JEFFERSON CITY, MO. – Less than 48 hours until the end of the session inside the Missouri Capitol, lawmakers aren’t any closer to getting their constitutional job done of redrawing a congressional map.
Each time the clock ticks, the General Assembly gets closer to the Friday deadline. In the Senate, members seem stuck. Now, those inside the Capitol are questioning if they would rather pass a congressional map or send it to the courts.
“Crazy things happen within the last few days of session,” Sen. Bill Eigel (R-Weldon Spring) said.
Senators are working to pass legislation before time runs out Friday at 6 p.m. But some members are holding up the process.
“I’m going to start by reading this bill so we all understand what’s in it,” Eigel said as he started reading a nearly 200-page health care bill.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder (R-Sikeston), was up for its third read in the Senate Wednesday morning when she was questioned by some of her Republican colleagues about what was in the bill.
“You’re admitting to me that you don’t know everything that’s in your bill?,” Sen. Paul Wieland (R-Imperial) questioned Rehder.
“No sir,” Rehder said back.
“You’re handling this bill, but you don’t know everything that’s in there,” Wieland said back.
The bill, Senate Bill 690, includes a provision that would create a “Correctional Center Nursey Program.” That would allow a mother who delivers a baby while in the Department of Corrections custody to allow the infant to stay with the mom for up to 18 months.
While Eigel was reading the bill, Rehder laid the bill over, ending debate. The Senate redistricting committee was supposed to meet at noon Wednesday but committees aren’t allowed to meet while the Senate is in session.
The committee was set to discuss the 6 Republican – 2 Democrat map passed by the House earlier this week. Multiple lawsuits have been filed against the state because lawmakers have failed to redraw the lines for a new congressional map.
Missouri is one of the last states in the nation to get the constitutional duty done. With a deadline of Friday at 6 p.m., the General Assembly is trying to nail down the lines of who represents which Missourians in Congress.
It keeps both military bases, Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base in the 4th District. It also puts more of St. Charles County in the same district. It also puts more of St. Charles in the same district with 25% in the 2nd District and 74% in the 3rd District. In the current map, the population in the county is split 65% to 35%.
It also leaves the Democrat seat, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s district, in Jackson County but splits the county three ways, between the 5th, 6th and 4th Districts. It also chops Webster County, near Springfield into two districts. Under the current map, nearly all of Webster County was in the 4th District, but under the new version would be split in half between the 4th and 7th Districts.
Jefferson City would also be split between the 3rd and the 8th Districts. In his version he proposed Monday, he said that they had to cut farther into Jefferson County in order to keep Phelps County within the 8th District.
Boone County is also split between the 3rd and 4th Districts along Broadway and I-70, frustrating the lawmakers who represent that area.
The House approved the map 104-47 and then later approved the emergency clause with 114 votes, which would make the map effective as soon as the governor signs the legislation.
Missouri is one of four states that has not approved a new congressional map. The other three states, Kansas, New York, and New Hampshire, have all had maps thrown out by the courts. If lawmakers don’t complete the job by Friday night, the map falls into the hands of the courts to draw.
The state’s population after the census was 6,154,913, meaning that the increase in each of the eight congressional districts was 20,000 people. In total, each district needs to have 769,364 Missourians. The 1st district, which represents St. Louis City, and the 8th district, southeast Missouri, both needed more people, while the 7th district, covering southwest Missouri like Joplin needed less.
During Monday’s debate in the House, Rep. Peggy McGaugh. (R-Carrollton) a former county clerk, told her colleagues the reason this needs to be done this week is because of the August primary.
“I’m not speaking on the map, I’m speaking on the process,” McGaugh said. “Time is of the essence. That is very true today.”
She said the last day for any election authority to move a vote based on the new congressional map and their address is May 24. By May 25, ballots are starting to be made for the August election. McGaugh also stressed the concerns of overseas and military ballots since Missourians can start casting those ballots on June 17.
The Boone County Clerk Brianna Lennon from Columbia tweeted Wednesday saying, “If the map passed Friday & we get the GIS data Monday, counties have 1 week to move voters to their new districts in the state voter reg system. We can’t change districts once we start creating the August election on May 24. And absentee ballots need to be ready June 17.”
Sen. Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis) said Tuesday, “The session is over when the maps come up.”
Once the health care bill was laid over Wednesday afternoon, the Senate continued with floor debate, moving on to initiative petition reform. The legislation would make it harder for Missourians to amend the constitution. Medical marijuana and Medicaid expansion were both approved by voters through the initiative petition process. After Democrats held the floor for nearly three hours filibustering, the bill was laid over, ending the debate.
Lawmakers are required to adjourn by Friday at 6 p.m.