Election night on November 5th turned into an upset victory for Democrat Trish Gunby in House District 99 which covers portions of St. Louis County. Gunby garnered 3,357 votes to defeat Republican Lee Ann Pitman who came in with 2,855 votes. The seat had been held by Republicans in recent years, and the final tally left Democrats across the state hopeful for more victories in the 2020 election cycle. The closely watched race was held to fill a vacancy created with the resignation last year of Republican Jean Evans.

Governor Mike Parson recently announced that nearly $8 million has been awarded to companies around the state under Missouri’s new One Start Program. The incentive was passed during the 2019 legislative session and was put in place to make sure that businesses have workers with the necessary skills for their jobs. “Helping employers train new and existing workers helps them stay competitive, and that means growth for the business and for our state’s economy,” said Parson. Around 80 companies in the greater St. Louis region were recipients of the funding, which will allow them to provide training for new and existing employees, according to their specific workforce needs.

The Blue Ribbon Panel on Hyperloop released a nearly 200-page report this month, leaving supporters of the futuristic high-speed transportation system very hopeful for its development in Missouri. Proponents of Hyperloop envision the system running parallel to Interstate 70, connecting St. Louis and Kansas City, with a stop in Columbia. The total travel time across the state would be 30 minutes. Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe chaired the Panel and stressed that Hyperloop will not take away from the fact that the road and bridge system in the state is still in desperate need of additional funding.

Former state representative Bruce Franks of St. Louis was recently fined $89,105 by the Missouri Ethics Commission for a litany of campaign violations. Numerous transactions from his campaign account went unreported and “appeared to be for personal use”, according to the consent order posted online by the Ethics commission. Franks failed to report tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and expenditures over the course of several years. Multiple checks were written to Franks himself and other expenditures included payments to a pet hospital, a photography studio and the Hollywood Casino Hotel. In an agreement Franks signed with the Commission, he will be allowed to pay only a percentage of the original fine, provided no other violations are found. The agreement requires Franks to pay monthly installments of $250 to the Attorney General’s Office until the amount of $14,169 is paid off. If other violations are found, or if he does not make the required payments, he will be forced to pay the entire $89,105. Franks resigned from the House in May saying he needed to focus on his mental health and his family.

Pre-filing of bills for the 2020 legislative session will begin on December 1. We will continue to monitor all pre-filed bills, legislative action, and other political happenings in Jefferson City and around the state. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group.