Clean Missouri | KCUR

Clean Missouri

As the Missouri General Assembly is poised to give voters another chance to decide how to draw state House and Senate maps, one of the lesser-discussed parts of the debate is how judges will gain expansive power if voters scrap the Clean Missouri system.

Under a ballot measure that recently passed the Senate and will likely be approved in the House, bipartisan commissions will have first crack at redistricting instead of a demographer. But the truth is the commissions have been historically irrelevant because they tend to deadlock along party lines and then turn over authority to appellate judges. 

There’s been little insight into how the judges actually came up with House and Senate districts — until now.

The Missouri Senate approved a ballot item Monday evening that would change how state House and Senate districts are drawn, repealing a system approved by voters in 2018. 

The proposal, which passed 22-9, now heads to the House, where it is almost certain to be approved, and then will head to voters again. They’ll choose between keeping a system they overwhelmingly passed as Clean Missouri, in which a nonpartisan demographer holds much of the power, or a modified version of the previous system. 

Segment 1: Missouri Republicans want to see a "Cleaner Missouri" version of an initiative voters passed in 2018.

Missouri Republicans argue that Amendment 1, also known as Clean Missouri, is biased when it comes to drawing legislative boundaries, and that the state's Democratic Party will get an unfair number of seats in the General Assembly. Now, a so-called "Cleaner Missouri" proposal has been introduced. Proponents say it will not only expand upon some of the original initiative's language, but it will also make redistricting more fair. 

Missouri voters will almost certainly have another say this year on how state Senate and House districts are drawn.

They’ll choose between keeping a system they voted for in 2018, in which a demographer holds much of the power to draw maps, and a modified version of the old system.

It’s a debate that’s elicited national attention from redistricting enthusiasts and political parties, especially since the complex and wonky subject of mapmaking has an immense impact on how citizens are represented in government. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3 file photo

Lawmakers representing district in the Kansas City metropolitan area have introduced hundreds of bills to this year's session of the Missouri General Assembly. 

Some of the bills, like a statewide prescription drug monitoring program or banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, have been priorities for years but didn't get to the governor's desk. Other proposals, like those dealing with violent crimes, have come into focus with a climb in homicides

KCUR talked with eight local lawmakers to find out what they’re prioritizing this session.

Facebook/Aviva Okeson-Haberman

The Missouri Senate conservative caucus formed just last year, but its six senators are already shaping the direction of Jefferson City politics. The caucus was among the staunchest supporters of a sweeping anti-abortion bill, which is being challenged in court. They also broke with their party to oppose one of Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s key workforce development proposals (though it eventually passed). 

And the caucus could get some concessions in the 2020 session using their threat to filibuster as a bargaining chip, though it also could further the division within the Republican Party if they kill priorities like a prescription drug monitoring program. 

Gun control, Medicaid and redistricting are expected to be the most contentious issues Missouri lawmakers will take up this legislative session. 

House and Senate members return to the state Capitol on Wednesday, and the governor is to deliver his State of the State address a week later on Jan. 15. 

Democrats in both chambers say gun control and urban violence will be at the top of their list of priorities. 

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

Beyoncé tickets. Pricey steak dinners. Royals games. 

Lobbyists used to be able to spend thousands in an effort to influence Missouri lawmakers. Voters approved a $5 dollar limit on gifts for lawmakers in November. A KCUR analysis of data released this month by the Missouri Ethics Commission shows there’s been a 94% decrease in spending from the 2019 to 2018 legislative session. 

In this year’s session, lobbyists spent less than $17,000 on lawmakers. That’s a significant drop from the about $300,000 spent in the 2018 session. 

As the GOP-controlled Legislature seeks to undo a new state legislative redistricting system, some are pointing to the plan’s potential negative impact on majority-black House and Senate districts.

While those arguments aren’t prompting African American Democrats to vote to get rid of what’s known as Clean Missouri, that doesn’t mean black political leaders are universally embracing the new system. Some believe the language in the new redistricting process won’t prevent a scenario where the percentage of black residents in House and Senate districts get reduced — making it easier for white candidates to win.

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

The Missouri House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Monday to advance a joint resolution that would have voters decide whether to make changes to the redistricting process outlined by Amendment 1, otherwise known as Clean Missouri. Voters overwhelmingly approved the amendment last November.

Segment 1: With only three weeks left in the regular legislative session there are still major issues to be addressed.

From asking Missourians to vote again on the Clean Missouri intitiative to redefining blight in order to curtail the use of TIF to a strict abortion bill, state lawmakers have their hands full for the rest of the session. A review of these and other major issues offered insight into the bills connected with each.

Carolina Hidalgo / St. Louis Public Radio file photo

Democrats might be down, but party leadership says they’re not out in the Missouri House of Representatives — despite being outnumbered more than 2-to-1.

In fact, Republicans hold a trifecta, controlling all three branches of government. Democrats lost control of the House in 2003, and haven't controlled the Senate since 2000. But with U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill losing her seat in November's election, House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said it's time to rebuild the party. 

Segment 1: Missouri House minority leader explained her party can still manage to get issues across the finish line.

Representative Crystal Quade says her run for leadership was motivated by a desire to help Democrats through a time of rebuilding and she's one of the first millenials to do so in Missouri. The second-term legislator explained that building relationships with Republicans and finding issues they can agree on is more important than who gets the credit.

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

Any member of the public can go to the debates in Missouri House or Senate. And in November, voters said the discussions about legislation and strategy that lawmakers have in emails and other documents should be public knowledge, too.

But some legislators are looking to once again shield those records from public view, a move that opponents say is a step backward for government openness and transparency.

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Seg. 1: A recent poll shows Jolie Justus and Steve Miller leading the race for Kansas City mayor, but nearly 30 percent of voters are undecided.

A bill that would change Missouri's open records law has made it through a Missouri Senate committee and is moving forward.

The bill would reverse a decision made by voters in November when they approved a Constitutional amendment known as "Clean Missouri."

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Marshall Griffin / St. Louis Public Radio file photo

The majority of Missouri state representatives decided Thursday to subject local officials to the same lobbying and campaign contribution limits that state legislators face, as well as limit the amount of official records that can be made public.

Senior Airman Thomas Barley / 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Segment 1: After unprecedented ballot initiative success in November, GOP lawmakers look to change the process.

Gov. Mike Parson and Republican lawmakers in the Missouri General Assembly have made ballot initiative reform a priority for this legislative session, saying the current system is too easy for out-of-state interests and funding sources to exploit. Critics of that position say the reform proposals are an affront to voter's ability to directly influence state policy. Today, we heard from both sides of the issue.

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

Missouri’s lawmakers return to the Capitol in Jefferson City this week for the first session under Gov. Mike Parson. There’s a host of issues on the agenda for General Assembly’s 100th session, and here’s a look at the major ones.

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Segment 1: Missouri has had three governors in the last three years. Soon, a new class of state lawmakers will take their seats in the Statehouse.

Missouri lawmakers will next week begin revisiting proposals on more than a few issues previous legislatures were unable to resolve. A gas tax that would have financed road and bridge projects was rejected by voters in November, leaving state lawmakers wondering how else to find the funding. Other issues like Clean Missouri and a prescription drug-monitoring program are likely to be taken up. 

Samuel King / KCUR 89.3

Missouri’s comprehensive revamp of ethics laws goes into effect this week, as does a new redistricting process that is unique among all U.S. states.

Despite passing with 62 percent of the vote in November, Amendment 1 (or Clean Missouri) still rankles opponents, who are pushing to bring the topic back to the ballot box.