UPDATE: Missouri lawmakers seek redistricting compromise

Thursday, April 21, 2011 | 10:12 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers were working into the night Thursday, seeking a compromise over a proposal to redraw the state's congressional districts.

The legislature is drawing a new U.S. House of Representatives map after the state lost one of its nine congressional seats because the 2010 census found Missouri's 7 percent population growth over the last decade did not keep pace with the nation. Legislative leaders have hoped to approve a final map this week.

House members and senators met in a brief public negotiating session Thursday and exchanged suggested compromise proposals. Lawmakers also have been working in private.

Although Republicans have healthy majorities in both the state House and the state Senate, there has been disagreement over redistricting as lawmakers struggle to hammer out the differences between two maps that follow the same general outline. To try to help settle the stalemate, several GOP members of Congress and state lawmakers met earlier this week at the Missouri Republican Party headquarters in Jefferson City.

Much of the disagreement between the House and Senate has focused on how to split up St. Charles and Jefferson counties near St. Louis.

The House initially proposed a more even division of St. Charles County into two congressional districts. It suggested placing a significant chunk of Jefferson County into the 8th Congressional District covering southeastern Missouri. Senators proposed to put most of St. Charles County into one district and a smaller segment of the county into another. The Senate map also called for carving out a smaller slice of Jefferson County for the southeastern Missouri district that stretches to the Bootheel.

House Redistricting Committee Chairman John Diehl, R-Town and Country, said his chamber's compromise proposal essentially splits the differences over St. Charles and Jefferson counties.

Sen. Scott Rupp, the chairman of the Senate redistricting panel, said his priority was to develop a fair map that can win Senate approval.

"I've said before my job is to carry the football across the goal line, and it's hard if every day you wake up and the goal line has been moved," said Rupp, R-Wentzville. "So hopefully we've found the goal line, and I'm lunging in the fourth quarter with four seconds to go, and I'm trying to put 51 percent of that football across the goal line."

Under proposals from both chambers, St. Louis would lose a congressman. The two districts that currently cover the city — held by Democratic U.S. Reps. William Lacy Clay and Russ Carnahan — would be grouped into the 1st Congressional District. Most of northern Missouri would be wrapped into a single district currently held by Republican U.S. Rep. Sam Graves. A Kansas City district would extend east to pick up several rural counties while a swath of Jackson County would be carved out.

State lawmakers must approve the new districts, and Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon could veto the final proposal. That 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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