Senators advance legislative redistricting committee proposal

2011-05-19T23:45:00Z 2011-05-20T17:22:43Z Senators advance legislative redistricting committee proposalBy JoANNE YOUNG / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

The Legislature rejected a plan Thursday night by two western Nebraska senators to make changes to a proposal for legislative district boundaries.

Instead, the bill (LB703) and map proposed by the Legislature's redistricting committee, that would move Sen. LeRoy Louden's District 49 to Sarpy County, advanced to a second round of consideration on a 32-8 vote.   

Most of the discussion on the legislative boundary changes centered on communities of interest in western Nebraska and on the angst about the shrinking population in rural parts of the state. An earlier debate Thursday afternoon on congressional redistricting had centered more on partisan concerns.

"The angst in rural Nebraska is very real and it's very palpable," Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton said.

But until the state can figure out ways to build the population in rural Nebraska, this will be the reality, she said.

Sen. John Harms of Scottsbluff, along with Louden, had come up with the alternative to find a way to make districts in western Nebraska more compact, and keep cities, counties and communities of interest together.

Louden also wanted a remedy for the problem of dividing Box Butte County. He said the committee's map had considered saving a senator's seat more than considering the people in the districts.

Sen. Ken Schilz said the committee's map minimized losses to western Nebraska. If Harms' map was adopted, he said, that area would end up with three new senators in the next election with no experience, and possibly seven senators with two years or less experience.

Harms' alternative map proposed moving District 47, served by  Schilz, to Sarpy County.

The committee proposal made what Sen. Deb Fischer of Valentine said were drastic changes to her 17,000 square-mile District 43. Distances would be unmanageable, she said, for anyone representing the district, and would destroy the district's Sandhills ranching interests.

From Chadron to Taylor, Dawes County to Loup County, she said, is 250 miles.

"Nobody in here can say that's reasonable. It's not," Fischer said.

Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island pointed out that any changes in the Panhandle would have a cascading effect, and changes in Harms' alternative proposal would be to the detriment of Grand Island.

Harms' map would mean Grand Island would have three different legislators.

Only 12 senators voted for the Harms proposal, and 28 against.

But the legislative boundary changes weren't settled in Omaha Sen. Bob Krist's mind. He said he believes a map could be drawn that would allow western Nebraska to keep all its districts essentially where they are today, and stay within allowable deviations. 

He may offer that alternative in the next round of debate, he said.

Compromises in Douglas and Sarpy counties were worked out before the committee advanced its proposal. Lancaster County area senators also worked out agreements on their portion of the map early on.

 

Proposed Lincoln legislative districts

Proposed state legislative districts

Reach JoAnne Young at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com -- You can follow JoAnne's tweets at twitter.com/ljslegislature.

Copyright 2015 JournalStar.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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