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Poison pill aimed at Dooley is removed from bill

This article first, appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 14, 2009 - St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley is no longer in danger of being blocked from running for re-election.

That's the word from state Rep. John Diehl, R-Town and Country, who says he succeeded late Tuesday in removing the offending provision from SB386, a bill dealing with various local government matters.

The errant words in question?

"Section 3. Every person seeking election to the position of county executive or presiding commissioner for any charter county with an assessed valuation of fifteen billion dollars or more shall hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited four-year university."

St. Louis County is the only county that would have been affected, and the qualification appears clearly aimed at County Executive Charlie Dooley, a Democrat, who does not have a college degree. Dooley initially became county executive when incumbent Buzz Westfall died in 2003; Dooley was elected to a full term in 2006 and is expected to run for re-election in 2010.

Wednesday night, state Rep. Mark Parkinson, R-St. Charles, acknowledged being the author of the amendment. But he denies that Dooley was his target. He said he was unaware of Dooley's background.

"I believe it's good public policy'' that a major county executive "should have some experience with economics and finance.'' Parkinson said. So why make the amendment only applicable to St. Louis County? Parkinson said that he was amenable to broadening the amendment to all charter counties by taking out the $15 billion reference, which he said he had picked at random. That means the amendment could have applied also to Jackson, St. Charles and Jefferson counties.

Parkinson was unaware of Diehl's action killing the amendment. After he was advised by the Beacon, Parkinson cut the interview short. A few minutes later, he called back after conferring with Diehl. "It's gone,'' said Parkinson. Is it coming back? "No," Parkinson replied.

Diehl is a member of the House Local Government Committee and says the provision was never voted on by the panel, and apparently was added in as a "committee substitute."

Diehl said he spotted it during the floor action Tuesday night. "It was there. I didn't agree with it. I got it taken out,'' said Diehl, who used to be chairman of the St. Louis County Election Board before running for his legislative seat.

State Rep. Rachel Storch, D-St. Louis, said few were aware of the anti-Dooley section, which she called "mean-spirited."

The bill is now before the Senate, which had approved a stripped-down version earlier. An aide to state Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah and the original sponsor, said many House provisions were added Tuesday -- and will be tossed out in a House-Senate conference committee.

But Diehl says there's no doubt that the anti-Dooley provision is already history. It's just that the committee substitute remains on the Legislature's Web site. The later version won't be on the Web until the conference committee does its work, he said.

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.