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.

There was a sense of urgency when Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens called the first special session on May 18, aimed primarily at reopening an aluminum-smelting operation that had been southeast Missouri’s largest employer.

But in the weeks since Republicans gave the new governor what he wanted, there’s been no communication between smelting-plant officials and the state agency tasked with approving lower utility rates for such projects. However, leaders in the area are pinning their job-creation hopes on the other issue in that special session — a new steel mill that could employ up to 200 people.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill still doesn’t know who she’ll be up against in the 2018 midterm elections. She’s ready for the fight, however, having banked a little more than $5.1 million.

That’s almost twice the size of her campaign fund in July 2011, which was the last time she was preparing for a re-election contest.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft is responding to angry voters throughout the state after he said June 30 that he’d partially comply with a data request from a White House panel investigating voter fraud.

His reasoning, as explained Thursday: He wants fair elections.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens fought back tears Thursday as he explained why it was important for him to sign a measure creating a system to swiftly notify the public when an on-duty police officer is wounded.

For 118 years, Missouri has been represented in the U.S. Capitol’s esteemed Statuary Hall by two statues of slavery opponents from the 1800s: Francis Preston Blair Jr., and Thomas Hart Benton (the politician, not the painter.)

That’s likely to change, according to U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill, who issued a rare joint news release a few days ago to declare, in effect, that they’re wild about Harry S. Truman and optimistic his statue will soon bump Blair’s.

U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, a Republican from Ballwin, has upended Missouri’s 2018 expected contest for the U.S. Senate by announcing Monday that she won’t challenge Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.

Wagner instead plans to seek re-election for the House seat she has held since 2013.

She had been expected to announce her Senate candidacy in the next few weeks.  A number of Republicans and Democrats already had been privately maneuvering to run for her 2nd District seat, once she declared her Senate bid.

Just hours before Missouri’s new fiscal year begins, Gov. Eric Greitens on Friday announced that he was trimming more than $250 million in budgeted state spending, concerned that the state’s income would not cover all of legislators’ allocations.

Most of the trims, called “withholds,” are temporary and could be restored if the state’s finances improve. They largely affect dozens of programs in the state’s departments of health, social services and higher education.  For example, Greitens is withholding $60 million of the state’s share of Medicaid spending but predicts the money likely won’t be needed to match the federal portion of the Medicaid spending.

The Missouri Secretary of State’s office will comply with a White House commission’s request for voter information — but only the details allowed under state law.

Missouri will provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with voters’ names, addresses, voting sites and elections they voted in, said Maura Browning, communications director for Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft. But the state will not give the commission any Missouri voter’s Social Security number, political-party affiliation or identify how they voted, Browning said.

A Missouri appeals court helped labor groups Tuesday, giving them a backup plan in their attempt to block the new right-to-work law that’ll take effect Aug. 28.

The court ruled that the state must restore the original ballot language for initiative petitions that seek a constitutional amendment to make sure Missouri can’t have any right-to-work laws. Such laws bar unions and employers from requiring workers to pay dues or fees.

A small building nestled off Interstate 70 in Collinsville looks like a typical doctor’s office, until you get inside and look up close at the colorful artwork on the walls. They’re portraits of marijuana plants.

At this dispensary, about 12 miles east of the Missouri border, patients and the medical staff have lively conversations about the various medical marijuana products available, from brownies and blueberry-flavored candies to transdermal patches.

Updated at 11:15 a.m. June 26 with comment from Ashcroft — Missouri’s top labor group says the union effort to go to the ballot box next year to block “right to work’’ remains on course, despite a judge’s ruling Thursday that changes the ballot language.

The state AFL-CIO already has collected “tens of thousands of signatures,’’ said spokeswoman Laura Swinford. But those signatures were on petitions that contained the original summary ballot language that had been approved by Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Politically Speaking podcast team of Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies were on the road again Wednesday, this time to Picasso’s coffeehouse in the historic downtown of St. Charles. The two welcomed state Sens. Bob Onder and Bill Eigel, Republicans who represent much of St. Charles County.

Onder, of Lake St. Louis, and Eigel, of Weldon Spring, focused on a variety issues and fielded a number of tough questions from the audience. Each praised Gov. Eric Greitens for calling a special legislative session, now underway, to deal with the abortion issue. Both are outspoken opponents of abortion.

Missouri is the only state in the U.S. using consumer-protection laws to pursue a website that’s accused of advertising illegal sexual activity such as human trafficking, Attorney General Josh Hawley says.

Hawley’s office says it has filed a lawsuit Thursday in state court in St. Charles as a way to try to force Backpage.com to turn over documents that Hawley contends may be helping traffickers evade prosecution in the state and elsewhere. It’s the second time Hawley has sought court intervention in recent weeks.


Updated at 7:45 p.m. with changes to Onder's bill — Missouri’s GOP legislative majority is virtually unanimous in its opposition to abortion, but the divisions within their ranks were laid bare by a number of competing abortion regulation bills filed in the second special session of the year.

When it goes into its second special session Monday, the Missouri General Assembly will focus on a frequent — and arguably, favorite — target: local control.

