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Government, Politics & Issues

Redistricting and spending billions in federal aid top Missouri lawmakers’ 2022 agenda

This Missouri State Capitol on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, in Jefferson City, Missouri.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Lawmakers will convene in the Missouri State Capitol until early May for the general session. This year, the task of redistricting will likely be tackled first because of a lack of a special session in 2021.

Redrawing Missouri’s eight congressional districts and appropriating billions in federal funding — all in an election year — may leave little time for state legislators to accomplish other tasks.

Missouri’s 2022 legislative session begins Wednesday, with lawmakers in both the House and Senate gaveling in at noon.

During a regular session, the Missouri legislature must accomplish at least one thing: passing a state budget.

But this year is going to be busier, and the schedule is already reflecting that, with lawmakers tentatively planning regular sessions for five days each week instead of four.

“This is the first time I believe in a long time that our tentative schedule has actually [gone] to Friday,” Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, D-St. Louis, said.

Bosley attributes the possible full workweek to the longer to-do list lawmakers must complete starting with the once-in-a-decade task of redistricting.

Missouri is not losing a congressional seat, but how its eight districts will be redrawn is still expected to be contested, even between Republicans, who hold significant majorities in both chambers.

Last week, Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, who chairs the House Committee on Congressional Redistricting, released a map that would likely keep Missouri’s congressional makeup the same, with six Republicans and two Democrats.

Some Republican senators have criticized it and instead have expressed their support for a map designed to make all but one seat held by Republicans.

Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, is one of those senators, saying on Twitter, “Republicans should stop appeasing Democrats and adopt a 7-1 map to ensure Missouri is doing its part to stop Joe Biden’s dangerous agenda in 2022.”

Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, is not in favor of the 7-to-1 map and instead supports a 6-to-2 map.

“I do think that anyone who’s pushing a 7-1 map has to be very, very understanding that 7-1 could turn into 5-3, you know, fairly quickly,” Rowden said.

A 6-2 map would also gain bipartisan support, which will likely be needed to pass an emergency clause that would put the map into effect right away so August primary elections won’t be delayed.

Bosley, who serves on the special committee on redistricting, said a 7-to-1 map is unlikely.

“I think that that was a conversation, you know, a scare tactic that was put out there beforehand to try to get people to just play ball or to try to come to the table and have some sensible conversation,” she said.

Because Gov. Mike Parson did not call a special session for lawmakers in 2021 to redraw Missouri’s eight congressional districts using 2020 census data, it now must happen during the general session.

It’s a decision that House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, believes gives greater leverage to Democrats in not only redistricting, but other legislative goals.

“Everything is on the table. Every legislator’s priorities, every district’s priorities, everything is now part of the discussion. And so things are going to get held up or used, you know, against other folks to try to get them to do one thing or another for redistricting,” Quade said.

Billions in federal funds to consider

Pushing redistricting into the general session means it will likely be the first thing lawmakers tackle, but it’s only one of the must-accomplish tasks. Another is the budget.

Missouri will receive more than $2.6 billion in federal coronavirus relief that it will have to allocate by the end of 2024 and spend by the end of 2026. While Parson has given some indication as to how he wants to spend that money, including over $400 million toward broadband access, his spending priorities are set to be outlined in his State of the State address on Jan. 19.

In the meantime, lawmakers themselves are setting their own agendas for how that money should be spent. Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, who chairs the House subcommittee on federal stimulus spending, wants to see some federal dollars go toward overhauling the state’s IT systems or other one-time spending projects.

“We’re looking at one-time appropriations on infrastructure and other types of projects that provide Missourians a long-term benefit, without a future obligation on state revenue,” Richey said.

While some, like Richey, want to see the one-time federal funding go toward projects that won’t cost more money down the road, Quade said she sees a benefit in investing in some long-term programs that later save money.

“There are opportunities in our budget where we can invest this quote one-time money where we see a return on investment relatively quickly that then opens those pockets of money for other things or to continue those projects or things that we’re looking at,” Quade said.

Quade gave Medicaid expansion as an example of such a program. However, Medicaid expansion, which the Missouri Supreme Court upheld in July, could still face hurdles from lawmakers.

Possible internal hurdles

Not only do lawmakers have to pass new congressional redistricting maps and allocate additional billions in the state’s budget, they must do it all during an election year, with many legislators seeking reelection or vying for a higher office.

Bosley said while there will be legislation that is meant to garner media attention and bolster campaign prospects, their job as lawmakers is to sift through and focus on what’s important policy-wise.

“At some point you gotta just realize that they’re doing it for campaigns so [there's] no need for us to combat it as much,” Bosley said.

In addition to some lawmakers eyeing a new office, there’s the matter of the Missouri Senate itself, where previous divisions between Republican leadership and the conservative caucus could continue into the new session.

Though Rowden said it would be naïve of him to think tensions wouldn’t remain, ultimately, the conservative caucus members are outnumbered by the rest of the Republican-controlled Senate. He also said he’s willing to work with any lawmaker who can get things done.

“I’m going to work with people whose stated, you know, objective is to make the place work, and I certainly think the people who share those values outnumber folks that don’t fairly dramatically, which I think gives us still a good chance to get some stuff done,” Rowden said.

With both redistricting and the budget to complete, all in an election year, another question is how much other legislation will even make it through the chambers.

If there is time for other legislation, which some legislators believe is true, voting bills, such as photo ID legislation, as well as bills centered around what is taught in public schools, are likely to gain momentum.

Follow Sarah Kellogg on Twitter: @sarahkkellogg

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