I was the very first reporter to talk with him after Perry finished speaking. We had a productive conversation about the tax bill and I told I'd see him again in a few weeks. Sure enough, 2 weeks later, I talked with him the day after lawmakers voted not to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of the bill. I sat down with Jones in his office for a one-on-one interview. He attacked Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster for waging an all-out war on the bill and that their campaign did persuade some of his members to change their original vote. Towards the end of the interview, I asked him about his future political plans since he is term-limited out of office in 2014. "I am very interested in returning the Attorney General's office back to the people," Jones said. So my very last question to him was: "So are you telling me you're going to run for Attorney General in 2016?" His answer (in full): "That is my intention. We have not made official announcements yet, but we are definitely exploring that office very carefully." I was the first person in the state to have him quoted as saying that. I'm freaking proud of that and will remember that forever. My lessons learned from the first 4 weeks: 1) be persistent, 2) listen to politicians and if they say something interesting, FOLLOW UP ON IT! You just may get an exclusive scoop.
The next month and a half went by quickly. Most of those Thursdays at the Capitol were slow news days, but that was okay. I figured there would be some of those days eventually. However, on October 31st (HALLOWEEN!), things got interesting. Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard released the draft of his new Second Amendment legislation on his Twitter page. (Yes, that's how lawmakers do it in the 21st century). When our TA came into the office and said "who wants to cover this?," I immediately raised my hand because there are two issues I know a lot about given where I'm from: guns and taxes. I read the bill and then called Sen. Richard. He returned my call an hour or so later and wrote a radio wrap. I later called Rep. Stacey Newman, a staunch advocate of preventing gun violence. I talked with her for a good 10 minutes and she said this was an "election year ploy." Lessons learned from mid-September to the end of October: 1) slow news days happen. Deal with them. 2) Always volunteer to cover topics or bills that are in your "wheelhouse." That way, you can produce a better story given the knowledge that you have.
November was even slower than October. I didn't cover many things and I even took a personal day in mid-November.
News broke in late November that Boeing was considering building their new 777X plane in north St. Louis. Nixon had been meeting with Boeing executives and the pace of talks moved pretty quickly. So on Black Friday of all days, Nixon issued a proclamation calling lawmakers back to Jefferson City to pass incentives so Missouri could lure Boeing. The Senate passed the bill on Wednesday and the House passed the bill on Friday. How bout that! The legislature took only five days to pass a major bill! Anyway, while others were working on that story, I worked on covering some of the bills that have been prefiled for next session. That all came to a halt when Phill told me Gov. Nixon was meeting with House Democrats on Thursday afternoon in the Capitol basement. I went down there and was the ONLY reporter down there. Nixon's press secretary came up to me and said "it looks like you're the only one down here. We'll set up just a bit down the hall and you can ask your questions." Wait... me? One-on-one with the governor of Missouri? OK THEN! Nixon exited the meeting and sure enough, we walked down the hall and set up shop. One of his aides said "We only have time for one question." My thoughts on that statement: "Oh yeah? Watch me!" Sure enough, I asked Nixon 2 questions and even got a response to a third question as his aides and security whisked him away from me. Lessons learned from this week: stay down in the Capitol basement and you just might get to talk to the governor by yourself. (Granted, he had 6 aides and 3 security guys around him, but who's counting?)
I am coming back next year to cover the legislative session. I cannot wait to see where the stories take me and who I'll get to talk to and what stories I'll break. Until next year, so long everybody!
Mentally Preparing to Cover the Legislative Session Next Year
Earlier this month, I made the decision to come back in January and cover the 2014 legislative session for MDN. I have enjoyed my time at the Capitol this semester when there isn't a whole lot of news to cover like there would be during the session. The reason I decided to work in Jeff City and not at KBIA is because I love politics and political reporting. I have always wanted to cover a session of the legislature and when the opportunity arose, I took it. Plus, I'll be getting class credit for being down there 2 days a week, unlike this semester. That's always a nice incentive.
