JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri's Republican-led Legislature passed what it touted as a compromise plan to redraw the state's congressional districts Wednesday night, but some Democrats decried it as a partisan map and urged the governor to veto it.
The redistricting legislation given final approval by the House and Senate would merge two Democratic congressmen into the same St. Louis district as part of a way to consolidate the state's nine current congressional districts into eight as a result of the 2010 Census. The changes are necessary because Missouri's population growth failed to keep pace with that of the nation, and because of in-state population shifts, such as an exodus of residents from the city of St. Louis to its outer suburbs.
The final plan, which passed the House 96-55 and the Senate 27-7, represents a compromise among the two chambers after they each had previously passed different redistricting proposals.
Republican Sen. Scott Rupp of Wentzville, the chairman of the chamber's redistricting committee, urged the Democratic governor "to take a long hard look" at the legislation, adding: "I would encourage him to sign it." He said the plan would make all of Missouri's congressional districts more competitive among Republicans and Democrats.
But House Democrats quickly issued a statement imploring Nixon to veto the bill.
"This redistricting plan was drafted in a secret backroom with the goal of creating safe Republican seats and depriving Missouri voters of real choices in congressional elections," said House Minority Leader Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City.
If Nixon vetoes the bill and lawmakers fail to get the two-thirds vote necessary to override him, Missouri's congressional districts would be redrawn by the courts. Nixon has not publicly commented about his intentions, and a spokesman said Wednesday night only that the bill would get a thorough review.
Although the Senate vote exceeded the margin necessary for an override, the House would need to pick up 13 more votes to override a veto. House Speaker Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, said lawmakers acted quickly to pass the legislation Wednesday night in the belief that doing so would meet a deadline in the state constitution allowing time for them to consider a veto override before their regular session ends May 13. Otherwise, an override of a potential veto would have to wait until September.
The plan passed by the Legislature would place the city of St. Louis entirely into the 1st Congressional District now held by Democrat William Lacy Clay. The city currently is split with the 3rd District represented by Democrat Russ Carnahan.
Under the Legislature's plan, Carnahan's district would essentially be eliminated and divided four ways -- with part going to Clay's area; part to a suburban St. Louis district now held by Republican Todd Akin; part incorporated into a significantly redrawn district currently represented by Republican Blaine Luetkemeyer of central Missouri; and part added to the southeastern Missouri district currently held by Republican Jo Ann Emerson.
Clay, who was at the Missouri Capitol on Wednesday, said he would have preferred to keep St. Louis split among two districts and to have a map that still included three Democratic-leaning districts. But he said he wasn't concerned about a potential primary against Carnahan.
"I will be fine. I will run for re-election and I will win decisively," Clay said.
Carnahan spokeswoman Sara Howard said the congressman had no immediate comment Wednesday night about the newly passed plan.
Emerson acknowledged that hurdles remain before the proposal becomes law, but said she believes it protects the interests of her current 8th District.
The Legislature's plan would divide Jefferson County south of St. Louis into three districts -- a move that local state Sen. Ryan McKenna, D-Crystal City, complained "is a completely unfair map."
The plan also would extend the northwest Missouri district of Republican Sam Graves across the entire northern half of Missouri, with a dip into Republican-leaning suburbs of Kansas City. The district currently held by Democrat Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City would be extended east into a few rural counties -- a move decried by Republican Sen. Bill Stouffer, of Napton, as creating an odd shape looking like "the dead lizard map."
In other significant changes, Columbia would shift from what currently is Luetkemeyer's district to a west-central Missouri district represented by freshman Republican Vicky Hartzler, while Jefferson City would shift from Hartzler's district into the newly redrawn district that includes Luetkemeyer's home.
Southwest Missouri, currently represented by freshman Republican Billy Long, would see the least change, because its population grew faster than most regions of the state.
Redistricting bill is HB193.