Mo. House OKs another proposed redistricting map

By CHRIS BLANK

Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Frustrated Missouri House members endorsed a new congressional redistricting plan during an unusual Friday session, offering an alternative to senators who had already left town for a long Easter weekend after previous compromise attempts failed.

Some lawmakers believed Friday was the deadline to send a final redistricting map to Gov. Jay Nixon and ensure that enough time remained for a potential override this spring if the proposal was vetoed. A veto override attempt otherwise would have to wait until the fall.

Missouri lawmakers are drawing a new U.S. House map because the state lost one of its nine congressional seats after the 2010 Census found Missouri’s 7 percent population growth over the last decade did not keep pace with the nation. The new map also must account for population shifts within the state, including an exodus from St. Louis to its outer suburbs.

The Democratic governor has not said whether he will sign or veto any of the redistricting proposals from the Republican-led Legislature.

Private discussions continued Thursday but broke down early Friday morning. The House approved a new redistricting proposal that made changes in the western part of the state and near St. Louis to reduce some senators’ concerns. But bad feelings from the previous night’s failed talks carried into Friday’s House debate.

At the start of the session, one Republican House member pointed to an empty visitor’s observation gallery and asked to welcome the senators who negotiated in good faith, which prompted a sarcastic standing ovation from some lawmakers. The session ended with the House majority leader briefly exiting the back of the chamber before returning to say that the Senate was dark and looked closed for the weekend.

House leaders said they had doubts about whether the Senate ever intended to negotiate the previous night.

“The House been very willing to work with the Senate,” said House Speaker Steven Tilley, R-Perryville. “For lack of a better word, I don’t think we’ve seen leadership from the Senate that we’d like to have.”

Sen. Ron Richard said many lawmakers were not informed about the progress of negotiations and sticking points.

“I’m pretty upset,” said Richard, R-Joplin, a former House speaker who came to the Capitol dressed for work Friday but with nothing to vote on. “Now we just lost our ability to override the governor” during the legislative session that ends May 13.

Republicans who have healthy majorities in the House and the Senate remain unable to hammer out differences between two maps that follow the same general outline. Several GOP members of Congress and state lawmakers met earlier this week at the Missouri Republican Party headquarters in Jefferson City to resolve a stalemate that includes how to handle several counties near St. Louis, particularly St. Charles and Jefferson counties.

The House earlier this month approved a map with a more even division of St. Charles County into two congressional districts. It also placed a significant chunk of Jefferson County into the 8th Congressional District covering southeastern Missouri. Senators last week endorsed a map that put most of St. Charles County into one district and a smaller segment of the county into another. The Senate map also called for carving out a smaller slice of Jefferson County for the southeastern Missouri district that stretches to the Bootheel.

But acrimony appeared to remain as House and Senate negotiators worked largely in private to reach a deal.

Senate Redistricting Committee Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, said his priority was to develop a fair map that can win Senate approval.

“My job is to carry the football across the goal line, and it’s hard if every day you wake up and the goal line has been moved,“ he said Thursday.

Under proposals from both chambers, 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.

Most of the focus has been on disagreements among Republican leaders, but several House Democrats also renewed their objections Friday to the proposed districts.

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