JEFFERSON CITY - Both the Senate and House are poised to consider the formal rebuke of a senior black lawmaker from St. Louis.
On Tuesday, during a radio interview on the possibility of transferring control of Lambert Airport from St. Louis City to a regional board, Rep. Quincy Troupe, a Democrat, tarred the measure's sponsor as racist. Sen. Steve Ehlmann, Troupe said,"just needs to put on his hood and declare himself the grand dragon or the imperial wizard."
Ehlmann, the Republican floor leader, denied being a racist.
Troupe's refusal to apologize prompted the introduction Thursday of a remonstrance, or collective and official disapproval, in the House and Senate. This is the first time in recent memory that a remonstrance has targeted a sitting legislator.
Under legislative rules, the remonstrances will now be sent to the Rules Committee. If discharged from committee, each body would then vote the measure up or down.
During the interview with KMOX radio Troupe also said other St. Charles lawmakers and residents are racist.
"I'm not going to back off of my position," a defiant Troupe said Thursday.
But a leading black Senator disagreed with Troupe's characterization.
"I don't know Ehlmann to be a racist," said Sen. Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis City.
While Clay isn't endorsing Troupe's semantics, neither is he calling for an apology.
"I believe Quincy had some concerns on his mind about some of the recent actions taken by my colleague, Steve Ehlmann," Clay said. "If he feels as though the City of St. Louis is under attack by St. Charles residents then let's talk about it, not hurl rhetoric and insults at each other."
Such rhetoric may be the stuff of which Missouri politics is made, however.
For example, with the collision of blackface photos and a federal judgeship last Fall, Mel Carnahan and John Ashcroft sparred over the issue.
This time, expansion of the Metrolink rail system and fight over control of Lambert Airport appear to have driven the racial wedge.
St. Louis City is about half black. It operates Lambert Airport, which sends flights over the overwhelmingly white county of St. Charles. A proposed expansion would possibly increase noise over Ehlmann's district.
Troupe has claimed the bias of white suburbanites is evident in opposition to the initiatives of black city leaders.
Responsible, regional dialogue is the answer, Clay said.
"We all need to be mature now to realize that we are all inextricably tied together as a region," Clay said. "It's not St. Charles versus St. Louis City and we better realize that for our own survivability."