The Missouri Senate approved a ballot item Monday evening that would change how state House and Senate districts are drawn, repealing a system approved by voters in 2018.
The proposal, which passed 22-9, now heads to the House, where it is almost certain to be approved, and then will head to voters again. They’ll choose between keeping a system they overwhelmingly passed as Clean Missouri, in which a nonpartisan demographer holds much of the power, or a modified version of the previous system.
The Senate plan shifts power from a demographer to bipartisan commissions or appellate judges. The maps would prioritize compactness, rather than competitiveness and partisan fairness.
Senate Democrats attempted to keep Clean Missouri intact. They temporarily stalled the effort in an overnight filibuster two weeks ago, but managed just about 30 minutes of discussion on Monday before a final vote was taken.
“I truly understand what you’re doing,” said state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, in a debate on the proposal last week. “I know that you right now, meaning the Republican Party, have the supermajority. You guys have the House, the Senate and the governor’s mansion, and you want to hold onto your power. However, you want to do that by circumventing the will of the people, versus just challenging individuals at the ballot box.”
Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, who sponsored the measure, disagreed with Nasheed’s characterization and said he wanted to “give the people the chance to look at it once again.”
He believes the current language diminishes the voices of voters in “rural areas, urban areas and the suburban areas” because the new districts will be gerrymandered. “I think there’s some distinct voices out there that I’d like to see continue to be represented in the General Assembly,” he said.
Much like Hegeman, the entire Republican caucus has painted this proposal as a way of giving voters “another bite at the apple” in 2020, because they could still vote it down.
In debate on Monday evening, Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, said she was disappointed some Republicans characterized Clean Missouri, or Amendment 1, as being confusing to voters because it included “two parts to this constitutional change.”
In addition to major changes to state legislative redistricting, Clean Missouri also curtailed lobbyist gifts, expanding the waiting period for legislators to become lobbyists and made modest changes to campaign law.
Schupp and state Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, spoke at length about how they did not want their opposition to the bill to be perceived in a way that they wanted to accept gifts from lobbyists.
Schupp said several of her constituents not only voted for the measure but also signed the petition to get it on the ballot.
“My colleagues on the other side of the aisle thought it was confusing in 2018 to do it that way, and they’re putting forward a resolution that does it exactly the same way in 2020 but undoes the unpartisan nature of the bill that was passed in 2018,” Schupp said.
One Republican senator, Lincoln Hough of Springfield, joined all eight Democrats in voting against the measure.
Hegeman’s initiative completely bans lobbyist-paid gifts, whereas Clean Missouri lowers the amount to a $5 maximum for each one. Hegeman’s measure also lowers contribution limits for Senate candidates from $2,500 to $2,000.
In a recent Politically Speaking episode, Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, said Gov. Mike Parson will have the opportunity to decide on whether to place the measure on the ballot in August or November.
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