Putting Maps Behind Us
At mid-week, I was prepared to update you on a flurry of committee activity in the Missouri Senate. As the clock neared midnight Wednesday, suddenly all the legislation I was planning to write about seemed less pressing. Although folks listening to the Senate debate might not have realized it, we were actually hard at work trying to arrive at a consensus on the congressional redistricting map. That effort continued in earnest throughout Thursday morning.
For those who need a reminder, every 10 years legislative maps are redrawn to reflect the latest U.S. Census population data. The Missouri Legislature has the responsibility for determining the boundaries of the districts for members of Congress. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed House Bill 2117, the redistricting legislation, but the Senate could not come to an agreement on the matter. I was one of a group of senators who strongly opposed the House map. My greatest concern was the proposed map placed Missouri’s two major military installations in separate congressional districts. This arrangement reduced the military influence of Missouri and would likely cost us a coveted seat on the U.S. Congress’ Armed Services Committee. I fought for a revised map that kept both Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood in the same congressional district.
Late this week, the Senate finally approved a substitute version of HB 2117. The new map again places both military facilities in the same district. There are other aspects of the map I’m not as excited about, but I’m happy we scored a victory on the military bases. The redistricting bill now goes back to the House for its approval. It’s my hope we have finally put this issue behind us.
The congressional maps were not the only legislative districts in the news this week. The Judicial Redistricting Commission, which had assumed the challenge of redrawing Missouri Senate districts, forwarded new maps onto the secretary of state. I am disappointed to report Missouri’s 21st Senatorial District will likely see dramatic changes. Currently, my district includes all of Caldwell, Carroll, Howard, Johnson, Lafayette, Livingston, Ray and Saline counties. The new 21st District, which will take effect with the 102nd General Assembly, is made up of Cooper, Howard, Lafayette, Ray and Saline counties, as well as parts of Clay. Let me restate that another way: Beginning in 2023, I will no longer officially represent the residents of Caldwell, Carroll, Livingston or Johnson County. Unofficially, I intend to still speak for all of these folks, as these areas are dear to me. I am especially heartbroken that I will not – again, officially – serve Johnson County, where I actually live. Missouri law allows me to continue to serve the new district through the end of my term. In the two years I have remaining in the Missouri Senate, I will commit myself to meeting residents of my new counties, and getting to know the needs and interests of the communities within their borders.
Redistricting aside, the Senate actually got a lot done this week. One of my priority pieces of legislation, Senate Bill 905, received a hearing in the Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee. This bill establishes the Missouri Rural Workforce Development Act and provides incentives for investment in rural enterprises. In another hearing, the Local Government and Elections Committee took testimony on my election integrity legislation, Senate Bill 1065. The bill requires voters to present a photo ID before being able to cast a ballot, and restores pre-COVID standards for absentee voting. The bill also eliminates touchscreen voting and allows only hand-marked paper ballots.
I also had the privilege of presenting my Senate Bill 1092 to the Economic Development Committee. This legislation modifies the Missouri Works Program so as to not penalize companies that temporarily reduce their workforce due to a statewide emergency. Senate Bill 1068, known as the “Regulatory Sandbox Act,” received a “do pass” recommendation from the Small Business and Industry Committee, and now moves to the full Senate for perfection. This legislation, which received a hearing prior to spring break, exempts qualifying start-up businesses from some burdensome regulations and state laws for up to two years. Also moving forward this week, Senate Bill 807, a package of measures relating to corporations, was perfected and now awaits approval by the Fiscal Oversight Committee before heading to the House of Representatives. Senate Bill 904, which modifies laws affecting employees of certain kinds of professional employee organizations, received a hearing from the Insurance and Banking Committee.
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.