JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After passing a $49 billion budget last week, lawmakers have less than four days to get a laundry list of priorities to the governor’s desk.
The last four months have been a roller coaster for both sides of the aisle and even between the two chambers. As the hours of the 2022 legislative session wind down, members will have to find a compromise if they want to legalize sports betting and redraw a congressional map.
“It will be a hot week, no doubt about it,” said Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia).
Not only are temperatures rising outside, but so is the frustration inside the Missouri Capitol. At the beginning of the session, the Senate seemed to be fractured as some members would filibuster for hours or stall the daily reading of the journal. With days left, the relationship between the two chambers seems to be broken.
“I’m frustrated,” said Rep. Rasheen Aldridge (D-St. Louis). “This side of the team hasn’t been treated fairly in my opinion on both sides of the aisle.”
“We probably didn’t feel like we would be doing as good as we have if you asked that question at the end of February whenever we hit that crescendo of kind of craziness,” Rowden said. “This has been a painful path on certain days and weeks.”
Part of the disagreement comes from trying to find a solution on a congressional map. Multiple lawsuits have been filed against the state because lawmakers have failed to redraw the lines for a new congressional map. Missouri is one of the last states in the nation to get the constitutional duty done. With a deadline of Friday at 6 p.m., the General Assembly is trying to nail down the lines of who represents which Missourians in Congress.
“It’s very much like playing against Michael Jordan in the fourth quarter,” said Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo (D-Independence). “You know it’s coming. You just have to hope he misses.”
Democrats in the Senate are bracing for possible election reforms, requiring photo ID to vote and making it harder to put initiative petitions on the ballot. Monday, the Senate approved House Bill 1878 with a 23-11 vote. It would require voters to show an ID before voting or if not, cast a provisional ballot that would have to be verified.
Rizzo was able to add an amendment to the bill that would allow two weeks of no-excuse absentee voting. The legislation needs one final vote from the House before heading to the governor’s desk.
Rowden said Friday that there is a chance the upper chamber could debate initiative petition legislation, making it harder to put something on the ballot to change the constitution.
On the final day of the session last year, Rizzo made a motion to adjourn after tensions ran high between Senate Republicans and Democrats.
“We don’t want to walk back in a relationship that was pretty well shattered last year that is finally getting to a place that is decent,” Rizzo said.
In the House, members are offering amendments just to stall legislation.
“Anybody can inquire of me all they want about what’s in this [amendment]. I couldn’t care less,” said Rep. Don Rone (R-Portageville). “It’s time that we do something on this end that affects that end, instead of that end always winning.”
The legislation that would legalize sports betting is also in the hands of the Senate. When asked, Rowden didn’t say odds to place wagers on college and professional sports teams weren’t completely off the table.
“If it gets done in the last week I would be a little bit surprised, but I would love to see it get done,” Rowden said.
The legislation approved by the House would have an 8% tax on wagers and bring in roughly $15 million a year with 90 percent of that going to education. Now that the budget is done, others say they are ready to adjourn early.
“It has devolved into a really unfortunate situation, so I would be okay with us closing up shop and moving on to next session,” said House Minority Leader Crystal Quade (D-Springfield).
Tuesday night, the Senate passed a large education bill that would help school districts with students who struggle with reading. The legislation is directed at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) by developing a “comprehensive system for reading instruction.”
The bill includes more than 20 provisions added by the House like establishing Holocaust education for districts to teach students, getting lead out of drinking water for schools, suicide prevention training for teachers, staff, and students and policy regarding districts teaching computer science courses.
The legislation needs one final vote from the House, which needs to happen before the Friday 6 p.m. deadline.
As for the congressional map, the Senate redistricting committee is set to meet at noon Wednesday to discuss the version approved by the House.
The new map, House Bill 2909, a 6 Republican-2 Democrat map, is similar to what’s already in place. It keeps both military bases, Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base in the 4th District. It also puts more of St. Charles County in the same district. It also puts more of St. Charles in the same district with 25% in the 2nd District and 74% in the 3rd District. In the current map, the population in the county is split 65% to 35%.
It also leaves the Democrat seat, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s district, in Jackson County but splits the county three ways, between the 5th, 6th, and 4th Districts. It also chops Webster County, near Springfield into two districts. Under the current map. nearly all of Webster County was in the 4th District, but under the new version would be split in half between the 4th and 7th Districts.
Jefferson City would also be split between the 3rd and the 8th Districts. In his version he proposed Monday, he said that they had to cut farther into Jefferson County in order to keep Phelps all within the 8th District.
Boone County is also split between the 3rd and 4th Districts along Broadway and I-70, frustrating the lawmakers who represent that area.
The House approved the map 104-47 and then later approved the emergency clause with 114 votes, which would make the map effective as soon as the governor signs the legislation. Now that it’s passed by the lower chamber, it heads to the Senate.
Missouri is one of four states that hasn’t approved a new congressional map. The other three states — Kansas, New York, and New Hampshire — have all had maps thrown out by the courts.
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. In total, each district needs to have 769,364 Missourians. The 1st District, which represents St. Louis City, and the 8th District, southeast Missouri, both needed more people. The 7th District, covering southwest Missouri, needed less.