2020 Missouri Legislative Session | St. Louis Public Radio

2020 Missouri Legislative Session

Democratic members of the Missouri House listen to debate on May 13, 2020. The House sent a measure changing the state legislative redistricting process to voters.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

The way Missouri draws its state House and Senate districts will be up for referendum later this year after the House Wednesday backed a ballot initiative aimed at repealing the so-called Clean Missouri redistricting system.

It’s a move that could greatly increase the power of appellate judges to draw state legislative districts — and make compactness a bigger priority in mapmaking than competitiveness and partisan fairness.

Voting stations at Central Baptist Church in St. Louis on March 10, 2020.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest episode of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum talks with Shane Schoeller, clerk of Greene County, and Brianna Lennon, clerk of Boone County, about how Missouri elections should proceed during the COVID-19 crisis.

Schoeller, a Republican, and Lennon, a Democrat, have been working on a public policy response together since the coronavirus outbreak came to the state. Their main objective is to make absentee ballots more available to people during a pandemic or emergency.

Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden listens to colleagues during the last day of the legislative session in Jefferson City on Friday.
File | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden is the latest guest on Politically Speaking, where the Columbia Republican talked about how coronavirus upended the Missouri General Assembly’s legislative session.

Rowden represents Missouri’s 19th District, which takes in all of Boone and Cooper counties. As majority leader, Rowden is responsible for what the Senate debates — making him one of the more powerful and influential lawmakers in Jefferson City.

More than 80 GOP lawmakers at the Missouri State Capitol recently signed a letter asking the Missouri Supreme Court to revoke the bond rules the court established in 2019.
Jim Bowen | Flickr

Last July, the Missouri Supreme Court enacted rules requiring judges to first consider non-monetary conditions for pretrial release when setting bail conditions. Under these new rules, judges can still set bail, but only at an amount that would ensure public safety and that the defendant would appear in court.

Since then, high-profile crimes — including an October shooting at a Kansas City bar — have led to backlash against the new Missouri Supreme Court rules. More than 80 Missouri state representatives signed on to a letter asking the court to revoke the new bond rules. They say they’ve heard from law enforcement officials who have concerns about suspects re-offending before facing trial. They argue that the court overstepped its boundaries and that these new rules, meant to address a problem facing a small number of courts, place a significant burden on all courts across the state.

Missouri Senate on the second day of the 2020 legislative session Jan. 9, 2020
Jaclyn Driscoll | St. Louis Public Radio

The GOP leaders of the Missouri Senate say they plan to make changes in the process for drawing the state’s House and Senate districts a top priority — and are prepared to withstand any opposition among the Democratic caucus.

That makes it basically inevitable that Missouri voters will decide whether they want to retain a new redistricting system that they approved in 2018 — or largely go back to a prior system that was used to craft state legislative maps.

Members of the Missouri House converse on the first day of the 2019 legislative session.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Gun control, Medicaid and redistricting are expected to be the most contentious issues Missouri lawmakers will take up this legislative session. 

House and Senate members return to the state Capitol on Wednesday, and the governor is to deliver his State of the State address a week later on Jan. 15. 

Democrats in both chambers say gun control and urban violence will be at the top of their list of priorities.