This month, I have been mentally preparing myself to cover the 2014 session. I've been thinking about what chamber I want to cover more, what legislators I already have relationships with (quite a few, actually), what issues I know a lot about, and how many late nights I will have to endure. At times I know it won't be easy, but I relish the challenges ahead.
Gov. Nixon's Rare Appearance Outside His Bunker
It's rare that you see Gov. Jay Nixon outside his "protective bunker." He has a reputation of being aloof. He doesn't talk to state lawmakers hardly at all and he doesn't talk to the media unless he's running for reelection. However, Thursday was an exception. He held a media availability session in his office. When I read that email on Wednesday night, my jaw dropped. I had already called Phill to tell him I was taking a personal day and then I find out I'm missing one of Nixon's rare appearances where he actually has to answer questions? I wasn't happy, needless to say.
I did follow the presser on Twitter thanks to the wonderful Alex Mallin. My favorite quote from Nixon was when he described Speaker Tim Jones: "He complains about everything." Sitting in my car, I literally LOL'd at that comment. I think it's one of the top 5 quotes of the year. Besides that, it seemed like Nixon endorsed gay marriage and he issued an executive order involving gay couples' taxes on the state and federal level. It's a big step for a state that banned gay marriage nearly 10 years ago.
From what I read after those 2 issues, the presser wasn't very eventful, but then again, I wasn't there because I decided to take a personal day at the worst possible time. Oh well.
Off-Year Elections and What They Mean for 2016
Today, I'm going outside of the state of Missouri. I'm going to discuss Tuesday's gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey. Both gubernatorial races have 2016 implications.
First, let's start in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli against former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe. The former DNC Chairman ended up winning, but not by the wide margin many predicted. Poll after poll predicted McAuliffe would win by 5-12 points. What made the margin of victory smaller than expected was the horribly botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare, website. Cuccinelli pounced on that and McAuliffe's support for the ACA and it seemed to resonate with Virginia voters. What really doomed AG Cuccinelli was the government shutdown. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers who live in northern Virginia (Fairfax, Arlington) work for the government. For 16 days, they were not allowed to go to work and earn a paycheck. And even if they did go to work because they were deemed "essential," they weren't paid. That angered many voters and McAuliffe pounced on Cuccinelli's ties to the Tea Party. That strategy, along with Cuccinelli's strategy of linking McAuliffe to ObamaCare, worked. It's just that McAuliffe's strategy worked just a little bit better than Cuccinelli's and that's why Terry McAuliffe was elected the next governor of Virginia.
This race has 2016 implications. No, not because Cuccinelli or McAuliffe will run for president. This race was significant because Virginia is now a purple state, or a swing state. It is now one of the eight or nine states that help decide who the president of the United States will be. Obama won the state in 2008 and 2012, helping cinch both his wins. Virginia has 13 electoral votes. The state's southeastern part around Norfolk and Newport News votes Democratic and so do the Washington D.C. suburbs as mentioned before, but the rest of the state (the rural areas) are reliably red. Remember, a few population centers have more votes than many rural communities. Republicans have to be conscious of that if they want to win Virginia in 2016 and regain the White House.
Let's move on to the Garden State where Gov. Chris Christie easily cruised to reelection over who Jon Stewart called "a no-name Democrat." The no-name Democrat is state Sen. Barbara Buono. She lost by 22 points to Christie. OUCH! This was an expected win for Christie and he basked in the spotlight on Wednesday. He had a press conference in a town that they nickname "little Havana." He said Republicans can't just go to the places were they're "comfortable;" rather, they have to go to the places where they're uncomfortable and where most people don't vote for them. He's right. Christie is widely expected to run for president in 2016. He would be the "moderate" candidate as compared to Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul, all likely 2016 candidates. He can help Republicans win in the swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Virginia, and Florida, but will Republicans nominate a "moderate?" Despite handing Christie a very easy reelection, New Jersey residents aren't even confident that he can win his home state in 2016. News organizations did exit polling on Tuesday and found New Jersey voters prefer Hillary Clinton over Chris Christie in a hypothetical 2016 matchup by a 49-43% margin. That isn't exactly a surprise in blue New Jersey, but Clinton over their own governor? Now that is a surprise!
