ST. LOUIS—On a cold Tuesday morning in North St. Louis, dozens turned out for a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the start of construction of the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Center in the Vandeventer neighborhood just east of the Ranken Tech campus at Finney and Newstead.

It will combine access to cutting edge technology and job development in 150,000 square-foot facility made possible in part by $15 million in state funds

House Speaker and Lt. Gov. candidate Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres was among those recognized at the event. The past few months have found Plocher at the center of political turmoil amid reporting from the Missouri Independent that found he filed false expense reports with the legislature seeking reimbursement for things his campaign had already paid for. His role in a failed push for the House to approve an $800,000 contract with a company to manage constituent information has also brought scrutiny.

After Plocher joined Governor Mike Parson and other elected officials to turn ceremonial dirt on the project Tuesday, Plocher pushed back on the controversies that have some elected Republicans turning dirt on Plocher’s tenure as Speaker ahead of his final legislative session starting in January.

“My conscience is clear. I sleep well at night. I’m not gonna let this sideshow detract me or the legislature from getting good work done for the state of Missouri. We’re moving the state in the right direction. We’re not gonna let this sideshow detract us,” he said.

The Missouri House Ethics Committee meets again Wednesday Dec. 6 in Jefferson City to “discuss a personnel inquiry and House Ethics Complaint,” issues The Independent reports refer to Plocher.

A handful of House Republicans, including State Rep. Adam Schwadron, State Rep. Mazzie Boyd, and State Rep. Doug Richey, have already called for Plocher’s resignation as Speaker. That number could grow, depending on the Ethics Committee’s work.


Williams mum on Congressional bid

Tuesday’s event gave State Sen. Brian Williams, D-University City, a possible candidate to enter a primary against U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis and St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell a platform in front of some key local and statewide political players. Williams helped secure $15 million in state funding for the AMIC project. Williams shared credit and acknowledged Republicans and Democrats in his prepared remarks at the podium, where he pointed out that his office has brought around $100 million to the St. Louis region.

“It’s going to be a groundbreaking situation for St. Louis, North St. Louis. Matching the Build Back Better funding creating jobs, advancing workforce development, giving folks an opportunity to be able to have a quality job here in this region so I’m extremely excited about it. It’s a beautiful day in the city of St. louis,” Williams told reporters afterward. 

He declined to comment on if or when he might enter the race. 

The week ahead

Friday Dec. 1: The first day Missouri lawmakers can pre-file legislation for the 2024 regular session that starts Jan. 3.

Plocher expects to see many proposals that didn’t get across the finish line this year to come back again. 

“A lot of crime components are going to be filed again. We’ve got to crack down on crime, make our cities safe, our streets safe for our children,” Plocher, who said in September that returning the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to a state-controlled board would be back on the table next year after dying in the Senate in the waning weeks of the 2023 session.

The city has seen a reduction in violent crime, with year-to-date homicides trending well below previous years, with 144 reported as of Wednesday morning. It’s the first time since 2019 (194) that the city reported fewer than 200 homicides by the same date.

Both of the police unions representing SLMPD officers have said they would again back a return to state control.

“We also need to make sure we’re recruiting and retaining police officers and those that serving in the community and I think that’s going to be looked at,” Plocher said. “We’re glad that crime is seemingly going in the right direction finally but we have to keep it going in the right direction and we’re still very high compared to our national peers so there’s more to be done.”

There will likely be a new attempt at initiative petition reform, Plocher predicted, as Republicans have warned that without it, ballot proposals seeking to restore abortion rights in Missouri would gain passage under the existing system that only requires a simple majority.

Without endorsing a specific threshold, Gov. Parson said Tuesday that changes were necessary.

“I think over half the states in the United States don’t even have it so I think it’s a good possibility to have that conversation. I think it should be more difficult when you start changing the law and changing the constitution without going through the legislative process,” Parson said. 

Sunday Dec. 3: The college football world learns school assignments for bowl games. The University of Missouri is expected to land in one of the “New Year’s 6” bowl games (Cotton, Fiesta, Peach, Orange). Anything outside of those games will trigger outrage among Mizzou faithful, including the state’s elected officials, many of whom are graduates.

Monday Dec. 4: The last day for Illinois candidates to file to run in the primaries being held March 19. The filing period began Nov. 27. U.S. Rep. Mary Miller was the lone incumbent representing the Metro East in Congress who did not file on the opening day. Records show her campaign did so on Nov. 28. 

Tuesday Dec. 5: The first day of filing in Missouri for municipal elections that will be held Apri 2, 2024. The filing period closes Dec. 26. It’s a particularly significant period for a pair of north St. Louis county school districts–Riverview Gardens and the Normandy Schools Collaborative–which will see their school boards return to fully-elected members after years of state-appointed oversight. 

Wednesday Dec. 6: The Missouri House Ethics Committee meets in Jefferson City.