The fight over Clean Missouri is officially back on.
Republicans held a hearing Tuesday on a resolution that would ask voters to neuter recent changes they made to the redistricting process, whichÂ conservatives fear could cost themÂ seats in the coming decade.
Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, carried the ball for his party, telling a committee he wants to offer the public âanother opportunity to weigh in on this monumental change that could affect Missouri for decades to come.â
By âmonumental change,â Hegeman was mostly referring to two big changes Clean Missouri made inÂ how the state will draw new districts for legislators after this yearâs census.
The first created a new ânonpartisanâ demographer to draft legislativeÂ districts. To override the demographer’s recommendations, a 10-person bipartisan panelÂ of political appointees would have to muster seven votes.
The second changes map the drawersâ priorities. In the past, theyâve focused on drawing compact shapes. Now, that takes a back seat to drawing districts more likely to produce more competitive races and better align the overall makeup of the legislature â where Republicans hold supermajorities in both houses â with the outcomes in statewide elections, where the parties have been more evenly matched.
Those changes, along with new limits on lobbyist gifts and campaign contributions, won the support of 62 percent of voters statewideÂ and 66 percent of Greene County voters in November 2018.
New bill wantsÂ bipartisan commissions back
But Republicans have never accepted those results. Prominent figures like Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said voters didnât understand what they were doing; others have suggested votersÂ were purposefully bamboozled by a campaign funded by out-of-state âmoneyed interestsâ thatÂ want to help Democrats.
TheÂ plan, as expressed in Hegemanâs bill, asks voters to put the usual bipartisan commissions back in command, shiftingÂ concerns about competitive races and partisan balance toÂ the back burner.
Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz said in the new criteria, “at the bottom of that list is going to be what they ultimately wanted to be at the top of the list.”
In his speech to fellow Republicans on the committee, Hegeman also pointed out his resolution would go further than Clean Missouri on lobbyist gifts and campaign money.
His resolution would ban all lobbyist gifts, as opposed to banning gifts worth more than $5, and further decrease the amount of money someone can donate to a politicianâs campaign.
Democrats have dismissed those ideas as a smokescreen for the real attack on redistricting.
But Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, applauded those ideas in a friendly inquiry as he pushed back at claims Republicans are trying to gut Clean Missouri and the will of the people.
âReally, what we’re doing is not touching or we’re strengthening every component of the ethics provisions that were in Amendment 1,â Luetkemeyer said. âAnd then weâre reverting Missouri back to the bipartisan method with which we previously drew districts.â
B.J. Tanksley, a lobbyist for the conservative Missouri Farm Bureau, also spoke in support, saying his membersÂ worry the new plan could âerode rural representationâ in the legislature.
A number of opponents were in attendance to disagree, though.
Opposition: New plan undermines voters
Angie Dunlap of the stateâs League of Women Voters, a nonprofit dedicated to voting rights, said Clean Missouri reforms brought the system closer to âwhat Missourians deserveâ and said Republicans’ plans for a do-over vote “undermined voters’ confidence that their votes even matter.”
Other witnesses echoed Dunlap and suggested Republicans should let it go.
Schatz, the Senate Republicansâ leader, poured cold water on that.
âItâs not too late,â he said. âWeâre going to say (to voters), âMaybe you didnât get it right, and weâre going to give you another opportunity.’â
The committee did not take any action on the resolution Thursday, which is what usually happens when a committee hears a bill for the first time.
Republicans are expected to push hard for the changes, though.
An Associated Press analysis found Clean Missouri’s new formula really could help Democratsâ chances in 2022.
It also found that Republicans won 13 more House seats in 2018 than would be expected based on their share of votes for House candidates statewide, a disparity the amendment’s changes are designed to reduce.
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