By Mike Scott, NEMOnews Media Group
Missouri could consolidate 31 rural counties into fourteen, if a constitutional amendment proposed by a St. Louis legislator were to be approved by Missouri voters. Several northeast and north central Missouri counties would be affected.
House Joint Resolution 55 was introduced by Representative Gina Mitten (D-83), who represents portions of St. Louis City and St. Louis County. Mitten also serves as the Assistant Minority Floor Leader. The bill is co-sponsored by Alan Gray (D-75) and Chris Carter (D-76), who also represent districts in St. Louis.
HJR 55 was introduced on February 28, and had a second reading on March 1. The bill is not currently on the House calendar. It has not been taken up by the Senate at this point.
The proposed legislation would consolidate 31 counties into 14, effective January 1, 2023. The new combined counties would take the name of the county with the highest population on January 1, 2021.
If approved by voters, a two-year transition period would start in January of 2021. The text of the proposal is as follows:
Be it resolved by the House of Representatives, the Senate concurring therein:
That at the next general election to be held in the state of Missouri, on Tuesday next following the first Monday in November, 2020, or at a special election to be called by the governor for that purpose, there is hereby submitted to the qualified voters of this state, for adoption or rejection, the following amendment to Article VI of the Constitution of the state of Missouri: Section A. Article VI, Constitution of Missouri, is amended by adding one new section, to be known as Section 3(a), to read as follows:
Section 3(a). 1. On January 1, 2023, the thirty-one counties listed under subsection 4 of this Section shall consolidate into fourteen counties. Each new, consolidated county shall have the name of county in its grouping that had the largest population on January 1, 2021.
2. On January 1, 2021, the counties shall begin a two-year transition period to effectuate the consolidation. The person duly serving as chief executive of the grouping’s most populous county as of January 1, 2019, shall serve as the chief executive of all counties in the grouping until the general election of 2024, at which time the position shall be filled by an official duly elected by the voters of the consolidated county. Such chief executive may employ staff to assist him or her during the transition period so long as each county that is part of the consolidation is represented among the staff.
3. All persons duly serving as commissioners as of January 1, 2019, other than the chief executive of the most populous county in a grouping, shall serve until the November 2022 general election, at which time three commissioners shall be duly elected to serve the consolidated county. The commissioner who receives the most votes shall serve for six years; the commissioner who receives the second most votes shall serve four years; the commissioner who receives the third most votes shall serve two years; and, upon the end of each of these commissioner’s years of service, the office of a commissioner shall be a six year term and filled by a duly elected official.
4. Each county of the following groupings shall be consolidated with the other counties in its grouping to form one county:
(1) Atchison County and Holt County;
(2) Barton County and Dade County;
(3) Caldwell County and Daviess County;
(4) Carroll County and Chariton County;
(5) Carter County, Reynolds County, and Shannon County;
(6) Clark County and Lewis County;
(7) Douglas County and Ozark County;
(8) Gentry County, Nodaway County, and Worth County;
(9) Harrison County and Mercer County;
(10) Hickory County and Saint Clair County;
(11) Knox County, Schuyler County, and Scotland County;
(12) Maries County and Osage County;
(13) Monroe County and Shelby County; and
(14) Putnam County and Sullivan County.
NEMOnews Media Group has tried to contact Representative Mitten to explain the reasons for the proposed constitutional amendment. We asked several questions, but as of press time, we have not received a response.
Some of our questions are:
- How would such an action better serve Missouri?
- Is there a way this saves the state money?
- What would be the impact on county government services, such as voting, county road maintenance, tax assessment and collections, land records, law enforcement and court services?
- How would other county offices be combined?
- Where will the new county seat of the combined counties be located?
- What happens to the other courthouse and related businesses in the counties that would lose their county seat?