I know the 2016 presidential election is 3 years away, but after getting hammered in 2012 and getting hammered in the government shutdown fight, Republicans have to figure out what they need to do in order to win the White House back in 2016. Nominating Christie may help, as conservative darling Ann Coulter has said, but that doesn't mean GOP primary voters, who decide the party's nominee, are going to vote for Christie.
Nullification or Bust!
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of HB 436 failed failed to be overridden by just one vote in the Missouri Senate during the veto session on September 11. In his veto message, Nixon cited the bill's conflicts with the Supremacy Clause in the Constitution, and the issues with free speech. After the veto override failed, Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard released a statement explaining his "NO" vote on the override attempt. Just like Nixon, he cited First Amendment concerns along with the clause punishing state and federal law enforcement officials for working together on gun-related issues. Many organizations agreed the bill was blatantly unconstitutional, but the legislature just barely failed to override the governor's veto.
That didn't stop Richard and other House and Senate leaders on pressing forward to get a new gun bill introduced in the next legislative session. Soon after the veto session, they released a joint statement saying work on a new Second Amendment bill would begin immediately. Sure enough, we got a copy of the new bill yesterday. On Halloween, no less! The new bill contains much of the same nullification language that the previous bill did. "All federal acts, laws, court orders, rules, and regulations, whether past, present, or future, which infringe on the people's right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 23 of the Missouri Constitution shall be invalid in this state, shall not be recognized by this state, shall be specifically rejected by this state, and shall be considered null and void ab initio and of no effect in this state," the bill says. That's pretty cut and dry. Other aspects of the bill say a doctor can't inquire as to whether his or her patient owns a firearm, and it lowers the minimum age to carry a concealed weapon to 19.
I talked with Sen. Richard and he repeatedly expressed to me that the bill is stronger than the previous one, but was stripped of the aforementioned problematic language. I pressed him on the nullification part of the bill and he said the bill would be upheld in federal court. Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis County, disagrees. She called the bill flatly unconstitutional and said the bill is "designed to sell weapons." She also said the courts would first look at the nullification language.
I really don't get the Republican Party's obsession with gun nullification. Passing constitutional gun-friendly bills is fine, (I come from Texas. I'm used to it) but passing a bill with 19th century language in it is not professional and is beneath the integrity of this legislature. They know the law. A good number of legislators are attorneys. Nullification language does not fly. We fought a war over it. The North won, the South did not. States are passing bills making it easier to own a firearm. That's fine. Those bills are constitutional. This bill is not. It is a direct violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and would get struck down in a federal court.
Amateur Hour at the Missouri Department of Corrections
Missouri can't figure out what it's going to do with their upcoming executions. 68 people have been executed in Missouri since 1989, the last being in February 2011. It's no wonder Missouri has no clue how they're going to execute 2 inmates this year.
I come from the nation's most active death penalty state. We execute people for a living in Texas. It's just a common occurrence to hear about the state killing 1 person a month, or 2 people in a month, or 3 people in a span of 3 weeks. Usually, Texas executes 13-15 inmates a year. As previously mentioned, Missouri has executed 68 inmates in 24 years. It takes Texas 4-5 years to do that! Texas has their execution procedures down to a T. They know exactly what's going to happen 7 days before the execution and they have strict protocols in place to see that every procedure is properly followed. I have only one problem with the way Texas executes inmates. In 2011, an inmate ordered this for his last meal, according to CBS News: two chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, fried okra, a
pound of barbecue, three fajitas, a meat lover's pizza, a pint of ice
cream and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts. Then, a prominent state senator "raised hell" about this and requested the Texas Department of Criminal Justice end the last meal practice. They complied and for two years, nearly 30 inmates have been served what every other prisoner gets on that day. I don't care how outlandish the last meal request is. Let them have at least some dignity before they are killed. The last meal practice should be restored in Texas.
