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Senate committee passes House redistricting plan

Monday, April 11, 2011 | 6:49 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — The Senate Redistricting Committee passed the House's congressional district plan Monday, soon after its quick passage in the House last week.

Like the accompanying Senate proposal, the plan would eliminate the St. Louis congressional district currently occupied by Democratic U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan. The committee approved the House proposal with a 4-3 vote after hearing little opposing testimony. Two Democrats and one Republican voted against the House map.

The House plan now awaits a vote on the Senate floor, where it will meet its partnering proposal, which senators have yet to vote on.

Senate Redistricting Committee Chairman Sen. Scott Rupp, R-St. Charles County, said the split vote on the House map showed that the plan would probably face debate in the Senate. Rupp's own proposal passed unanimously in the Senate committee last week.

"If all of a sudden you have a map that's unanimous and then one that's a 4-3, I think that already there's some concern among committee members," Rupp said. "Now if that concern articulates itself on the floor of the Senate, that has yet to be seen, but if today's an indication then the Senate's probably not going to be as excited about this map as (it is about) the Senate version."

Committee member Sen. Robin Wright-Jones, D-St. Louis City, voted for the Senate proposal last week but against the House one Monday. She said neither map gave blacks nor Democrats the proper representation. Wright-Jones said she voted for the Senate's map last week to move it along but that she plans to vote against both proposals when they reach the Senate floor.

Wright-Jones also said she wanted the governor to veto the plans so that they could go to the courts.

"I do not think color necessarily plays during the process, but it does play for me," Wright-Jones said. "The minority voice and a Democratic voice would have a better voice in a neutral court."

Both maps place Lafayette County and the neighboring rural counties of Ray and Saline in the new Fifth District with a part of Jackson County, which contains Kansas City, making the district a mix of urban and rural interests. Lafayette County resident Kay Hoflander said she was worried the counties would not be as well-represented if they were placed in a urban district.

"I see what's happening to our county and our adjoining counties as something that's happening more and more to every individual regardless of party," Hoflander said. "It's about representation and representation concerning our rural culture and our rural interests and being thrown into an urban county and not having representation."

Rupp said he understood the complaints against the proposal but that, in the end, counties had to be split to give each district an equal population.

"I think (the witnesses) are trying to protect their home county ... but pretty much every district has some semblance of an urban to rural mix," Rupp said.

Backed by Republicans, the House passed the proposal April 6 with a 106-53 vote. This vote is only three votes short of a two-thirds majority needed to overrule a veto by the governor should he choose to do so once lawmakers submit the final proposals to him.

House Redistricting Chairman Rep. John Diehl, R-Town and Country, said the House map was the best option for the state even if everyone was not completely happy with the final result.

"The map may not completely satisfy everyone, but it is complete and contiguous," Diehl said before the House vote last week.

Missouri is losing one of its nine congressional seats because the state's population did not grow as much as that of other states, as shown by the 2010 U.S. census.

Legislators must complete the redistricting process by the end of the legislative session in May; if they fail to agree on a map, the courts will be tasked with deciding the matter.


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