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Time frame is tight for new Senate redistricting commission

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 1, 2012 - The new bipartisan commission set up to try once again to craft new state Senate boundaries won't meet for the first time until Feb. 18 -- just 10 days before candidate filing is to begin for those posts.

Such a time crunch could put more pressure on the General Assembly to delay candidate filing, although no action has been taken.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced earlier this week that he has appointed the 10 commission members, made up of five from each political party. The Feb. 18 meeting is stipulated by the state constitution.

The members include St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann, a Republican, and former state Rep. Doug Harpool, a Democrat from Springfield, Mo. Harpool had chaired the original commission, which failed to agree on a map last year.

The new commission was set up on the orders of the state Supreme Court, which earlier this month tossed out the map that had been drawn to reflect population changes recorded in the 2010 census. The court's action was based, in part, on procedural missteps by the judges.

That map had been drawn by a judicial panel, after the first bipartisan commission -- headed by Harpool -- failed to reach agreement.  Under the Missouri constitution, at least seven members must back the new map. Otherwise, the task goes to judges.

The state House map also is in court; the first hearing is set for Friday.

As a result of the challenges, some legislators want to delay the beginning of candidate filing out of concern that boundaries for the 34 Senate districts and the 163 House districts may change, compared to those in the contested maps.

House Speaker Pro Tem Shane Schoeller, R-Willard, said in an interview with Jason Rosenbaum earlier this week that it's possible that the legislature may have to act.

"I don't believe we've had that discussion in House leadership, and I don't know if they've had that in Senate leadership, but certainly that would be something that would have to be considered," Schoeller said.

But Schoeller also observed that the matter may likely be "up to the courts."

"And certainly the courts have allowed this to go forth, so I wouldn't be surprised if they put back for the elections that will be affected to extend the filing date," he added.

The Senate bipartisan commission's members, along with their hometown and political affiliations are:

  • Nicole Colbert-Botchway (D-St. Louis)
  • Jean Paul Bradshaw II (R-Kansas City)
  • Steve Ehlmann (R-St. Charles)
  • Marc Ellinger (R-Jefferson City)
  • W. Mitchell Elliott (D-Kansas City)
  • Doug Harpool (D-Springfield)
  • Nick Myers (R-Joplin)
  • Todd Patterson (D-Kansas City)
  • Lowell Pearson (R-Columbia)
  • Trent Skaggs (D-Kansas City)
Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.