Over the last month or so, Missouri has tried to figure out how to execute two inmates. One was set to die this past Wednesday, October 23 and one is set to die a week before Thanksgiving. Because of European Union regulations banning shipments of drugs that could be used in executions to countries that support capital punishment, the EU threatened to stop shipment of Propofol to the United States. The drug is a popular anesthetic used in hospitals around the country. Missouri said they were going to use a large amount of Propofol to kill the inmate who was supposed to be killed two days ago. After uproar from a prominent anesthesiologists organization and the EU, Missouri decided to delay the execution until they could figure out another way to kill him. This week, the state announced they would use pentobarbital to kill the inmate scheduled to be executed before Thanksgiving. The drug causes death by respiratory arrest. The drug is used by some states to kill inmates on its own. No other drugs are used. A lethal dose is administered and that's it.
It's not like Missouri doesn't have states it can call to help them solve their execution problems. They could easily pick up the phone and call Gov. Perry's office in Austin, or Gov. Kasich's office in Columbus, or Gov. Scott's office in Tallahassee. I think part of the reason why the MO Dept. of Corrections is afraid to talk to media outlets like MDN is because they're scared to reveal their incompetency. If they were to talk to someone like me, I think their incompetency would shine through.
When a state wants to execute an inmate, they better make sure they have a set system of protocols, including the most important component(s): the execution drug(s)! The last month or so reveals that Missouri has no idea what they are doing and that they should stop trying to kill people until they figure it out.
Was it really worth all the pain?
Our long national nightmare is over. After 16 days, our government reopened Thursday morning. Congress passed a bill that funds the government until January 15 and lets America borrow money until February 7. The deal was brokered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. It received the support of every single Democrat in Congress (that cast a vote), but it received little support of the Republicans in Congress. 62% of the GOP House members voted against the deal and 18 GOP Senators voted NO. That includes my senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, and that also includes the entire Missouri House GOP delegation. Even without majority Republican support, the bill easily passed both houses.
Why was the bill not taken up earlier? That is an easy question to answer and this theory is supported by many journalists and politicians alike. The bill that would've reopened the ENTIRE government was not brought up because Tea Party members in the House prevented the bill from coming to the floor. They would not accept any government funding bill that would fund Obamacare. Many of them said they were sent to Washington to repeal the law and even after this knockdown, drag out fight, they vow to continue to fight to repeal the health care law. Ted Cruz led the defunding fight, a fight which many moderate Republicans said was a losing one from the start. They called it a "tactical error," and that was just one of the more nicer things said about Sen. Cruz. Rep. Peter King, R-NY, ripped into him, saying he was the only one responsible for the government shutdown. The polls seem to agree with King. The GOP took a very hard hit politically in this fight. Their poll numbers fell faster than hail in a thunderstorm. Their public image took a hit as well and they are the ones being blamed for the government shutdown. It just wasn't a good 2 weeks to be a member of the Republican Party in Congress.
The question to ask after this debacle is... Was it really worth all the pain? My answer: NO. People couldn't visit national parks, veterans couldn't visit their own memorials until members of Congress organized a photo op with them in front of the memorials so they could make themselves look good. Also, the VA couldn't process the mountain of veteran's disability benefits that it had only begun to dig out of. Finally, hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of federal workers were furloughed, costing the country $24 billion in lost productivity, according to Standard & Poor's. So, no, all the kabuki theater and political posturing in Washington was not worth the pain the American people endured for 16 days.
Ignoring the hard questions: a case study of two governors
It was kind of a fluke. Kalish looked up from his phone and poof! There was Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon right in front of him. Kalish comes in and asks "I just saw the governor. Should I talk to him?" Marie answers with an emphatic "YES!" So Kalish runs down the hall and disturbs every bit of decorum in an otherwise quiet Capitol. He presses Nixon about the Obama Administration's ruling that states could use their own money to open federal parks. That includes the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Nixon responds "Talk to my communications office." Kalish says he has multiple times (that was true). Then Nixon says something I couldn't hear, and literally walks backwards around the corner away from the tough questions.
