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Government, Politics & Issues

First full week of Missouri legislative session focuses on redistricting and relationships

The Missouri House of Representatives breaks on Wednesday after the first day of the legislative session at the capitol in Jefferson City.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
The Missouri House of Representatives, pictured on Jan. 5, will have its first opportunity to debate a congressional redistricting map on Tuesday. The House committee on redistricting advanced a map this week. It likely faces criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.

As the Missouri House prepares for its first floor debate over congressional redistricting Tuesday, Democrats are considering the leverage they hold over whether the map even advances.

One question the caucus is considering: Does passing a congressional map constitute an emergency?

An emergency clause is needed for the map to go into effect before the primary on Aug. 2. Due to recent resignations, House Republicans no longer have the supermajority needed to pass an emergency clause, meaning votes from Democrats are needed.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said Thursday after the first full week of the session ended that she does not know yet if Democrats plan on voting for the emergency clause.

“We’re having an honest conversation about is this even an emergency,” Quade said, “especially when we’re in the time of a pandemic where … folks are literally dying every day and our hospitals are at the brim. Should we be loose with what that definition actually means?”

Earlier in the week Quade presented a different congressional redistricting map to the House committee.

“We were able to present adequate options and bring the conversation to light that there’s not just one answer to this conversation and that we need to be taking our time and spending a lot of energy in making sure that we do this the right way,” Quade said.

As for the map up for debate on Tuesday, Quade says she is anticipating three to four amendments proposed by Democrats.

However, the map is also likely to face criticism from some Republicans who believe districts should be drawn so Missouri would have seven Republican seats as opposed to the six the map presents. Currently, Missouri has six seats held by Republicans and two by Democrats.

House committees also this week heard bills addressing a variety of topics, including raises for state employees through a supplemental budget, a bill that would change the ballot initiative petition process and several education bills affecting public school curriculum.

Relationship building in Senate continues

One move in the Missouri Senate this week was a rule change that essentially makes it tougher to end a filibuster.

Previously, only five senators were needed to request a previous question motion, which would end debate if it received enough votes. Now, the request number is 10.

Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, said it was important to strengthen the filibuster.

“Free, fair, unlimited debate is the bedrock of the Senate. We’ll continue to defend the centuries old decision and after all, Missouri Republicans may need to use a filibuster one day to defend the principles of life, liberty that we hold dear too,” Schatz said.

However, it was also seen as an olive branch to Senate Democrats. Sen. John Rizzo, D-Independence, introduced a version of the rule change last week, with Senate Republican leadership reaching a compromise.

Since the beginning of session, previous tensions between Republican Senate leadership and both Democrats and members of the conservative caucus have already returned, threatening possible productivity in the Senate.

However, Schatz said while there still is some public discontent on the Senate floor, conversations are heading in the right direction.

“At the end of the day, I think what you see on the floor is there’s still a lot of theater. I can tell you the conversations and where we’re headed, the relationships in the Senate are gonna be in a good place,” Schatz said.

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