House to vote on redistricting proposals today

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – The House is expected to vote today on a proposal to redraw the districts for both the House and the Senate.
On Monday, the House Apportionment and Elections Committee amended the Senate redistricting plan to include the proposal to redistrict the House seats.
The Senate Elections Committee had killed the House plan passed earlier this month to redraw the House districts.
The House plan, proposed by the majority Democratic leadership and passed already by that chamber, is opposed by most of the House’s 53 Republicans. The Republicans are expected to offer an alternative to the plan of the House Democratic leadership today.
Once the House and Senate redistricting plans are approved by the House, the merged proposal will go back to the Senate. The Senate can concur, which would conclude the process in the Legislature, or invite negotiations.
Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant opposes the plan of the House Democratic leadership.
The alternative proposal drawn by House Republicans creates 42 black majority districts instead of the 44 in the House Democratic leadership’s plan. The Republicans also would place four sets of incumbents in the same districts. The Democratic plan puts two sets of incumbents in the same district.
Rep. Mark Baker, R-Brandon, said there is not a lot of difference between the two plans. He said the Republican plan removes two seats from the Delta, which has lost population, and places them in growing areas of the state.
“It is not a major overhaul,” Baker said. “We made some modifications, but a majority of the seats remain substantively the same” as in the plan of the House Democratic leadership.
House Apportionment and Elections Chairmen Tommy Reynolds, D-Water Valley, said the Democrats’ plan is fair to Republicans. He said he worked with Republicans in developing the plan they now oppose.
He added the plan also adheres to state and federal law as far as deviations from the ideal population size of each district based on the 2010 census.
“We need to work together,” Reynolds said. “That is what we have tried to do.”
The Legislature is working to complete the redistricting process in time to obtain federal approval before the June 1 qualifying deadline. Legislative leaders had hoped to finish the process this week.
If they cannot reach a timely agreement, the issue could end up in court.
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@journalinc.com.