I knew Gov. Nixon was in the Capitol on Thursday. I ran into one of the troopers who protects Nixon in the Capitol basement. Also, the elevator I used to take back to the 1st floor came from the 2nd floor and the only way to hit the 2nd floor button is if you have a key because that leads into Nixon's office. However, it still came as a surprise when Kalish came in and said the governor was right outside our door.
Phill always says Nixon's administration has been one of the least press friendly administrations he's ever covered in 40+ years of working at the Capitol. Now I see why he says that. The Arch is what symbolizes St. Louis. It's the monument everybody recognizes and wants to go up to the top of, unless they're afraid of heights. Right now, it is closed because of the government shutdown, but Nixon now has the power to use state money to reopen the park that contains the Arch. Will he do it? That's a legitimate question that needs to be answered immediately. It needs to be answered immediately because the St. Louis Cardinals open the National League Championship Series (NLCS) tonight in St. Louis against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Arch is just blocks from Busch Stadium. I'm sure many Dodgers fans in town for the games haven't been to the top of the Arch, and maybe even some Cardinals fans haven't either. C'mon, Gov. Nixon, what is your answer? Will fans be able to enjoy the most iconic St. Louis monument or not? That's all we want to know.
I parallel Gov. Nixon's unwillingness to answer the tough questions with my home state's governor's unwillingness to answer the tough questions. Gov. Rick Perry is notorious for going on Fox News to answer softball partisan questions. He's also known for flying around the state and doing public appearances touting these new jobs coming to Dallas, or this new business relocating to Austin, or whatever. However, I rarely see him do press conferences and one of the reasons he doesn't have to is because Texas is such a red state, if he chose to run for another term in 2014 (which he hasn't), he would probably be reelected, notwithstanding Wendy Davis. Also, the Texas Legislature only meets in January-May every odd numbered year. He's presided over 7 regular sessions and something like 13 special sessions, but he rarely appears and takes questions from the Capitol press corps. Everybody knows he who is because of his failed "oops" run for president, but in Texas, you don't see him appear often on local TV stations.
I don't like it when governors aren't open, or at least appear to be open, to the press corps. It puts them in a bad light and gives them a bad reputation with the people whose jobs it is to cover them. Will Wendy Davis or Greg Abbott be more open to the press in Texas in 2015? Will Chris Koster or whoever the GOP nominee for governor is be more open to the press? One can only hope.
SHUT IT DOWN! *Chef Gordon Ramsey voice*
As documented on last night's Rachel Maddow Show, the 1995 government shutdown happened in part because President Clinton snubbed Speaker Gingrich on the flight to the funeral of the assassinated Israeli Prime Minister. The Speaker was not allowed to the front of the plane to speak with the president about the upcoming budget crisis and upon return to Andrews Air Force Base, Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole were asked to exit the plane using the rear door. Gingrich later admitted that was why he proposed a tough budget resolution and why he shut the government down. He said, "I know this will sound petty." Gee, ya think so, Mr. Speaker?
On Monday night, when I finished watching WWE Monday Night Raw, I flipped over to two of
the greatest channels known to man... CSPAN and CSPAN2. Yes, I'm
serious. In terms of great theater, posturing, and over the top
rhetoric, you can't beat those two networks. When Raw ended at 10:05 CT,
the government was 55 minutes away from shutting down for the first
time since late 1995. This particular government shutdown was caused by the House Republicans insisting President Obama delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare. Obama and Senate Democrats didn't budge, so the government shut down at 12:01 a.m. ET Tuesday morning. As the clock struck midnight in Washington D.C., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) lamented that this shutdown didn't have to happen. Yes, Mr. Leader, you are right. This didn't need to happen. It is beyond childish for legislators, most of whom are 50 years or older, to not come to an agreement to keep the United States government open! It doesn't border on ridiculousness; rather, it is the definition of ridiculousness.
