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Politically Speaking: As New Speaker, Diehl Is Big On Business, Not Keen On Tolls

House Speaker John Diehl, R-Town and Country
Rebecca Smith, St. Louis Public Radio

The Politically Speaking podcast team welcomes the man who may be the most powerful legislator in the Missouri Capitol for the next two years: House Speaker-elect John Diehl, R-Town and Country. 

On this, his third appearance on the show, Diehl once again was pithy and candid.

Diehl, 49, is a lawyer and graduate of DeSmet Jesuit High School. He has been in the state House since 2009.

As speaker, Diehl – like his recent predecessors – plans to focus on the state’s economy and what he believes is the best way to improve it. But he says his approach will be to highlight “success stories in the state, how we can emulate that” to attract and retain more businesses.

Diehl said he also plans to direct his message to young people, who he says have a chance to make a difference if they “stay out of trouble and work hard. There are opportunities in this state to get a job and do well. And be part of some of the cutting edge things going on in the global economy.”

His other observations include:

  • “I don’t think it’s the role of government to produce economic development…. What we can do is promote what we do well in this state.”
  • Missouri needs to play off of its strengths. “We should be a transportation hub, we should be a hub for agriculture,” he said.
  • He’s leery of Gov. Jay Nixon’s call for putting some toll roadsf along Interstate 70. He suspects the governor may be considering a way to avoid legislative action or a public vote should he decide tolls are the way to go.
  • When it comes to the unrest in Ferguson, Diehl says any legislative attention would likely center primarily on education and economic opportunities. But he also believes that legislators can only do so much to deal with issues that go back decades. He promises hearings on Nixon's actions -- and perceived failings -- in dealing with the unrest and violence.

Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter@csmcdaniel

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter@jmannies

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter@jrosenbaum

Follow John Diehl on Twitter:@johndiehljr

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.
Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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