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Politically Speaking: Rep. Mitten on legislative fallout from Vandeven’s dismissal

State Rep. Gina Mitten, D-Richmond Heights
File photo I Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
State Rep. Gina Mitten, D-Richmond Heights

On the latest episode of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome back state Rep. Gina Mitten to the program.

A Democrat, Mitten is a lawyer and resides in Richmond Heights. Before she was elected to the General Assembly in 2012, she spent eight years on the Richmond Heights City Council. Mitten serves as the assistant minority leader, making her the second highest-ranking Democrat in the Missouri House.

Despite being greatly outnumbered by Republicans, House Democrats managed to make an impact on a number of fronts this year. They were able to contribute in the budget process, most notably with a proposal to shift unused money to restore cuts to in-home care services. House Democrats also served as vocal critics of Gov. Eric Greitens’ agenda, including the governor’s successful bid to oust Margie Vandeven as the state’s education commissioner.

Getting rid of Vandeven elicited criticism from both Republicans and Democrats. In fact, Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, told the Springfield News-Leader that he plans to filibuster Greitens’ board of education nominees who haven’t received Senate approval yet. Board members defended the decision, pointing to weak assessments for Missouri’s schoolchildren.

Here’s what Mitten had to say during the podcast.

  • Mitten has questioned whether getting rid of Vandeven will actually help boost test scores. She said poverty is a more important factor in student performance than who leads the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Until we address that, and frankly, address the wraparound services that are needed in every public school district, the status quo is going to remain,” she said. “It’s not about the bureaucracy, it’s about attacking the problem.”
  • She also expects that Romine isn’t the only Republican senator upset with Greitens’ board of education appointees. The legislature will take up the governor’s nominations to the state board in January.
  • Mitten said the legislature should deal with some of the shortcomings of Amendment 2, which imposed campaign donation limits on state-based campaigns. For one thing, she said lawmakers should make it more difficult for candidates to coordinate with political action committees which, for the most part, are unrestricted under the new donation limits.
  • While stressing that it’s still fairly early, Mitten is hoping Democrats can make gains in the Missouri House during next year’s election cycle. She said if voters have an adverse reaction to President Donald Trump’s job performance, that could make a big difference in the outcome in Missouri-based races. “We’re going across the state. And we’re letting people know we’re here, we’re organized and we need their help in 2018,” she said.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Gina Mitten on Twitter: @gcmitts

Music: “Independent Women Part 1” by Destiny’s Child

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.