All throughout this week, House Republicans passed bills that reopened only certain parts of the government. Again, Senate Democrats and President Obama objected because they insist for them to accept any government funding bill, the ENTIRE government must reopen. So, here we are on Friday morning, October 4 and the government is still shut down. Millions of federal workers are furloughed, some are working without pay (IOUs) and yet, members of Congress are still getting their paychecks, which total nearly $3,400 a week! You're probably asking yourself, "they get paid that much for doing almost nothing?!" Yes, yes they do. I agree. It's total crap. To their credit though, many lawmakers are donating their paychecks to charity or are just not accepting their pay at all. That is a positive step.
What will it take to reopen the United States government? I don't know. This shutdown may go on until we reach the debt limit on October 17, and that is not a game to be played at all. That has much more dire consequences for the global economy than the U.S. government shutting down. Hopefully it doesn't drag on that long, but with the amount of spoiled children in Congress, I wouldn't be surprised if it did.
Agonizingly Slow News Days Suck
The only legislators inside the Capitol were at the hearing on Medicaid chaired by Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City. I was not assigned to cover the story, so I worked on my enterprise story which was going to be about term limits. I shared that idea with Phill at lunch, but he shot it down faster the time it took 2 years ago for the North Korean rocket to fall into the Pacific Ocean. (Okay, maybe that's a bad analogy, but it somewhat works). So after lunch, Phill had me work on a child abuse/child endangerment angle of the Speaker Jones' aide gun story. I called 8 people with different child organizations and some legislators on committees that deal with public safety and children's issues, but nobody got back to me by the time I left at 4:30. In Phill's words, "Okay, well, we tried. Call it a day." So I did.
I do wish I was working here in the spring when the legislature is in session. It would be a lot easier to get a hold of legislators and other organizations that have a stake in what lawmakers do, but I shouldn't lament about the situation. It is what it is and I should deal with it. After all, the first 4 weeks this semester were fun because we previewed the veto session from every angle and the day after the session ended, I broke the story that Speaker Jones will run for attorney general in 2016 and I interviewed some of the "Flimsy 15" legislators who changed their vote on the tax cut bill.
Who knows what moron will make news in the coming months before the legislature comes back in January for their regular session? Maybe something of major consequence to Missouri will happen between now and early December. I don't know what will happen, but I do know we'll be there to cover it.
Playing the Legislative Waiting Game
Wednesday night, I knew what I wanted to cover. I wanted to talk to Sen. Brian Nieves, the man who made very controversial comments about Attorney General Chris Koster last week during the veto session. So I get to the newsroom Thursday morning and go up to his office. His LA tells me to text him first because "he's a better texter." I did text him and then an hour later, I called him. It went to voicemail and I left a message. 2 hours later, I called him, but it went to voicemail after 2 rings this time. It was evident he was ignoring my call even though his voicemail says "I want to talk to you." Lunch comes and goes with no call back and after trying to get a hold of at least 5 other lawmakers, I wasn't sure I would complete a story. Then I get handed a letter written by Rep. Lynn Morris, one of the "Flimsy 15" members (they call themselves the "fabulous 15," but who's keeping score here?). He has invited those 15 members to Ozark today (Friday) to meet and discuss a path forward on a new tax cut bill they could actually support. Immediately, I get on the phone and am able to reach 3 legislators (Fraker, Phillips, and Walker). I talked with all three of them the day after the veto session about being labeled "Flimsy 15" members and they all defended their vote. Bottom line: I was able to get a story done and be back in Columbia by 6 p.m.
Playing the "legislative waiting game" is not fun. I'm at the mercy of legislators having time to talk with me and who knows if they're in court (some are attorneys), at work, or doing whatever else they're doing. It doesn't help that I'm working at the Capitol during the fall of a non-election year. They don't meet with regularity in the fall anyway, so that doesn't help. Last Wednesday will probably be the only time they will all be in the Capitol at once. But that's the way Missouri politics works.
Overall, I was happy with the story I did about some of the 15 members meeting today in Ozark. The news broke near 3 p.m., so I was glad I was able to talk with three legislators in a short amount of time, knock out a Newsbook, and do two radio spots with good soundbites. Sometimes, that's just the way news works.
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