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Changes coming in legislative districting

By Dennis Minich

One of the major challenges facing the Missouri legislature in the coming weeks will be the makeup of future legislatures and drawing the boundaries of the state’s eight congressional districts.

State Rep. Mike Haffner said while the leaders of the Missouri House of Representatives and the State Senate unveiled the congressional maps last week, they have yet to be ratified.

“Committee hearings will start early on the congressional seats. They are probably pretty close to done, but we still have to go through the process and there could be some changes,” Hafner said.

Likely to cause more problems is the redistricting of Missouri’s 163 House Districts and 34 Senate Districts. A panel of 20 people, 10 each from the Republican and Democratic parties have been given the task of drawing the new districts. However, the final maps have not been drawn and there are only about six weeks before filing opens for the August Primary Elections.

“That will be the big question because we probably won’t know until filing time. The congressional districting might be especially difficult because we (Republicans) don’t have the supermajority to evoke the emergency clause. Without a special session this summer, we knew it would be like this,” Haffner said.

The panel handling the state house seats have made some major changes in Cass County. In the state senate, both Cass and Bates counties will likely remain in the 31st District, however the rest of the district will be different. The current district follows the I-49 corridor south to just north of Lamar. There is panhandle that stretches to east of Clinton in Henry County. The new district will likely be Cass, Bates and Johnson counties.

In the state house districting, it appears Cass County will still be part of four districts, but the make up of those districts will be far different.

Haffner is likely the only representative to retain a seat in Cass County, although the geography of his District 55 will be far different.

“His current district includes a good deal of the city of Raymore. Under the proposed district, Haffner’s area will be primarily Harrisonville and Pleasant Hill.

“It won’t be a big deal for me, but for others it will be a big deal,” he said.

Harrisonville is currently part of District 33, represented by Chris Sander. Under the new plan, his district will be completely in Jackson County. Belton and Raymore will be included in District 56. Michael Davis, the current office holder lives outside the area, so he will have one term to opt to move to a new district or move into the redrawn district.

District 57 will include the southeast part of the county, 67 will include southwest and western Cass County along with part of Bates County. There will also be a new district which will include part of the county.

Filing for the August primary election opens Feb. 25 and runs through March 31.

Haffner serves on six legislative committees. He is the co-chairman on the joint committee on agriculture; vice chairman of the elementary and secondary education committee; and is a member of emerging issues; rules, legislative oversight; rural community development and the special committee on homeland security.

In addition to his legislative chores, Haffner has been traveling throughout the state as he is bidding to become the house majority floor leader following the November election.

He said he has a couple of clear-cut priorities.

“We’re going to need bold leadership. We should be protecting the Constitution. The initiative petition process is a flawed system. The initiative process is an important procedure, but all it takes to change the state constitution is 50 percent plus one vote. Virtually, everywhere else it takes 67 percent to change the constitution.

“Bingo and legalized marijuana both passed because of the flawed system,” he said.

Haffner said it is also important the state spend its money wisely.

“We need to be careful how we spend money coming in. We need to be aware of inflation, which is obviously around us. We need to prioritize our spending. For example, I am all for roads and infrastructure. But when I took office, the state budget the first year was $29.6 billion. By my fifth year, it had grown to $35.6 billion. I don’t think we really needed to raise the gas tax because in a $35.6 billion budget, I think they could have found $200 million for infrastructure,” Haffner said.

One piece of legislation which has gained the attention of cities and counties throughout the state is Senate Bill 5, which changed how fines could be assessed and took away penalties for non-appearance at court proceedings. The bill was sponsored Eric Schmitt, who was then a state senator, but is now attorney general.

Many local government officials along with judges have complained it has taken away the ability to hold violators accountable in court. It was passed following the unrest in Ferguson.

“Senate Bill 5, passed in 2016, fixed some things needed to be fixed, but we now know the ramifications. In Cass County, the failure to appears have increased three-fold. I have filed a bill in each of the last three sessions to fix some the problems. “I have also sponsored a resisting arrest bill,” he said. “I will fight for these measures because these problems have to be resolved.”

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