Fighting for Representation
Regular readers of my Capitol Report may have noticed we didn’t send out a column last week. The storm that dumped eight inches or more of snow over much of Missouri prompted the Senate to shut down early last week so lawmakers could travel safely home. This week, we returned to the Capitol and immediately turned our attention to congressional redistricting. As I’ve mentioned in the past, every 10 years, the boundaries for Missouri’s congressional districts are redrawn to reflect the latest Census data. This is the year we do that, and redistricting is one of the most critical issues we face this session. Our decisions will impact your representation in Washington, D.C., for the next 10 years.
House Bill 2117, the redistricting plan currently before us, was pre-filed on Dec. 30. After passing through the House, it was first read in the Senate on Jan. 19. We didn’t actually take up the bill for debate on the Senate floor until this week. The House redistricting plan draws new district lines that, at best, would result in the same partisan outcomes in Missouri that we’ve had for the past decade. Since the last redistricting, Missouri has sent six conservatives and two liberals to Washington. The new map is not likely to change that, despite the fact that I believe Missouri has shifted farther to the right since the last Census. I am skeptical the House map will result in a 6-2 outcome. I believe the map is more likely to produce a 5-to-3 partisan split due to more people moving out of St. Louis City into St. Louis County.
Political considerations aside, I cannot support the House redistricting plan because it splits Missouri’s two major military installations into separate congressional districts. Currently, both Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood are included in Missouri’s 4th Congressional District. This arrangement virtually assures Missouri a position on the powerful Armed Services Committee in Congress. By diluting Missouri’s influence in military decisions, we risk serious consequences in the future. I have seen draft redistricting maps that keep Missouri’s military installations in the same congressional districts, but none of those bills have made it to the Senate floor as of yet.
Together with a few like-minded colleagues, I spent the week arguing for the adoption of a congressional district map that protects Missouri’s military bases and, I believe, more accurately reflects the political realities of Missouri. Many of you responded to our efforts and have called and emailed to express your support for a 7-1 map. I truly appreciate your input and encouragement as we try to strengthen the representation of Missouri’s bedrock conservative values in Congress. With the balance of power teetering on the edge in Washington, D.C., one or two more Missouri conservatives could determine which party holds the speaker’s gavel in Congress.
In other action last week, it was my privilege to present Saline County Coroner William “Willie” Harlow to the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee. Owner of Campbell-Lewis Funeral Home in Marshall, Harlow was confirmed to a seat on Missouri’s Coroner Standards and Training Commission. Congratulations Willie.
Despite the snow emergency and a busy floor schedule focused on redistricting, I found time to meet with a number of visitors from the district over the past two weeks. This week, some of the district’s brightest young students were in town for FFA activities at the Capitol. I was honored to present Senate resolutions to Trenton Jones of Higginsville and Seth Hansen of Chillicothe, both officers in the FFA organization. Trenton is currently studying agricultural education at Northwest Missouri State University. Seth is a pre-vet student, studying animal sciences at Mizzou.
Also this week, I was happy to welcome several youth groups that visited the Capitol as part of the Missouri Association of Career and Technical Education’s legislative day. Students representing the Warrensburg Area Career Center, the Carrollton Area Career Center and Lex La-Ray Technical Center of Lexington all were in town for the event. It was also my pleasure to visit with Warrensburg High School students involved in that school’s CLIMB program. The group’s name stands for Community Leadership and Involvement Means a Better Community.
It was my pleasure to welcome USDA Area Director of Rural Development Travis Zimmerman and State Director of Rural Development Kyle Wilkens to the District 21 office. They stopped by to discuss rural issues with myself and Rep. Terry Thompson. Also visiting my office were several individuals representing local YMCA facilities in the district. I was happy to welcome Kirk Alexander, chief executive of Salt Fork YMCA in Marshall, Theresa Hendrix, CEO of the Grand River YMCA in Chillicothe and Dean Brookshier, who serves as Grand River’s board president and also heads the board of governors overseeing three area YMCA facilities. Other visitors this week included Wayne and Vickie Wise, representing the Salt Fork Pachyderm Club, and David Adams, general manager of Green Hills Communications.
I’d also like to thank some of the visitors who braved the impending snow storm last week. Representatives from electric cooperatives throughout Missouri were at the Capitol for that group’s annual legislative conference. It was my pleasure to welcome Brent Schlotzhauer of West Central Electric Cooperative in Higginsville and Rod Cotton from Farmers’ Electric Cooperative in Chillicothe to the District 21 office.
Also in town were community leaders from the district who came to the Capitol for the annual Great Northwest Day legislative event. I enjoyed meeting with Carroll County Presiding Commissioner Stan Falke, Carroll County Clerk Norma Sparks, Carroll County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Anna Barlow and Chamber President Kate Bonderer. I also welcomed a delegation from Caldwell County and the city of Hamilton. It was great to visit with Caldwell County Presiding Commissioner Bud Motsinger, Hamilton City Administrator John Nab, Mayor Keith Gilbert, Alderman Cameron Fast, as well as Angela Shaffer, Tony Figg and David Adams from Green Hills Communications and local resident Lori Bowen.
As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-4302. You may also email me at email@example.com.