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After decades of contemplation and debate, a group known as Better Together is recommending an end to the “Great Divorce” between St. Louis and St. Louis County.Better Together is proposing an ambitious plan to create a unified metro government and police department and limit municipalities' ability to levy sales taxes. The plan would be decided through a statewide vote.Proponents contend it will scrape away layers of local government that has been holding the St. Louis region back. Opponents believe the plan will create an unwieldy and large centralized government that could be implemented against the will of city and county residents.

Politically Speaking: Rep. Plocher On How The Legislature Could Impact City-County Merger Debate

Rep. Dean Plocher
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Rep. Dean Plocher

Rep. Dean Plocher is the latest guest on Politically Speaking, where the Des Peres Republican primarily talked about a potential merger between St. Louis and St. Louis County.

Plocher represents the 89th House District, which includes parts of Town & Country, Huntleigh, Des Peres and Country Life Acres. Plocher, an attorney by trade, is the chairman of the influential House General Laws Committee.

A group called Better Together unveiled a plan earlier this year to create a metro government overseeing St. Louis and St. Louis County. Among other things, the new entity would have a mayor, assessor, prosecutor and 33-person council government presiding over what is now the city and the county.

Organizers are seeking to get the Better Together plan before statewide voters in November 2020. They contend a constitutional amendment is necessary to implement key elements of the plan, such as consolidating police departments and municipal courts. But that decision has sparked bipartisan criticism, because it means that a city-county merger could happen if it passes statewide, even if St. Louis and St. Louis County residents vote against it.

Plocher is putting a constitutional amendment forward that could go alongside the Better Together proposal on the ballot. Plocher’s proposition wouldn’t allow the plan to go into effect “unless the ballot measure is approved by a majority of the votes cast on the measure in each affected city or county.” A number of other lawmakers from both parties, including Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, D-St. Louis, have put forward similar amendments.

Both Plocher and Bosley’s proposals have passed out of committee, and they await debate in the full Missouri House. St. Louis Public Radio will have a broader story on how those plans may fare in the Legislature on Thursday.

Here’s what Plocher had to say during the podcast:

  • Plocher discussed the different consequences if his amendment passed in August 2020 — or if it was approved at the same time as the Better Together amendment in November 2020.
  • He also talked about how much pressure GOP leadership was getting from proponents of the Better Together plan not to pass his initiative.
  • Plocher gave his take on what issues his colleagues will take up during the final weeks of session, including a bonding proposal to fix 250 bridges across the state.
  • He says that it’s likely that lawmakers will pass legislation to lower the amount of state low-income housing tax credits issued every year. The Senate already approved legislation that would only issue roughly 77.5% of the federal credit — which would likely save the state tens of millions of dollars over the few years.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Dean Plocher on Twitter: @deanplocher

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.

Music: "In A Big Country" by Big Country

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.