© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Politically Speaking: Sen. Onder discusses fight over SJR 39 — and the Senate slowdown over ethics

Bob Onder
Marshall Griffin I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome back Sen. Bob Onder. The Lake Saint Louis Republican was a guest on the show in 2014 soon after he was elected to his first term in the Missouri Senate.

Onder represents part of St. Charles County. His district includes most of that county’s fast-growing western suburbs, including Wentzville, O’Fallon, Lake Saint Louis and part of St. Peters.

During his second full year in the Missouri Senate, Onder has made waves with his advocacy of SJR 39. That proposed constitutional amendment would legally shield certain businesses that deny services to same-sex couples based on “sincere religious belief.” Onder and other proponents of the measure say SJR 39 could prevent costly lawsuits against wedding vendors, which has occurred in other states that have laws protecting the LGBT community against discrimination.

But Missouri's proposed amendment has attracted a lot of opposition from civil liberties organizations and traditionally Republican business groups. Many opponents fear that passage of SJR 39 could trigger economic blowback, similar to what’s happened in North Carolina and Indiana.  The measure passed the Senate, but currently is stuck in a House committee.

Onder also handled a number of ethics-related bills that originated in the Missouri House. But many of these proposals ran into substantial Senate opposition and were dramatically changed in the legislative process.

In addition to his legislative duties, Onder has been active in the presidential contest. He endorsed GOP hopeful Ted Cruz earlier this year, but is seeking to become a delegate who would vote for Republican front-runner Donald Trump on the first ballot at the presidential convention in Cleveland. If Trump doesn’t get enough delegates on the first ballot, Missouri’s delegates can vote for another candidate.

Among Onder's other observations during the show:

  • While business leaders have expressed worry that SJR 39 could spark an economic backlash, Onder contends those fears are overblown. He said a boycott of Arizona over an immigration law fell flat, and added that Indiana has maintained good economic growth since it passed a broader measure than SJR 39.
  • Onder also noted that while various business groups are opposed to SJR 39, the Missouri Farm Bureau came out in favor of the measure.
  • Onder was surprised that some ethics proposals ran into Senate opposition. But he said some of the final products are significant, including a six-month "cooling off" period before lawmakers can become lobbyists. “The process was not as smooth as I might have anticipated, but in the end I think we got some very good bills done,” he said.
  • Onder noted that it isn't unheard of  for a candidate who enters a political convention with the most delegates not to win a presidential nomination. That occurred in 1860, when Abraham Lincoln outflanked Salmon Chase and initial frontrunner William Seward for the GOP presidential nomination. It also happened in 1912, when Woodrow Wilson denied Missourian Champ Clark the Democratic presidential nomination.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Bob Onder on Twitter: @bobondermo

Music: “Hearts/Wires” by Deftones

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