JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Legislature is now the last in the country to not be able to pass a new congressional map, and it doesn’t sound like that will change anytime soon.
Each time the clock ticks without a new map in place, Missouri could face another lawsuit. Already a handful of them have been filed, and lawmakers said the deadline isn’t until the session ends in May.
For some members like Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo (D-Independence), they won’t be backing down from this standoff.
“I have no intentions of going to conference,” Rizzo said. “I don’t believe people in my caucus have a different opinion.”
It’s been a work in progress for months inside the Missouri Capitol. At the end of March, the House rejected the Senate’s version of the congressional map and voted to send it to conference.
“It’s never over until you stop working on it, so we’ll continue to work on it,” said Senate President Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan).
The most recent map is expected to keep a six Republican-two Democrat split for Missouri in Congress, similar to what’s already in place. Unlike the House, the Senate put both military bases, Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base in the same district.
It also puts more of St. Charles County in the same district. In the current map, the population in the county is split 65% to 35%. This new version would split the county 80% to 20% with the most population in the 3rd Congressional District.
The map also significantly changes the 2nd district, which contains St. Louis County, held by U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner. Senate Leadership said they hope that change makes it more Republican.
Another change, Jefferson County would move from the 3rd district to the 8th district which stretches down to the Popular Bluff, all the way to Branson. Franklin County also would be split in two. The county currently resides in all of the 3rd District, but under the Senate version is in the 2nd and the 3rd.
The Senate version also preserves U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s Democratic district in the Kansas City area, which at the start of debate months ago, was a point of concern for the Democrats. Representatives have stressed their frustration with the Senate saying senators waited until the last minute to get this done.
“It’s an absolute shame that something as important to the State of Missouri as these maps are that people are making it a self-interest to their future,” said Rep. Don Rone (R-Portageville). “It’s an absolute shame. We should be embarrassed for those people down there, and the people of Missouri should know it’s not our body that’s doing this. It’s the body on the other end.”
It’s a topic that has strained emotions and relationships. Rizzo said the maps are the “kryptonite” of the Missouri Senate.
“I had some House members that were a little prickly about when I said if you want the Senate to function, take these maps,” Rizzo said. “It was not a threat, it’s just turned into this issue that we have not been able to resolve over here outside of what we’ve passed.”
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. 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.
The House voted 115-19 to reject the map and send it to conference, but it’s now up to the Senate to agree to that motion. “Conference” means a group of bipartisan members from both chambers work together to find a compromise.
“You start to get a lot of chefs in the kitchen when you reopen those maps and I don’t think any good comes from tinkering with it,” Rizzo said.
Senate leaders said they are communicating with the House in favor of going to conference and are optimistic the constitutional duty will get done.
“I don’t presume that the court is going to do any very overarching things until we are out of session,” said Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia). “I still think that’s very much true.”
Rowden and Schatz both said there are other “vehicles” for members to pass maps. There are additional bills in both chambers that members can bring up, debate, and send to the other body if need be.
“We’ll just have to play that out and at the end of the day, until May 13, we’re not done,” Schatz said.
Gov. Mike Parson said previously he’s disappointed in lawmakers for not getting this done before candidate filing closed at the end of March. This means that the 67 candidates who have filed to run for Congress don’t know their district lines.