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Story Archives: Relationships will sour
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|Relationships will sour|
Before it's all said and done, the special legislative session that begins Sunday afternoon at the capitol most likely will evolve into an ugly affair, pitting many lawmakers against one another as they carve out the 144 state legislative districts that we'll deal with over the next 10 years.
Congressional districts will be redrawn, too.
Since the Census was taken in 2010, like it is every 10 years, each state in the country must redraw its legislative and congressional districts, among other elected districts, to reflect shifts in population in each state as well as shifts in population across the country. That's why the Legislature in Louisiana will convene a special session Sunday, March 20, to deal with redistricting and reapportionment. Remember, redistricting is the term we use in describing redrawing legislative and other districts. Reapportionment is the term we use in describing the redrawing of congressional districts.
Like our brethren across the Deep South, Louisiana fought tooth and nail to preserve segregation many years ago. Accordingly, the U.S. Department of Justice must sign off on any redistricting or reapportionment plan the Louisiana Legislature agrees upon.
Backed by the full weight of the federal government, the Justice Department can reject any redistricting or reapportionment plan the Legislature approves if either plan negatively impacts minority voters. That's especially important this year because the Legislature must grapple with a decline in population in the New Orleans area thanks to Hurricane Katrina. Others areas of the state lost population, too, but not as much as New Orleans.
It's widely expected the New Orleans area will lose at least one majority minority state Senate district because thousands of minorities who fled the Big Easy during Katrina never returned to the city. New Orleans also will lose a majority minority House district or two or three. Opinions vary on the number of minority House districts the Crescent City will lose.
Again, thanks to the federal government's control over redistricting and reapportionment in the Deep South, the Legislature must create majority minority House and Senate districts elsewhere in Louisiana to offset the demise of the minority districts in the New Orleans area. That's no short order.
In the House of Representatives, legislation dealing with redistricting and reapportionment will first be heard in the House and Governmental Affairs Committee. Across the hall in the Senate, the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee is responsible for first entertaining any legislation dealing with redistricting and reapportionment.
Rep. Rick Gallot of Grambling is chairman of House and Governmental Affairs. Sen. Bob Kostelka of Monroe is chairman of Senate and Governmental Affairs.
On the surface, one would think northern Louisiana's interests in redistricting and reapportionment would be well served because of Gallot's and Kostelka's positions. One would think.
One might think too much, too.
Earlier this year, Senate President Joel Chaisson decided he would handle redistricting and reapportionment in the Senate. In other words, Chaisson hijacked redistricting and reapportionment and for all practical purposes, he removed Kostelka as the point man on those issues in the Senate.
Not to be outdone by Chaisson, Rep. Jim Tucker, who serves as Speaker of the House of Representatives, responded to Chaisson's heavy handedness by hijacking redistricting and reappointment in the House. To put it politely, Gallot got neutered, too.
It's not being suggested that Gallot and Kostelka won't have any say over redistricting and reapportionment, but suffice it to say they won't be running the show. Chaisson and Tucker will.
Yet, Gallot's voice will be heard because he is a minority, and if he doesn't care for the redistricting and reapportionment plans the Legislature approves, he and other minority members of the Legislature can and certainly will get the Justice Department's attention. Believe me, the Justice Department would take pleasure in telling the Louisiana Legislature it must start anew on redistricting and reapportionment if Justice was convinced minority voting rights were infringed upon by the Legislature's handiwork. We've been down this road before.
By the time the Legislature adjourns the special session on redistricting and reapportionment, we'll know what the legislative districts will look like for the remainder of the decade, assuming no one or no organization files a lawsuit to challenge the outcome of the special session on redistricting and reapportionment. We'll also know which member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Louisiana will be squeezed out since the state must give up one of its seven House seats to account for Louisiana's abysmal population growth over the past decade.
Hopefully, when the dust settles, a sufficient number of men and women who serve in the Legislature will be on speaking terms to tackle the state's fiscal woes when the regular legislative session gets under way April 25.