UPDATE: Missouri lawmakers can't agree on redistricting plan

Friday, April 22, 2011 | 12:42 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers trying to negotiate a compromise on how to redraw the state's congressional districts quit in frustration early Friday morning, as some left town for a long Easter weekend.

Some lawmakers had wanted to complete a redistricting proposal by Friday, believing it was a deadline to send a final map to Gov. Jay Nixon while still allowing enough time to try to override a potential veto this spring. Otherwise, a veto override attempt would have to wait until the fall. The Democratic governor has not said whether he would sign or veto any of the redistricting proposals from the Republican-led Legislature.

After private negotiations continued throughout the day and night Thursday, the Senate decided to adjourn until next Tuesday and House Redistricting Committee Chairman Rep. John Diehl said an immediate agreement was unlikely.

"I think we're close, but obviously we're far," said Diehl, R-Town and Country.

House members were to be in session Friday, which is unusual, and Diehl said there were options for considering redistricting proposals then. The Legislature's annual session ends May 13.

The inability of Republicans to agree on a redistricting plan was causing mounting frustrations among some lawmakers. Particularly frustrating, said Sen. Ron Richard, was the fact that many lawmakers were left in the dark about the progress of the negotiations and the apparent sticking points.

"I'm pretty upset," said Richard, R-Joplin, a former House speaker who came to the Capitol dressed for work Friday but with nothing to vote on. "Now we just lost our ability to override the governor" during the legislative session.

Missouri lawmakers are drawing a new U.S. House map because the state lost one of its nine congressional seats after the 2010 Census found Missouri's 7 percent population growth over the last decade did not keep pace with the nation. The new map also must account for population shifts within the state, including an exodus of people from St. Louis to its outer suburbs.

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 standoff, several GOP members of Congress and state lawmakers met earlier this week at the Missouri Republican Party headquarters in Jefferson City.

Yet acrimony appeared to remain as House and Senate negotiators worked largely in private to reach a deal. For example, senators entered the room where the public negotiations were to be conducted early Friday morning, signed a proposal and left without comment. Diehl said the senators had not told House members what they were doing and said he was asked to sign the proposal without getting to review it.

Much of the disagreement between the House and Senate has focused on how to handle several counties near St. Louis, particularly St. Charles and Jefferson counties.

The House earlier this month approved a map with a more even division of St. Charles County into two congressional districts. It also placed a significant chunk of Jefferson County into the 8th Congressional District covering southeastern Missouri. Senators last week endorsed a map that 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.

Negotiators from both chambers offered compromise proposals Thursday evening.

Senate Redistricting Committee chair Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, said his priority was to develop a fair map that can win Senate approval.

Speaking to reporters at the start of the negotiations Thursday, Rupp said: "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. 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.

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