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Mo. House OKs another proposed redistricting map

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) __ Frustrated Missouri House members
endorsed a new congressional redistricting plan during an unusual
Friday session, offering an alternative to senators who had already
left town for a long Easter weekend after previous compromise
attempts failed.
Some lawmakers believed Friday was the deadline to send a final
redistricting map to Gov. Jay Nixon and ensure that enough time
remained for a potential override this spring if the proposal was
vetoed. A veto override attempt otherwise would have to wait until
the fall.
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
from St. Louis to its outer suburbs.
The Democratic governor has not said whether he will sign or
veto any of the redistricting proposals from the Republican-led
Legislature.
Private discussions continued Thursday but broke down early
Friday morning. The House approved a new redistricting proposal
that made changes in the western part of the state and near St.
Louis to reduce some senators’ concerns. But bad feelings from the
previous night’s failed talks carried into Friday’s House debate.
At the start of the session, one Republican House member pointed
to an empty visitor’s observation gallery and asked to welcome the
senators who negotiated in good faith, which prompted a sarcastic
standing ovation from some lawmakers. The session ended with the
House majority leader briefly exiting the back of the chamber
before returning to say that the Senate was dark and looked closed
for the weekend.
House leaders said they had doubts about whether the Senate ever
intended to negotiate the previous night.
“The House been very willing to work with the Senate,” said
House Speaker Steven Tilley, R-Perryville. “For lack of a better
word, I don’t think we’ve seen leadership from the Senate that we’d
like to have.”
Sen. Ron Richard said many lawmakers were not informed about the
progress of negotiations and 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 that ends May 13.
Republicans who have healthy majorities in the House and the
Senate remain unable to hammer out differences between two maps
that follow the same general outline. Several GOP members of
Congress and state lawmakers met earlier this week at the Missouri
Republican Party headquarters in Jefferson City to resolve a
stalemate that includes 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.
But acrimony appeared to remain as House and Senate negotiators
worked largely in private to reach a deal.
Senate Redistricting Committee Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville,
said his priority was to develop a fair map that can win Senate
approval.
“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,”
he said Thursday.
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.
Most of the focus has been on disagreements among Republican
leaders, but several House Democrats also renewed their objections
Friday to the proposed districts.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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