Effort to send Clean Missouri back to voters one step from final approval

Coleman does not believe measure is disrespectful to voters

Gov.+Mike+Parson+signs+HB+397+and+hands+the+signed+bill+to+the+daughter+of+Rep.+Mary+Elizabeth+Coleman.++Also+pictured+is+Sen.+Jeanie+Riddle.

Photo by Tim Bommel

Gov. Mike Parson signs HB 397 and hands the signed bill to the daughter of Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman. Also pictured is Sen. Jeanie Riddle.

By Ashlyn O'Hara, Missouri News Network

A new version of Clean Missouri is steps away from reappearing on November’s ballot following a committee vote in favor last week

The proposal — Senate Joint Resolution 38 — sponsored by Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, would alter changes made to the Missouri Constitution by voters during the November 2018 election, including revisions to the redistricting process in Missouri.

The original Clean Missouri constitutional amendment passed by 62% statewide and empowered a nonpartisan state demographer to oversee redistricting. It also put in strict limits on lobbyist gifts and lowered some campaign contributions for state lawmakers, among other things.

The proposed changes would remove the state demographer from that role and put redistricting power back in the hands of House and Senate commissions. Additionally, it would eliminate lobbyist gifts entirely (the current Clean Missouri cap is $5) and change the limit on state Senate campaign contributions from $2,500 to $2,400.

Critics of the resolution say it undoes the will of the voters, but supporters say putting it back on the ballot still leaves the final decision up to voters.

On Feb. 10, the Senate voted 22-9 in favor of SJR 38. The vote fell along party lines, with the exception of Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, who voted in opposition.

At the Thursday hearing of the House General Laws Committee, Hegeman was the only person to testify in person on the resolution.

Reps. Peter Merideth and Tracy McCreery, both Democrats from St. Louis, questioned the bill’s language regarding district reapportionment, and what the impact would be of shifting from districts drawn based on population to districts based on the idea of “one person, one vote.”

Hegeman said the change would make sure that “illegals” are not included in the drawing of district boundaries.

“You seem to be dividing Missourians into two camps: citizens and ‘illegals,’ but there are a whole lot of different people here legally with lots of different immigration statuses and citizenship statuses,” Merideth said.

Reps. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, and Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, refuted claims that the resolution undoes the will of the voters because the measure, if passed, would ultimately put the proposed changes back to a vote in November.

“I don’t think that asking them to make a change, if they are interested in doing so, or to not make a change from what they just enacted, is in any way disrespectful,” Coleman said.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, who is not on the General Laws Committee, spoke in opposition, criticizing the attempt to undo the changes before they were actually put into practice.

The committee voted 9-4 for the resolution immediately after testimony concluded.

“It is disappointing, but not surprising, that Republican leadership has chosen to prioritize blatantly partisan legislation to overturn voter-approved redistricting reforms instead of focusing on the public health threat and economic devastation from COVID-19,” Quade said in a statement.

Now that the resolution has been voted out of committee, it goes to the heavily Republican House for what will likely be the final vote before going to the public.