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Taxation without Representation?

January 18, 2002
By: Robert Sandler
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Some people get two senators while some get none. That may not seem fair, but it's the case facing some Missourians from the new state legislative districts drawn by a panel of judges.

The Missouri Constitution requires that legislative boundaries be redrawn every ten years after the national census.

Every time the lines are redrawn, some people find themselves in entirely new legislative districts -- with new members and new numbers.

In the House, these boundary and district numbering shifts work out because the entire House is up for election every two years.

But in the Senate, a problem arises because only half the chamber is up for election every two years. So, after this year's election, one half of the Senate will come from the new districts and while the other half will still be representing the old districts.

That can, and will next year, leave some areas of the state with nobody to represent them in the Senate and some with two senators.

One such area that will find itself "Senatorless" is the area covered by the old 20th District.

The 20th District covers nine counties in southeast Missouri. It has been moved to southwest Missouri to take in parts of four counties around Springfield.

Most of the new district for southeast Missouri -- the 20th District -- will become District 3. It's switching an area represented by an even-numbered district to an odd-numbered district that creates the problem.

Sen. Danny Staples, who represents the 20th District (the older southeast Missouri version), says the result is that his constituents will have no senator for two years.

Here's how.

Even-numbered districts are up for election this year. So Staples, banned by term limits from seeking reelection, will be gone. The new senator for 20th District will be filled by someone elected from the Springfield area.

Odd-numbered districts are not up for election until 2004. Which means that southeast Missouri goes for two years not being able to elect a senator for their Third District.

The Third District does have a senator, Democrat Harry Kennedy. But he's from an area quite different than the rural, rolling hills of southeast Missouri -- St. Louis City.

In total, there are nine rural counties of the 20th District, with more than 144,000 people, who cannot elect their own senator for two years.

"I wonder what the people of the city of St. Louis would do if they couldn't have a mayor for two years," Staples said.

"Sometimes in the past, there has been a county, like with 17,000 to 20,000 people, and the neighboring senator just adopted it," Staples said. "But it would be impossible to adopt an entire senatorial district."

Kennedy said he would try to represent both his existing district and his new district.

"I will be representing the people who elected me until 2004, and then I will be helping those folks in the new senatorial district," Kennedy said. "You can't leave those people out to hang."

Kennedy said he attended a club meeting in the new district last month and plans to attend more in the future.

Even while he said he will try to represent both the old and new districts, he intends to remain in the St. Louis area and run for election in 2004 in the First District that now contains his home.

Staples said some of his constituents have questioned him on the topic, and he may encourage them to file a lawsuit in federal court against the new district boundaries.

While districts like Staples' may have no senator at all, some parts of the state will have two senators representing them.

Two years ago, Southwest Missouri's Christian County helped elect Republican Sen. Doyle Childers to 29th Senatorial District. But Christian County gets moved to that infamous 20th District that votes for a new senator this year.

So, in the course of just two years, Christian County voters will get to elect two different Senators for four-year terms.

The Senate's President Pro Tem, Peter Kinder, charges there was a political purpose to this story -- to help House Speaker Jim Kreider who is prevented by term limits from seeking reelection.

Before redistricting, Kreider lived in a Senate district that would not be up for election until 2004 -- leaving Kreider out in the legislative cold for two years.

But with the new map, that infamous 20th District covers Kreider's home of Nixa in southwest Missouri. Kinder said the district numbering change was made so Kreider could run for the Senate this year.

At the start of this year's legislative session, Kreider said he had not made a decision about a Senate race.

Staples said he thought it would be difficult for Kreider to win the new seat.

"I don't think Speaker Kreider had anything to do with redistricting," Staples said. "It is a district that he can run in. (But) it's a predominantly Republican district."