By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – The ball, as it relates to the redistricting, is now in the Senate court after the House on Wednesday passed a plan to redraw the 174 legislative districts.
It marked the third time this session the House passed a plan to redraw its districts and the second to pass a proposal to redraw Senate districts. Plans to redraw each house must pass both chambers.
Whether the Senate will take up the House proposal was not clear Wednesday. Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who presides over the Senate, said he agreed with House Republicans that the method the majority House Democrats used to pass the plan is unconstitutional.
Asked if he would allow the plan passed Wednesday by the House to be considered in the Senate, he said, “I am talking to legal counsel, and I have not made a decision, but it would be unusual for me to ask members to vote on something that is unconstitutional.”
Bryant acknowledged that he would be going against precedent by second-guessing the parliamentary rulings of the other chamber. House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, ruled, despite Republican objections, that it was proper to amend a Senate resolution dealing with the Legislature possibly returning to take up redistricting, to insert both the House and Senate redistricting plans. The amendment adding the redistricting plans passed 62-56 Wednesday primarily along party lines.
Redistricting is the only issue keeping the Legislature in session, which is scheduled to end Monday.
If the Legislature is not able to deal withredistricting, it will be thrown into the federal courts. Sen. Hob. Bryan, D-Amory, said that appears to be the goal of the lieutenant governor.
“He has been trying to run out the clock on redistricting since February,” Bryan said, citing several legislative moves the lieutenant governor has made.
Bryant has said he wants to avoid a costly court fight, but believes the plan for the House passed by the Democratic majority is unfair to Republicans, thus he is breaking with the tradition of each chamber rubber-stamping the plan from the other house.
But House Apportionment and Elections Chairman Tommy Reynolds, D-Water Valley, said the plan is fair and both sides had input.
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.