Top GOP officials meet on Missouri redistricting
Monday, April 18, 2011
JEFFERSON CITY — Many of Missouri’s top Republicans from the Legislature and Congress met in Jefferson City on Monday to try to settle a stalemate over redrawing the state’s congressional districts.
U.S. House members Todd Akin, Jo Ann Emerson and Blaine Luetkemeyer were seen entering the Missouri Republican Party headquarters Monday. Akin said they were there to meet about redistricting. Also present were Missouri House Speaker Steven Tilley, Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer and other state lawmakers. A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler said she participated over telephone.
Senate Redistricting Committee Chairman Scott Rupp said afterward that the meeting was productive. Rupp told reporters that there are several sticking points. Republican Senate leaders said Monday that they would like a final map to be approved this week.
“Every single day that we have a conversation about it we inch closer to some type of resolution,” said Rupp, R-Wentzville.
The Legislature is redrawing congressional boundaries after the state lost one of its nine U.S. House seats because the 2010 census found Missouri’s 7 percent population growth over the last decade did not keep pace with the nation.
State lawmakers must approve the new congressional districts and Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon could veto the final proposal. That would force lawmakers to decide whether to try to override it with a two-thirds vote. Republicans control more than two-thirds of the state Senate and are just shy of that in the House.
The Missouri House and Senate each have approved their own proposals that follow the same general outline but have several differences in how the districts fit together. Last week, state Republican leaders bickered over those differences, and House leaders canceled the Monday floor session after the Senate did not acknowledge a request for a formal negotiating session. The request was received during Senate floor debate Monday.
Akin, a Republican who represents a suburban St. Louis district, said he thought one purpose for Monday’s meeting was to make sure everyone was comfortable with the final proposal.
“Everybody has got their ideas. I think it’s more than just congressmen. I think everybody in the state has ideas about how things are supposed to work out,” Akin said. “So it’s just one of those big things that you have to take a lot of time working through the details.”
Under the Senate and House maps, St. Louis would lose a congressman. The two districts that currently cover the city — held by Democratic U.S. Reps. William Lacy Clay and Russ Carnahan — would be grouped into the 1st Congressional District. Most of northern Missouri would be wrapped into a single district currently held by Republican U.S. Rep. Sam Graves.
A Kansas City district would extend east to pick up several rural counties while a swath of Jackson County would be carved out.
The House map puts a bigger chunk of Jefferson County into the 8th Congressional District than the Senate committee. Republican state senators from southeastern Missouri are concerned that adding more people from Jefferson County could shift the district’s focus from the Bootheel to St. Louis.
Other differences between the House and Senate have been where to divide St. Charles County and what southwestern Missouri counties should be included in the 7th District.
House Majority Leader Tim Jones said he thinks the House proposal had a couple advantages.
“The House map has districts that are on the whole, in totality more compact and more contiguous than the Senate map,” said Jones, R-Eureka.
However, Mayer said the Senate’s version already has cleared that chamber, where procedural rules can make approving controversial bills difficult, while picking up support from Republicans and Democrats.
“Most of the Senate was pretty pleased with the Senate map,” said Mayer, R-Dexter.