New Voter Districts Fly through Legislature

On the same day the 2012 legislative session convened, committees in the General Assembly approved new voter district lines. They now go the full state House and Senate. But some lawmakers want more time to look the plans over.

Democrats complained they had had only hours to study the actual precinct-level maps by which the Republican majority had redrawn their districts.

State Senator Tim Barnes of Clarksville tried to slow down the bills as they went through the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“We had a lot of people from Robertson and Sumner County, who feel like they are losing a senator that they elected. And I think those people are entitled to more deliberation. I do think that this is being rushed, unnecessarily.”

Barnes, a Democrat, is talking about a Republican, Senator Kerry Roberts of Robertson County, who’s being drawn into a district with a more senior GOP senator – a district that doesn’t even come up for election until 2014.

Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris says he expects some friction over the new maps.

“It’s resistance to change. And I respect and appreciate that. In fact I wish I could give members an additional week, if it were up to me. But…the clock is ticking.”

Norris and other GOP leaders say they want potential candidates to have 90 days to study the new lines before the deadline to qualify in April.

The state House gets the redistricting bills Thursday, and the full Senate is expected to take them up Friday.

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The new Senate redistricting map not only eliminates Kerry Roberts, who won’t have an office to go to after the election day in 2012, but also Senator Jim Kyle, the Democratic Leader, who has been drawn out of a district in Memphis.

The bills are:

SB 1513 Norris/ HB 1555 McDaniel, state House of Representatives redistricting

SB 1514 Norris/ HB 1557 McDaniel
, state Senate redistricting

SB 1515 Norris/ HB 1558 McDaniel, U.S. Congressional redistricting

In the House the three bills were approved by the House State & Local Government Committee in a meeting that started at 1:30 p.m. and went past sundown. Ten minutes later, the House Calendar & Rules Committee sent the bills to the House floor.

House rules providing notice were suspended to allow the unusual action.

In the Senate, the Senate versions of the same bills were in the Senate Judiciary Committee. That committee took a two and one-half hour break to go over the state Senate redistricting bill – the one that affects them, personally – and reconvened at 6 p.m.

Senator Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) had been redistricted out of the district he recently won – but when the Judiciary Committee reconvened, he admitted he couldn’t find a way to redraw the map to his satisfaction with the right population figures.

The final map must show 33 equally sized Senate district – within a plus-or-minus population variance of five percent.

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