JEFFERSON CITY - State senators followed the lead of the Missouri House on Wednesday by passing a redistricting plan that eliminates a St. Louis congressional district.
The Senate endorsed the House of Representatives' map a week after the House's own approval of the proposal, which eliminates the district currently occupied by Democratic U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan.
Despite minor differences between the originally proposed maps, both plans dissolve Carnahan's district, split Jefferson County among three districts and divide Jackson County into two districts. The maps also place Boone County into the new Fourth District, to be represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, instead of being represented by another Republican U.S. Rep., Blaine Luetkemeyer.
The Senate approved the House bill with a vote of 22-11 after Senate Redistricting Chairman Sen. Scott Rupp, R-St. Charles County, proposed a change to the plan that made the House map virtually identical to the Senate's own proposal, thus eliminating any differences between the two, aside from what Rupp called "minute" changes to the First and Second district lines. Rupp said he presented his changes because the House map had "multiple problems" among senators.
The changes quickly passed on the Senate floor due to Rupp's own insistence and because of the lack of senators in the chamber at the time. Rupp's rushed proposal and the Senate endorsement of the changes effectively stopped debate on the issue, stonewalling opposing lawmakers from presenting amendments to the plan.
Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, who opposes the plan, said it was his own fault for not being present in the chamber to vote against Rupp's alterations. Stouffer voted against the map because it places Saline County, his representative area, and two other rural counties in the Fifth District with urban Jackson County.
"I know this is big boy politics and I got caught with my britches down," Stouffer said to Sen. Ryan McKenna, D-Jefferson County, who was also late to the vote. "I have to admit I was about 10 seconds short of getting in here [for the vote] so I think we are both getting a lesson in big boy politics." McKenna also opposes the redistricting plan because of the three-way split in his own Jefferson County.
Rupp recognized the dissatisfaction among his own party members but defended his actions by saying his fellow senators had enough time to make it to the chamber and vote.
"Stouffer has been fantastic to work with and we have worked for weeks to mitigate his concerns," Rupp said. "I believe that he feels that he was given opportunities at every turn and we've looked for ways to solidify his concerns."
Rupp also said that lawmakers were given the chance throughout the process to present their own maps, but not everyone would agree with the final plan.
"I don't think there's agreement on the Senate map and I don't think there is agreement on the House map," Rupp said. "I don't think there will ever be agreement."
Rupp said he was operating under the assumption that the governor will veto the plan, which made the deadline for passing the proposal April 18. This deadline would give the Senate enough time to override the governor's veto before the end of the legislative session.
Even though he expects the governor to veto the plan, Rupp said that he had enough votes in the Senate to supersede the potential veto.
Unlike his Senate counterpart, House Redistricting Chairman Rep. John Diehl, R-St. Louis County, said his deadline for passing the bill was the end of the session and that he did not anticipate a veto by the governor. The House plan passed in the House on April 6 with a 106-53 vote, just three votes away from the required amount needed for a two-thirds majority to override a veto by the governor.
Diehl is now responsible for once again presenting the Senate-approved bill to the House, which will have to make a motion on whether to approve the bill or bring the plan to a conference committee.
The Senate Redistricting Committee approved the Senate's district map last week and approved the House map Monday, less then a week after it quickly passed in the House.
Missouri is losing one of its nine congressional seats after 2010 census results showed the state's population did not grow as quickly when compared to other states.
If legislators fail to complete the redistricting process, the issue goes to the courts to decide.
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