A Missouri House committee has voted 9-4 along party lines in favor of a proposed resolution designed to change the controversial Clean Missouri ballot measure. Voters passed Clean Missouri in 2018.
A main point of contention when it comes to Clean Missouri is the legislative redistricting process. Many Republicans have contended that redrawing of the districts will work in favor of Democrats. Democrats have dismissed that assertion.
The plan would let a bipartisan commission redraw legislative districts, instead of a nonpartisan demographer. It would also ban lobbyist gifts, instead of Clean Missouri’s $5 limit, and put a $2,000 cap on Senate candidate political donations, instead of the current $2,500.
The House General Laws Committee held a public hearing Thursday about the proposal. Representative Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, pointed out the hearing had few people in attendance.
“Why would that be? Well because they are under a stay-at-home order where they are advised not to be here taking part in a process ironically for a bill that is to undue a voter-driven initiative about transparency,” said Merideth.
Committee Chairman Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis, fired back by saying the building is still open during the statewide shutdown.
Jon Carpenter questioned why the legislation is a priority during a worldwide pandemic that has cost many lives and many people their jobs.
“Republicans and Democrats vehemently disagree on it,” he said. “I just feel like we could spend our time on things we can agree on to address the crisis and this is going to divide us at a time where we need to be united.”
Bill sponsor, State Senator Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, said he’s concerned Clean Missouri’s redistricting process would hurt communities.
“My biggest concern is that we will break up those voices and then Gladstone may be represented by three people and therefore represented by nobody,” said Hegeman.
Representative Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette, says Hegeman’s resolution would use citizenship instead of total population in the redistricting process – leaving out some voices.
Another point of contention is whether Hegeman’s proposal would undo the will of voters.
“It is the will of the people. This is a constitutional amendment that has to go to a vote of the people,” said Hegeman. “That is equally respecting the vote of the people. I really think that people ought to have a chance to look at it once again.”
Representative Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, agreed with Hegeman.
“I don’t think that asking them to make a change, if they are interested in doing so, or to not make a change from what they just enacted, is in any way disrespectful,” said Coleman.
Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said Clean Missouri has not been given a chance to see how the redistricting process will unfold.
“They already told us what they wanted – 57% of your people did,” said Quade. “Why do we not see if they were right? Why do we not trust them and what they asked us to do and see if it works before we come back and say ‘No you were wrong.’ What I’m really struggling with is the fact that we’re asking them again ‘Are you sure?’ when we haven’t even seen it. So my question for you, Senator – 57% of your people said yes. Have 57% of your people contacted you and said oops?”
Hegeman said Clean Missouri would lead to “greater gerrymandering” and he calls it a “partisan train wreck”.
Legislative committees will often wait a week before making a decision on a proposal but lawmakers are up against the clock. With two weeks left to go in the regular session, the measure heads to another House committee for consideration. The Missouri Republican Party has made passage of SJR38 a top priority this session.
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