On issues ranging from gun rights to anti-discrimination regulations, Republican leaders have made it clear that they believe there should be a consistent law across Missouri. That’s why since 2007, they’ve approved bills to bar communities from enacting stricter gun laws, overturned Kansas City’s higher minimum wage (there’s an action pending against St. Louis’ higher wage, too), and tossed out Columbia’s plastic bag ban.

As promised, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is calling lawmakers back to Jefferson City — for the second time — to target organizations and local governments that support abortion rights.

The session begins next Monday. “I'm pro-life, and I believe that we need to defend life and promote a culture of life here in the state of Missouri,” the governor said in his announcement on Facebook.

Public schools and other institutions in Missouri that receive state money likely won’t see any last-minute cuts before the fiscal year ends June 30, budget chief Dan Haug said Friday.

That’s even with the state’s income collections running slightly behind estimates used to craft the current budget.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens appears to be reinforcing his anti-union image, inviting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — who also has built a reputation for taking on unions — to a rally Tuesday, where Greitens signed a bill outlawing a longstanding practice.

The bill bans cities and counties from using project labor agreements, which have been in use in the St. Louis area for decades. PLAs require all subcontractors to pay union wages, and often bar work stoppages over labor disagreements. Already, there are PLA bans on state projects.

For proof of Missouri’s prominent place in the national abortion debate, one only needs to look at the two developments energizing abortion rights and anti-abortion activists.

Due to a recent federal court ruling, Missouri, which only has one abortion clinic at the moment, likely will see several others open in the coming months — a rarity in the U.S. And St. Louis will be engaged in a legal battle over a new ordinance that bars employers and landlords from discriminating against women who obtain abortions.

Updated 7:45 p.m. May 22  with number of bills filed Monday – On the eve of his first legislative special session, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and his allied nonprofit group are attacking one of the pivotal legislators  needed to win approval of the governor’s favored bill.

The nonprofit group is called A New Missouri and can collect unlimited donations from unidentified donors. It is targeting state Sen. Doug Libla, a Republican whose southeast Missouri district includes the now-closed aluminum smelting plant that Greitens hopes to reopen, along with a possible steel mill.

Libla says he supports the projects. But the senator questions some provisions in the expected special-session bill that he says could reduce state oversight over Ameren, which provides electricity to much of eastern Missouri.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said Thursday she thinks it’s important for Congress to “repair, not repealthe federal Affordable Care Act, which she says is under threat by the Trump administration’s hints that it won’t continue to pay subsidies to participating insurance companies.

About 40 counties in Missouri have only one insurer participating in the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplace.

Updated May 19 with Gov. Eric Greitens' plans to campaign for the legislation  — Missouri lawmakers will return to Jefferson City next week to consider legislation aimed at boosting the chances that the Noranda aluminum smelter plant will reopen and that a new steel plant will be built.

Gov. Eric Greitens is holding four rallies Saturday to promote legislation he says will help both southeast Missouri projects. The session will begin at 4 p.m. Monday.

Missouri lawmakers solved the puzzle over federally mandated IDs on Thursday night, sending Republican Gov. Eric Greitens a bill that would ease travelers’ and military members’ worries come January.

It was one of several pieces of legislation that reached the finish line ahead of the 6 p.m. Friday deadline for the 2017 session. Here’s a look at Thursday’s action:

Updated May 30 with news of appeal — Missouri's attorney general will appeal a federal court ruling that struck down parts of the state's limits on campaign finance.

In a statement released Tuesday, Republican Josh Hawley said it was his duty as attorney general to defend the laws and constitution of Missouri. A federal judge earlier this month kept in place donation limits, but threw out a ban on certain committee-to-committee transfers.

Seventy percent of voters approved the amendment in November.

Almost $1.3 million went into this year’s failed attempt to persuade St. Louis voters to help fund an MLS stadium, according to campaign finance reports filed Thursday.

The report, posted on the Missouri Ethics Commission website, shows AspireSTL raised just under $1.2 million for their failed quest to pass Proposition 2 in the April 4 election.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt for years wasn’t shy about his disdain for the Affordable Care Act, condemning it on the Senate floor, in town hall meetings and during interviews.

Then came Tuesday, when the Republican said fixing President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law doesn’t hinge on whether Congress takes action this week to do away with it entirely.

The Missouri state auditor is the only official who examines how every other statewide office and most taxpayer-funded institutions —large or small, county governments and municipalities included — spend their money.

As a result, it’s often the auditor who shows up on the news when there’s evidence of misused or missing money, which explains why you’ve heard from Nicole Galloway recently. One of her high-profile reports brought to light that top officials in the University of Missouri System were receiving pricey bonuses, which has since stopped.

While Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and potential GOP rival U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner collect millions of dollars in campaign donations, many Missouri officials are raising far less as they adjust to new state campaign donation limits.

Campaign finance reports from Jan. 1 to March 31 also showed that Gov. Eric Greitens spent more than a half-million dollars in that timespan, with a large chunk going toward a media services firm run by Georgia-based consultant Nick Ayers, who also has done work for Vice President Mike Pence.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill was prepared Wednesday for a repeat of the hostile reception she received at her last town hall in politically volatile Jefferson County in 2009.

Updated at 5:45 p.m. with Greitens' office comment Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has set up a task force that’s meant to examine which of the state’s hundreds of boards and commissions are necessary and which ones are not.

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