Audrain County farmers learned about the past year in legislation and plans moving forward for local representatives Friday at a dinner and meeting of the Audrain County Farm Bureau.

Among those providing updates was state Rep. Kent Haden, R-Mexico. He spoke about Amendment 1, also known as Clean Missouri, which was passed by voters November 2018.

The amendment included a section about how legislative districts are drawn. Lawmakers, by April, were working to change the redistricting section. Their efforts will continue this year, Haden said.

"When they proposed [the amendment], they said we want to keep districts of like interests together and we want to keep contiguous districts," he said.

There would have to be a relatively equal representation of constituents, he said. Districts should be as equally populated between Democrats and Republicans as possible.

Prior to the amendment, the House and Senate would form bipartisan commissions to redraw district maps, so long as 70% commission members agreed to the map. The amendment has the state auditor convene a panel to select a person to research voter demographics and redraw district maps, which then will be submitted to House and Senate commissions. The commissions would have two months in which to make changes if, once again, 70% agree to changes.

Haden claimed that potential maps could be drawn to have Audrain County and a section of Callaway County east to St. Louis as a district.

These Clean Missouri district maps would apply to state legislative district and not congressional districts, according to Brian Nichols, with U.S. Rep. Sam Graves' office.

"Can you imagine representing a district that goes from here to St. Louis, 10-miles wide and represent those people. There's going to be two major losers in that. One is agricultural and two is black votes in St. Louis and Kansas City," Haden said. "[Lawmakers] are concerned about it because they know we could lose half of the black representation in the House of Representatives."

A change to legislative districts could level voter demographics. Black voters overwhelmingly voted Democrat in 2018. Evening out demographics could diminish the power of the non-white vote in a legislative district as new white voters are added and black voters are moved to other districts.

Haden represents the 43rd district and its political makeup is about 73% Republican and 27% Democrat, he said. Democratic representatives in state Congress often come from St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Columbia, he added.

"For agriculture, for the rural vote, this is critical, because I'm convinced we're going to be a state represented by Blue Springs and St. Charles," he said.

Any proposed changes made by the General Assembly will be on a ballot and decided by Missouri voters, State Rep. Sara Walsh, R-Ashland, said. She was attending the meeting because her husband, Steve, is U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler's press officer, who also was at the meeting to provide an update to Bureau members.

"Because Clean Missouri came as an amendment to the constitution, the people are the only ones that can change that,” Rep. Walsh said. “We in the legislature can't change that, but we can put forth as a body something that can be ballot language to maybe modify it and go before the people."

Amendment 1 also limited campaign contributions and prevents elected lawmakers and their staff from seeking lobbying positions for two years after they leave public service. All legislative records would be subject to Missouri Sunshine Law and political fundraising could not take place on state property, as well.

cdunlap@gatehousemedia.com