UPDATE: House leader McCoy gives Senate ultimatum on redistricting

By NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – State House Speaker Billy McCoy released the following statement today after House members sent the Senate a joint resolution that would redraw House and Senate legislative districts.

State legislators are required by law to redraw their districts once every 10 years. Lawmakers use U.S. Census data to modify and update House and Senate district lines to reflect population changes and shifts that have occurred since the last official Census was taken.

If state House and Senate members do not approve new districts this year, the issue could go to court and taxpayers may be forced to cover the expense of two legislative elections – one in November 2011 and another in November 2012.

Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement he was “disappointed” by McCoy’s decision.

“As the Senate prepares to vote and send the House and Senate plans to a conference committee, moving forward with the legislative process is the appropriate and lawful thing to do. The Legislature must rest on the rule of law, not the antiquated traditions that were designed to keep the powerful in power,” Bryant said.

McCoy said the responsibility of whether or not to force taxpayers to pay for two separate elections and expensive litigation now rests with the state Senate. McCoy’s formal statement was read before the full House and made part of the official House Journal. Here is the complete statement:

“In adopting JR 201, the Mississippi House of Representatives has approved the plan for the redistricting of its members (for a second time), as well as included in the resolution the plan sent to the House for the redistricting of the members of the Senate (without changes). As far as I am concerned, the matter is settled. The Senate has approved its plan, and the House has approved its plan.

“For the 50 years that the Mississippi Legislature has been conforming its district lines to meet the demands of one-person, one-vote and the Voting Rights Act, the Legislature has conducted this business with one overriding tradition in mind – that neither house will interfere with the districts of the other house. We have maintained this tradition for half a century, it has served the state well, and I have no intention of changing that tradition for as long as I am speaker.

“This year the Mississippi Legislature has passed fair redistricting plans after sixteen (16) public hearings, approved unanimously by the bi-partisan Joint Legislative Committee on Legislative Redistricting, and vigorous floor debate.

“Should the Senate choose to invite conference on JR 201, I will not entertain that request nor will I appoint conferees. In addition, the House will immediately transmit JR 201 to the Department of Justice and seek preclearance of the plan for use in the upcoming elections.

“We will ask the Department of Justice to work with us in adopting this plan to prevent the taxpayers from having to pay for two sets of legislative elections and from having to pay for the expensive cost of litigation. There is no reason whatsoever that the Legislature should incur these unnecessary costs at the same time we are cutting education, Medicaid and mental health.”

For more, read Thursday’s NEMS Daily Journal.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.