Missouri loses Congressional seat in new Census

Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Census Bureau Director Robert Groves announces results for the 2010 U.S. Census on Tuesday at the National Press Club in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The news Tuesday that Missouri will lose one Congressional seat in 2012 had some federal lawmakers worried about the loss of political clout in Washington, even as those in the state's Republican-led legislature promised a bipartisan effort in redrawing the districts.

The U.S. Census Bureau announced Tuesday that Missouri will lose one seat from the U.S. House of Representatives, going from nine to eight. That also means a lost seat in the Electoral College, which means less influence for Missouri in presidential elections.

Missouri's population didn't shrink -- it actually grew by 7 percent -- but the country as a whole saw a greater population increase of 9.7 percent. Every 10 years, the 435 seats in the U.S. House are redistributed among the states based on population.

The effect will be felt for years in lost revenue, said. U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo.

"I think it will impact some of the resources coming back to the state," Emerson said. "We lose the clout of having nine people advocating for Missouri. That's problematic."

The loss of the seat will likely mean less federal funding coming into the state for projects, such as for transportation, education and health care.

Emerson wouldn't comment on the safety of her 8th Congressional District, but several speculated Tuesday it would more likely come from a larger metropolitan area, such as Democrat Russ Carnahan's St. Louis-area House seat.

The state legislature will be in charge of drawing up the new districts once it convenes in January. Incoming House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, has already appointed a 12-person redistricting committee, with Rep. John Diehl, R-Town and Country, as chairman.

But Tilley said losing the congressional seat was the biggest issue right now.

"It's not a good day," Tilley said. "Not a good day at all for Missouri, when we lose one seat in Congress."

Still, Tilley pledged to have an "open and transparent" redistricting process that he would work to keep bipartisan. But he admitted that not everyone would come away pleased.

"I wouldn't expect it to get ugly," he said. "But with the map going from nine to eight, you're going to lose one and somebody's not going to be happy."

If the state senate and the house agree on a redistricting bill, it would still have to be signed into law or vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. If government can't come to a consensus, then the courts will decide.

At least one area Democratic leader thought it would get divisive, though. Mark Baker, chairman of the Cape Girardeau County Democrats, said he would be surprised if it isn't reduced to one big political power grab.

"How can it not?" he said. "Each side wants to protect their numbers. That's what politics is all about."

Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, is on the state senate's redistricting committee, so he will also be heavily involved in redrawing the district map.

But the state's lawmakers need to work to keep Missouri's population growing at a greater pace so it doesn't see more dropped seats in 2020 when the next Census numbers are released, Crowell said. Some of the reasons Missouri didn't keep up with other states, he said, is because it is not a right-to-work state and because it has a state income tax.

If those were phased out, he said, then new employers would want to locate or expand in Missouri.

"Texas gained four Congressional seats and they are a right to work state and they have no state income tax," he said. "We have to do something. What we have seen today from these Census numbers is a wake-up call."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address: Jefferson City, Mo.

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