JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Legislation walking back voter-approved redistricting alterations gained initial approval from the Missouri House.
The Republican-led effort was criticized as a move to “overturn the will of the voters” and referred to as “childish.” Yet, supporters stood their ground, arguing it’s an “improvement” on the so-called Clean Missouri amendment and is “better, more comprehensive” ethics reform.
On Monday, the chamber pass HJR 48, sponsored by Rep. Dean Plocher, with a 104-49 vote. The legislation, which heads to the Senate, would ban all gifts from lobbyists to elected officials and repeals the new redistricting provisions, replacing them with the previous method.
The proposed alterations to the Missouri Constitution are in direct response to changes made in the 2018 General Election. In November, Amendment 1, the so-called Clean Missouri amendment, passed with 63 percent of voters casting a ballot in favor.
Now part of Article III of the Missouri Constitution, voters approved limiting campaign contributions, requiring legislative records be open to the public, banning all lobbyists gifts to lawmakers greater than $5, and instituting a two-year waiting period for elected officials to become lobbyists.
The most controversial provision altered redistricting methods. The voter-approved process now requires a non-partisan state demographer to draw districts in a “manner that achieves both partisan fairness and, secondarily, competitiveness.”
Plocher’s proposal, which is the committee substitute of three measures with similar goals, would go further than the initiative petition, banning all lobbyists gifts. The provision gaining the most notoriety would repeal the new redistricting method and replaces it with a bipartisan commission.
“We aren’t overturning the will of the voters; we are going to the voters,” said Plocher during the perfection debate last week. “Amendment 1 didn’t go far enough. We are offering a better, more comprehensive amendment.”
“I’m actually going to vote for this because I care about black districts,” said Rep. Maria Chappelle-Nadal during perfection.
Supporters argued the resolution will give voters a choice and offers them a “better solution” to keep communities together. A few Democrats — Chappelle-Nadal and Rep. Raychel Proudie — voiced concerns during perfection the voter-approved method would diminish representation of black communities in the General Assembly.
But opponents pushed back on the measure, arguing it would “undermine” the legitimacy of the legislature while “overturning the will of the voters.”
“The process we have right now hasn’t been working. It is time we try something different,” said Rep. Peter Merideth during perfection. “As far as I am concerned, voters spoke.”
Rep. Ingrid Burnett said the move “seems kind of childish.” Rep. Keri Ingle said it is not her job as an elected official “to come here and tell [voters] they are wrong.”
If given ultimate legislative approval, the proposal will need to receive voter approval before it can be implemented.
Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at firstname.lastname@example.org.