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Government, Politics & Issues
After decades of contemplation and debate, a group known as Better Together is recommending an end to the “Great Divorce” between St. Louis and St. Louis County.Better Together is proposing an ambitious plan to create a unified metro government and police department and limit municipalities' ability to levy sales taxes. The plan would be decided through a statewide vote.Proponents contend it will scrape away layers of local government that has been holding the St. Louis region back. Opponents believe the plan will create an unwieldy and large centralized government that could be implemented against the will of city and county residents.

Missouri House Backs Requiring Local Approval For City-County Merger

State Rep. Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, sponsored a constitutional amendment that would allow a legislator to serve up to 12 years in the House and Senate. It would have also established term limits for all statewide officials.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio
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State Rep. Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, sponsored an amendment requiring local approval for a city-county merger.

The Missouri House overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment requiring local approval for a city-county merger.

Whether that plan makes it to voters is an open question, especially since Rep. Dean Plocher’s measure needs to get past a potential Senate filibuster.

Plocher’s amendment is in response to the Better Together plan, which seeks to create a metro government overseeing St. Louis and St. Louis County.

The Des Peres Republican does not like how the proposal is going to statewide voters — so he got the House to vote 143-10 for a competing statewide ballot measure stipulating that approval from city and county voters is necessary for the plan to go into effect.

“You know I’m proud to be from St. Louis, and I’m very proud to be a Missourian,” Plocher said. “And our local governments matter. It’s our responsibility to stand up for our citizens and the governments that we’re required to live under and we need to consent to.”

Better Together’s proponents have said a statewide vote is necessary to consolidate police departments and municipal courts within St. Louis and St. Louis County. Backers of the plan will need to collect enough signatures in six of the state’s eight congressional districts for a 2020 statewide vote to occur.

State Rep. Doug Beck, D-Affton, said his constituents are overwhelmingly against having statewide voters decide on the city-county merger issue.

“This at least allows us to make a decision on that local level,” Beck said. “Because like a lot of folks have said here today, when I went to [residents’] doors, that was the main concern people had: to make sure there was not a statewide vote. I get contacted all the time on that.”

Getting Plocher’s amendment passed out of the Senate could be a much harder task than approval from the House.

That’s because it’s fairly common for senators to use the filibuster to kill pieces of legislation they don’t like. And several senators who objected to a non-binding resolution on the city-county merger, such as Sens. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, or Ed Emery, R-Lamar, could try to talk Plocher’s amendment to death.

If the amendment does get out of the Senate, it would go on the 2020 statewide ballot. Gov. Mike Parson would have the ultimate decision on whether Missourians vote on it during the August primary or the November general election.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

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