Missouri U.S. representatives, state lawmakers discuss redistricting

Monday, April 18, 2011 | 8:37 p.m. CDT; updated 9:11 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 18, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY — Republican U.S. representatives held a closed door meeting Monday with fellow Republicans in Missouri's Senate and House to go over plans to eliminate one of Missouri's nine congressional districts.

U.S. Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer, Todd Akin and Jo Ann Emerson met with state Republicans behind closed doors at the Missouri Republican Party headquarters to discuss the redistricting process. At least one other congressional member joined in by conference call.

Luetkemeyer, who represents the ninth district, and Akin, who represents the second district, were hesitant to reveal the details of the meeting, but they confirmed that discussion was held about the redistricting process.

Participants were tight-lipped, except to confirm that that no immediate agreement was reached among the parties in what appears to be a disagreement between the GOP congressional delegation and the Republican-controlled state Senate.

Akin said the Missouri delegation was generally content with the House-passed plan.

"There's pretty good agreement on the House map," Akin said.

The strongest indication of a disagreement came after the meeting from the state Senate Redistricting Committee chair, Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville.

"We're not here to please the Congress people, we're here to do what is right for the people," Rupp said.

State lawmakers from both chambers, including House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, Republican Floor Leader Tim Jones, R-Eureka, House Redistricting Committee Chairman John Diehl, R-Town and Country, and Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, joined the U.S. House members at the meeting.

"We were just getting briefed on what's going on with the redistricting maps as the House and Senate both take them up," Luetkemeyer said. "It's obviously important to us so we are letting the legislators work their will."

The talks come less then a week after a change to the House proposal by a state senator caused internal debate within the Republican party. The alteration, proposed by Senate Redistricting Committee Chairman Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, made the House map virtually identical to the Senate plan.

In response to the Senate's action, Missouri's representatives requested the Senate recede the change or grant a conference to work out the differences. The Senate has taken no action on the request. The House refused to meet Monday to discuss any business until the Senate acted.

Luetkemeyer said he thinks the Senate is close to an agreement, but "like all things legislative, it takes a while to work through the process."

Akin called the meeting a "briefing" for the U.S. representatives.

"Everybody's negotiating and talking," Akin said. "I think it's just a whole lot of different opinions depending on where people live and all that stuff."

Akin also said that a final redistricting plan had not been agreed upon.

"You've got a lot of people that are talking and having opinions and it just takes time to get through them," Akin said. "Certain people agreed on certain things and others did not agree, but the point is to get everyone to agree, and we don't have everybody on board."

Akin said he was unsure if he would stay in Jefferson City, but because Congress is not currently in session, it was a possibility.

The Senate and House each passed their redistricting proposals Tuesday after 2010 census results showed the state's population did not grow as fast as other states. Both maps eliminate the St. Louis congressional district held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis. The plans also divide Jefferson County among three districts and divvy up Jackson County and St. Charles County into two districts each.

Both plans also place Boone County, currently represented by Luetkemeyer, into the new fourth district to be represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville.

Republicans have said they would like to reach an agreement soon, so as to have time to override a veto by the governor. Both Rupp and Diehl said they are confident that they have enough votes to supersede a potential veto by the governor.

The deadline for finalized congressional districts is the end of the legislative session.

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