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Redistricting sharply reshuffles Lincoln legislative districts
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Redistricting sharply reshuffles Lincoln legislative districts

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The Legislature sent its high-profile congressional and legislative redistricting proposals on their way Tuesday to near-certain enactment after Sen. Matt Hansen of Lincoln raised strong objections to a revised legislative plan that he said carves up Lincoln, breaking its bond of community interest.

Hansen said the proposal would assign some of the city's core areas to rural districts that extend almost to the Iowa and Kansas borders.

That plan, he said, appears to be "trying to split the city of Lincoln."

After arguing for a motion to send the plan back to the Redistricting Committee for further adjustment during the morning session, Hansen withdrew his proposal following a lunch break.

"I am deeply unhappy," he said during a brief interview just off the floor of the Legislature minutes after withdrawing his proposal. "Lincoln got left out of the process" of adjusting proposed legislative districts at the end.

"I think we're stuck," he said, "short of destroying the special session."

Hansen wasn't the only senator unhappy with Tuesday's results.

Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha expressed strong opposition to the final congressional redistricting proposal, which moves rural Saunders County into metropolitan Omaha's 2nd District.

The decision to include Saunders County had "a partisan purpose," Lathrop said, when that county has "nothing in common" with the Douglas County-Sarpy County district.

"The sole purpose was to make it more difficult for a Democrat," he said.

The 2nd District is Nebraska's only competitive congressional district and has recently delivered a Democratic presidential electoral vote to both former President Barack Obama and President Joe Biden. 

Tuesday's results were largely predictable in a Legislature composed of 32 Republicans and 17 Democrats. Although the Legislature is nonpartisan, the redistricting exercise every 10 years turns sharply partisan.

Nine of the 10 votes against the congressional redistricting proposal were cast by Democrats. Sen. John McCollister, a Republican, joined them as the bill (LB1) advanced on a 29-10 vote.

The legislative redistricting plan was advanced on a 38-6 vote, with Hansen joining Sens. Machaela Cavanaugh and Megan Hunt, both Omaha Democrats, along with three rural Republicans — Sens. Bruce Bostelman of Brainard, Steve Erdman of Bayard and Mike Groene of North Platte — in voting no.

The rural senators offered an alternative proposal designed to keep the core of most current districts intact while protecting rural interests. 

"There was an alternative," Sen. Robert Clements of Elmwood said.

Also on their way to final reading decisions are redistricting plans for the Nebraska Supreme Court, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, the State Board of Education and the Public Service Commission.

Senators will convene briefly Wednesday and are scheduled to give final approval to the bills  Thursday, winding up their special session on the 13th day.

Hansen said Lincoln wasn't included when negotiated adjustments were made moving the proposed new district represented by Clements.

Earlier, senators adjusted the proposed districts represented by Sens. Mark Kolterman of Seward and Matt Williams of Gothenburg.

Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha, vice chairman of the Redistricting Committee and the leading Democratic negotiator, said "Lancaster County was not part of my negotiations."

Five of the 10 districts in Lancaster County were "changed significantly," Hansen said.  

His objections brought the Legislature's redistricting efforts to a halt during the morning debate as lawmakers began consideration of redistricting bills at the second stage of floor consideration.

While he negotiated some of the redistricting agreements that made their way to the floor, Wayne said, "I didn't touch Lancaster County."

"Lancaster County senators need to go in a room and figure this out," he said.

"What we have here is a failure to communicate," McCollister suggested in channeling film figure Cool Hand Luke. 

Maps circulating Tuesday, the first day of floor debate since initial compromise proposals advanced Friday, show District 30, represented by Sen. Myron Dorn of Adams, extending as far north as Old Cheney Road in south Lincoln, and District 2, represented by Clements, reaching as far west as 70th Street near Holmes Lake.

Both Dorn and Clements are Republicans.

Redistricting plan grows 3rd Congressional District to 80 of Nebraska's 93 counties
Compromise congressional, legislative redistricting plans clear first hurdle

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon

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