JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Two St. Louis area state lawmakers are trying to quiet discussion about a St. Louis City and County merger in the state Capitol.
Sen. Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, and Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, filed a resolution Wednesday. It would prevent the General Assembly from taking a position on the issue, leaving it up to the voters of the county and city.
“Somebody in Cass County or in another part of the state doesn’t know what things are like in our particular area,” Walsh said. “It’s different than it is in a rural area and we should be making the decision as to what happens to our cities and counties.”
Ever since the great divorce of the county and city in 1876, there has been talk of bringing the two entities back together. Sometimes that talk happens in Jefferson City, where lawmakers could put a consolidation up to a statewide vote.
Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, got the attention of St. Louis area lawmakers last year when he suggested he would like to explore the idea.
“Change really needs to come from the ground up, not the top down. Certainly, a top-down solution would be having a statewide vote on it and changing our Constitution,” Dogan said. “Because right now our Constitution requires the voters of the city and county to approve something like this, and we would just like to keep it that way.”
As part of their reasoning, Walsh and Dogan point to votes in local council chambers. About 60 of the county’s nearly 90 municipalities have passed resolutions opposing a statewide vote or legislative mandate for bringing the county and city back together.
Dogan and Walsh also point to a 1962 statewide vote, where nearly 75 percent of Missourians voted against a merger.
“I’ve taken the position when I was on the Board of Alderman in Ballwin and pretty consistently since that I don’t support a merger of the city and county,” Dogan said. “But with that being said, I do support looking at ways to save taxpayer money through consolidation and municipalities merging with one another in Saint Louis County.”
Dogan said he would like to see the city and county each work to solve some of their own problems before exploring a merger.