Missouri Senate panel endorses new congressional districts

Monday, April 4, 2011 | 9:00 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — St. Louis would lose a congressman, and most of northern Missouri would be wrapped into a single U.S. House district under a plan unveiled and quickly approved Monday by a Senate committee.

The map, endorsed without dissent by the bipartisan Senate Committee on Redistricting, resembles a plan being considered in the House as state lawmakers try to redraw the boundaries of the state's congressional districts. Missouri lost one of its nine U.S. House seats after the 2010 census found that the state's 7 percent population growth over the past decade did not keep pace with the population growth in other parts of the nation.

The Senate map groups two congressional districts that currently cover St. Louis city — held by Democratic U.S. Reps. William Lacy Clay and Russ Carnahan — into the 1st Congressional District that also would cover part of St. Louis County. Elsewhere in the St. Louis-area, the 2nd Congressional District would take the rest of St. Louis County and parts of St. Charles, Franklin and Jefferson counties.

Republican Sen. Scott Rupp of Wentzville, chairman of the Senate redistricting panel, said population changes and not politics dictated the proposed map. The new census data shows that the population over the past decade has increased in southwestern Missouri and several of the outer suburbs around St. Louis, while the population of St. Louis city declined by about 8 percent and St. Louis County also lost people.

"We just looked at it as a big math problem in trying to re-draw these lines and make them all equal and as compact as possible," Rupp said.

Nonetheless, Carnahan and Clay said in a joint statement last week that consolidating St. Louis city into one congressional district ignored important historical and cultural considerations and emphasized "partisanship over fairness."

The congressional districts that were proposed last week by a GOP House leader also consolidate St. Louis city into one district. The Senate and House plans have some differences but largely outline similar changes.

Away from St. Louis, both maps extend Republican Rep. Sam Graves' 6th Congressional District from northwestern Missouri east to the Mississippi River. The 5th Congressional District in Kansas City would gain parts of Clay County and go east to several largely rural counties.

The 9th Congressional District stands to change the most under the proposed boundaries. The district currently sprawls across northeastern Missouri, picks up part of the St. Louis-area and heads west toward the Lake of the Ozarks in the central part of the state. Under the proposals, it would be renumbered as the 3rd Congressional District and reshaped to pick up more of the St. Louis region while extending southwest toward the lake and gaining the capital city's home of Cole County.

The 4th Congressional District in the Senate map would extend east from the Kansas border and get Boone County, which is home to MU. It also would split with the 3rd Congressional District neighboring Callaway County, which includes Fulton. The House map does not split Callaway County.

The House redistricting committee was to meet Tuesday to consider its map. Democratic Rep. Ron Casey, a member of the committee, has proposed an alternative plan that would keep his home of Jefferson County in one congressional district and much of central Missouri combined in the same district.

The House and Senate plans also have taken different approaches for the 8th Congressional District in southeastern Missouri.

The Senate version would extend the district north to pick up part of Jefferson County near St. Louis. The House map would give the southeastern Missouri district a greater share of Jefferson County — though that has prompted criticism from some state lawmakers from that area.

House Speaker Steven Tilley said Monday that his chamber's map was better and that it should not matter how much of Jefferson County the 8th District includes.

Republican Rep. John Diehl of Town and Country, the chairman of the House committee responsible for redistricting, said the proposals are largely identical.

"There's certainly a consensus that's starting to build," Diehl said.

The new congressional districts would be approved as legislation. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon could veto the final proposal, which would force lawmakers to decide whether to try to override it with a two-thirds vote. Republicans control more than two-thirds of the state Senate and are just shy of that in the House.


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