Senate approves state redistricting plan

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Three Northeast Mississippi senators were among five who voted against a plan approved Wednesday to redraw the state’s 52 Senate districts.
Sens. Nickey Browning, D-Pontotoc, and Bill Stone, D-Ashland, voted against the plan that placed them in the same district in order to create a new district in fast-growing DeSoto County.
The other three no votes came from senators who had concerns about how the plan changed their districts or felt the plan developed by the Senate’s Republican majority unfairly targeted Democrats.
Sen. Bennie Turner, D-West Point, was the other no vote from Northeast Mississippi.
Stone and Browning were the only two senators paired in the plan.
Redistricting is one of the final issues facing legislators during the 2012 session. The Senate also “rubber-stamped” the House plan Wednesday, though 14 members did vote against it because they felt it unfairly targeted Democrats. The House is expected to pass the Senate plan today.
With redistricting out of the way, the 2012 session could be concluded as early as today.
During debate on the Senate redistricting plan Wednesday, Stone argued that placing his home county of Benton in a district that included Pontotoc made no sense because the two counties were not “communities of interest.” Benton has been in a district with Marshall and a portion of Tippah.
“I am talking about communities that have common interests, common goals,” Stone said.
Sen. Merle Flowers, R-Southaven, who headed up the Senate’s redistricting effort, said because of population shifts found by the 2010 census, “We had to collapse some districts. We did not take great joy in that.”
Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, who headed up the unsuccessful redistricting effort during the 2011 session, said Flowers had a difficult job because none of the incumbent senators elected last November indicated they did not plan to run again next election.
The 2011redistricting effort by Burton failed because of partisan bickering between the Republican-controlled Senate and the then-Democratic-led House.
With Republicans now in control of both chambers, the partisan gridlock has not been an issue this year.
It is not clear, though, whether a federal judicial panel will order new elections this year because legislators were elected last year in districts that violate the one-person, one-vote mandate of the state and U.S. constitutions.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com