Perhaps no Missouri lawmaker had their district changed as drastically as Jolie Justus.
The Kansas City Democrat, who has two years remaining on her Senate term, spent the past six years representing a largely urban constituency.
As a result of the 2012 redistricting, she will serve her final two years representing citizens in a much more rural and conservative area, including Warren County.
The 10th District previously encompassed a portion of Jackson County. The new district is made up of Warren, Lincoln, Montgomery, Audrain, Callaway and Monroe counties.
“This is a very unusual situation,” Justus told The Record, adding that she is “acutely aware” of the fact that she will be representing a citizenry in a different region of Missouri which did not elect her.
However, she pledged to be responsive to the residents of her relocated district.
“I want them to know their senator will provide the same services they received from their senators in the past,” Justus said.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone and I will do my absolute best to represent everybody,” she stated. “I’m passionate about this state and about my job, and I’ll respond in the same fashion as I did to my constituents in Kansas City.”
Justus does not plan to establish a district office in the area.
“What I plan to do is keep my phone available to anyone,” she said, noting that people will be able to reach her through her office at the state Capitol.
She added that she will meet with people in the district as she is able.
Justus will serve this session as minority leader in the Senate. In that role, she will be responsible for appointing Democrats to the various Senate committees, as well as working with Republican leaders on various issues.
And as the new legislative session gets under way, Justus expressed optimism that much will be accomplished.
“We’ve got really strong working relationships between the House and the Senate, between Republicans and Democrats,” she remarked. “We will disagree, but I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues on those issues.
“Ninety-five percent of what we do, we agree on,” she asserted. “It’s the 5 percent we don’t agree on that’s the most interesting.”
Her Republican colleagues concur with that assessment.
“We don’t agree on everything, but we have respect for one another,” said incoming Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, in an interview earlier this year with the St. Louis Beacon. “And I enjoy working with her.”
Justus prefiled several bills dealing with a range of issues, from campaign contribution limits, an advance voting system for elections, establishment of a voluntary prekindergarten program and prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Another bill which was prefiled by Justus could, if passed, help attract businesses to Missouri.
Senate Bill 91 would create the Missouri Angel Investment Incentive Act and modify language relating to the New Markets Tax Credit.
“We have a lot of entrepreneurial folks in Missouri, but what they find incredibly difficult is getting startup capital,” Justus said.
If approved, the Missouri Angel Investment Incentive Act would provide tax credits “if someone chooses to invest in a Missouri startup,” Justus explained.
Work also is in progress on an effort to rewrite the Missouri Criminal Code, Justus said.
“We’re looking at ways to save money, but make Missouri safer,” she asserted, noting that lawmakers spent eight weeks last fall taking public testimony on the proposed legislation.
“We’re still working to revise the bill,” she said.
An attorney with the law firm of Shook, Hardy and Bacon, LLP, in Kansas City, Justus also is the firm’s director of pro bono legal services.
She stated that her primary focus is on children and child advocacy issues, such as cases involving child welfare, abuse or neglect.
Justus graduated from Missouri State University, Springfield, and then spent seven years as a radio newscaster before pursuing her law degree at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
She was first elected to the Senate in 2006, and re-elected in 2010. She is the first openly gay member of the state Senate.