The plan, presented by Senate Elections Chair Terry Burton, R-Newton, is expected to be considered by the Elections Committee today and by the full Senate on Wednesday.
In both places it is expected to encounter strong opposition led by Lt. Gov. Phil Byrant, who presides over the Senate and appointed Burton to oversee the redistricting process for the Senate.
Bryant is expected to offer alternatives to the Burton plan in either the Elections Committee or before the full Senate.
While there will be opposition to the Burton plan, the portion placing Gordon and Lydia Chassaniol, R-Winona, in the same district apparently is not part of the controversy.
Burton said the two districts, located in the north central part of the state, were squeezed from all sides – a declining population in the Delta and south of the districts and the need to place a new district in fast-growing DeSoto County.
The combined district would take in a small portion of south Lee County and all of Chickasaw and run all the way over to a piece of Leflore County.
Gordon, who has been in the hospital suffering from complications from a brain tumor, was not at the Capitol on Monday to comment.
The Burton plan also would place Sens. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, and Ezell Lee, R-Picayune, in the same south Mississippi district.
The fight is expected to come today and Wednesday because the Burton plan would create a black-majority district in the Hattiesburg area.
Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, said the plan “destroys the Pine Belt districts – the way they have been represented for the past decade or so.”
The Burton plan would make a district currently represented by Tom King, R-Petal, a majority black district. King is running for the Transportation Commission later this year.
Burton said he made the change because the census data mandated the need for another black-majority district to adhere to federal Voting Rights standards. He also said a number of people at the 16 public redistricting hearings across the state asked for the creation of such a district.
Bryant is against the change.
“I continue to oppose the gerrymandered district within the Pine Belt area that collapses a Republican district only to create one controlled by Democrats,” Bryant said in a prepared statement.
Sen. Hob Byran, D-Amory, who led the Senate’s redistricting plan in 2001, said the Hattiesburg-area districts in the Burton plan actually are more compact and split fewer precincts than the plan that was approved in 2001 and that Bryant is trying to preserve now.
Bryan said at the time he had to gerrymander the area to preserve two incumbent GOP seats.
Fillingane said he opposes changing the Senate representation from the Hattiesburg area from three Republicans to two Republicans and a Democrat. That is what he said would occur if the area got a black-majority Senate district.
The House already has passed its plan. It is awaiting action in the Senate.
On Monday, Gov. Haley Barbour urged the Senate to reject the House plan because he said it puts fewer people in Republican districts than in Democratic districts.
Bryant also said in a statement, he did not “expect to see it (the House plan) supported by the Mississippi Senate.”
Each chamber must approve the plan passed by the other chamber before it is finally approved.
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.