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Onder: ‘There needs to be accountability’ for shutdowns

More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic began impacting Missourians, Sen. Bob Onder continues to push for the curbing of local officials’ power during health emergencies. 

“I think whether rural or urban, there needs to be accountability to the people, accountability to voters and their elected officials,” Onder said. “This is different than shutting down a restaurant because of salmonella or E. coli or a boil water order after a flood. Shutting down a class of business or making people stay at home, this is really unprecedented and there needs to be accountability.”

Onder attempted to address the issue with SB 12, which would have lessened the power of local officials during health emergencies in various ways, including limiting shutdown orders to 15 days before requiring approval from local governing bodies. The bill was rejected on a perfection vote last month, but a similar House measure is working its way through the legislature. 

Onder appeared on Sunday’s episode of “This Week in Missouri Politics” to discuss the impact of the pandemic on everything from the economy to education. He also reviewed concerns from his constituents over last year’s elections. 

“One of the No. 1 issues I hear about from my constituents right now to my office is on this issue of election integrity,” Onder said. “Close to 80 percent of Republicans think the presidential election was stolen. … A lot of times that has to do with absentee voting and voter rolls not being cleaned up. The gold standard for election integrity is in-person voting on Election Day with voter ID.”

Medicaid expansion

State Reps. Donna Baringer and Chad Perkins, Alderwoman-elect Anne Schweitzer, and Jamey Murphy joined this week’s panel to discuss Medicaid expansion, an item that was voted down in the House Budget Committee and failed to make it onto the budget as an amendment before it passed to the upper chamber. Numerous groups are pushing for an appropriation by the legislature.

“It shouldn’t be called Medicaid expansion anymore, and that’s because it was put on the ballot. The voters overwhelmingly voted for it, so it is in our constitution and so it’s just basically another line item,” Baringer said. “This isn’t just about people who don’t have money. This is about the middle class who do have insurance, and we’re going to have to stop putting this burden on the middle class.” 

The group also covered the race for outgoing U.S. Senator Roy Blunt’s seat, where a couple of Republican heavyweights have officially thrown their hats in the ring and numerous other announcements are possible. Perkins addressed the possibility of a crowded Republican primary and a potential bid by former Gov. Jay Nixon

“If you get six or seven Republicans to hop in, it’s anybody’s game,” Perkins said. “If it’s Eric Schmitt versus Eric Greitens, I think Eric Schmitt can win that. I think that Jay Nixon is probably the most moderate Democrat potential candidate. I think he could possibly win a general election. I don’t know if he can win a primary.”

Watch the full episode of “This Week in Missouri Politics” below, or listen to the podcast version here.