Legislators gave initial approval to a resolution Tuesday that would undo key portions of the Clean Missouri amendment.
House Joint Resolution 48 would replace the nonpartisan demographer role established by Clean Missouri to oversee redistricting with separate House and Senate committees. The move would reverse Clean Missouri’s attempt to remove partisan affiliations in drawing district maps and would return to the commission method that already exists.
If approved by the Senate, the question would go back to voters, who approved Clean Missouri last November.
Some representatives in favor of the bill said they believe voters did not fully understand the redistricting plan and deserve a chance to reconsider it. Clean Missouri had several components; redistricting was only one of them.
Other lawmakers stood firm that the public has already decided what it wants when it voted for Clean Missouri last November. Some representatives worry the resolution will threaten voters’ confidence in their government.
Rep. Jon Carpenter, D-Kansas City, said passing the resolution sends a message “that the voters got it wrong” with Clean Missouri.
“If what the body feels is that the voters just got it wrong and that politicians in Jefferson City know better, then let’s say that and that we’re going to do our own thing and that we’re going to delete everything that they did,” Carpenter said, “because that’s what the bill does.”
Removing the role of the nonpartisan demographer will allow partisan committee members who are loyal to individual legislators to draw the redistricting maps, said Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis. He said that goes against the core of what constituents voted for when they passed Clean Missouri.
Merideth passed an amendment to the resolution that, in order to keep the transparency voters wanted through Clean Missouri, would require the committee to make public its plan for the map and the data used to create it.
“The public deserves to know what these maps look like as they’re being created, and the public deserves to see the reasons and the data that is used in that process,” Merideth said.
Several black representatives stood firm against the redistricting created by Clean Missouri, fearing it will dilute the black vote by reorganizing districts to be “fair and competitive” legislatively. However, some opposed Tuesday’s resolution because they believe the legislature should support what voters voted on. Others, including Rep. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, supported the amendment because it could fix the problematic elements of Clean Missouri.
“I’m standing here because I strictly care about African American representation, and that’s it,” Chappelle-Nadal said.
The resolution’s sponsor, Rep. Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis, concluded Tuesday’s debate expressing confidence that giving voters another chance to reject Clean Missouri’s proposals is necessary. He and other opponents have said outside organizations poured money into the state in support of Clean Missouri, helping to push it through last fall.
“It keeps the bipartisan commission in place ... rather than have billionaires try to influence Missouri by throwing their money around from out of state,” Plocher said. “I think it’s time to give Missouri voters a choice — a choice that they didn’t have in November.”
Sean Nicholson with Defend the Win, an organization that backed Clean Missouri, released a statement following the resolution urging voters to contact their legislators and oppose the actions.
“Voters made it 100% clear in November that they want fair maps for Missouri,” Nicholson said. “And we aren’t going to sit back as politicians in Jefferson City try to overturn the will of the people.”
In addition to redistricting, the proposed resolution also would stop all lobbyist gifts. Clean Missouri set a $5 limit; the proposal would take that to zero.