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House passes resolution requiring local vote for St. Louis City-County merger

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri House approved a resolution Thursday morning that would require a St. Louis City and County merger be approved by a local vote before it could occur.

As the debate over a potential merger wages on, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the General Assembly have scrambled to ensure those impacted would have more control over a government change. HJR 54, championed by Rep. Dean Plocher, would amend the Missouri Constitution — with voters’ approval — by adding provisions requiring new governments or mergers be approved by voters in the affected territory.

Therefore, under Plocher’s resolution, two votes would need to occur before a St. Louis City and County merger could happen: an initial statewide vote and another with just the electorate impacted. The resolution was third-read and passed with a vote of 143-10 Thursday morning.

Plocher noted his bill received broad support from members on either side of the aisle as well as from representatives in both rural and urban areas. He said he was “very optimistic” about its path through the Senate.

“I think we would be remiss not to take action and push this. This was a bipartisan effort,” Plocher told The Missouri Times.

Regarding his resolution, Plocher previously explained: “To affect that plan and implement it, the voters of St. Louis City and St. Louis County must both individually acquiesce to such a merger because it directly affects us. It is directly dictating what kind of government we will live under. We should be directly responsible for the government we live under and not let [just] the state of Missouri decide.”

Ahead of the vote, multiple lawmakers representing constituents in the St. Louis area spoke out in support of the resolution, including Reps. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, Bruce DeGroot, Shamed Dogan, and Derek Grier.

“I think it’s fundamentally fair to have the people that are affected by it have the final say on whether or not they should be forced to join together,” DeGroot previously told The Missouri Times.

Those in favor of the merger — specifically Better Together’s proposal — argue for a constitutional amendment to create a new “metropolitan city” combining St. Louis City, County and all 88 county municipalities under a unified government.

Alisha Shurr contributed to this report.