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After decades of contemplation and debate, a group known as Better Together is recommending an end to the “Great Divorce” between St. Louis and St. Louis County.Better Together is proposing an ambitious plan to create a unified metro government and police department and limit municipalities' ability to levy sales taxes. The plan would be decided through a statewide vote.Proponents contend it will scrape away layers of local government that has been holding the St. Louis region back. Opponents believe the plan will create an unwieldy and large centralized government that could be implemented against the will of city and county residents.

Politically Speaking: Missouri Rep. Franks On Frustrations, Opportunities Of 2019 Session

Community activists, including State Rep. Bruce Franks Jr., are asking Gov. Mike Parson to pardon or commute the sentence of Joshua Williams.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
State Rep. Bruce Franks, D-St. Louis

Rep. Bruce Franks returns for his third appearance on Politically Speaking, where the St. Louis Democrat talked about how he’s been faring during his third year in the Missouri House.

Franks first burst on the Missouri political scene in 2016, when he defeated (after a high-profile redo election) incumbent Penny Hubbard. He was elected to another term last year without opposition, getting another two years to represent a part of eastern St. Louis.

After a first term that saw a decent amount of success for a Democrat in the super minority, Franks said that he’s had a more frustrating 2019 session. For one thing, his effort to get more money for summer-jobs programs in the state budget faltered. That comes amid increasing scrutiny of SLATE, a St. Louis agency that helps connect people with jobs.

Republicans that control the Missouri House have also been successful at passing some of their key priorities, including legislation that could ban abortion after eight weeks of a pregnancy. The GOP is also primed to send a constitutional amendment repealing a new state legislative redistricting system that voters approved in 2018.

Franks said that the two parties have worked together on some key issues, most notably legislation that would allow people to expunge marijuana-related offenses from their records. But he said he hasn’t seen collaboration on issues that matter to the black community, such as reducing gun violence and overhauling the relationship with law enforcement.

Here’s what Franks had to say during the show:

  • Franks said he’s banking on Sen. Jamilah Nasheed securing more funds for summer-jobs programs. Nasheed is part of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which has a big say over what goes in the state budget.
  • He said he’s opposed to a plan that the group Better Together put forward to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County. Like some other black elected officials, Franks believes the proposal will make it more difficult for African American officials to wield meaningful power in the St. Louis region.
  • Franks was a supporter of Clean Missouri, which created a new state legislative redistricting system giving a lot of power to a demographer to draw House and Senate districts.
  • Franks also talked about Dennis “DJ” Wilson, a journalist who died last week of brain cancer. Franks was a guest on Wilson’s show “Collateral Damage,” which was a staple for years on KDHX.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Bruce Franks on Twitter: @brucefranksjr

Music: “Love, Reign O'er Me” by The Who

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.

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