"Governor Signs Redistricting Bill Into Law." October 25,
Gov. Foster has signed into law the bill redrawing Louisiana's seven congressional districts on the basis of the 2000 Census, the governor's office announced Wednesday.
Terry Ryder, special counsel to the governor, said Foster has signed House Bill 2 by Rep. Peppi Bruneau, R-New Orleans, thus completing action on all the legislation that lawmakers sent him during the special session that ended Oct. 15.
The congressional plan is scheduled to go into effect for the elections in November 2002, but like all Louisiana election law changes, it first has to pass muster under the federal Voting Rights Act.
The normal procedure is for the attorney general's office to submit the congressional plan -- along with those for the Legislature, the Public Service Commission and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education -- to the U.S. Justice Department for review.
Lawmakers also could go directly to the federal district court in Washington, D.C., to seek a ruling on the new districts. Bruneau said last week that state officials are undecided on whether to go through Justice or directly to court.
The Legislative Black Caucus is expected to ask the federal government to reject the plans for Congress and the state House of Representatives on grounds that not enough black-majority districts were created in either body.
The redistricting plan maintains one black-majority congressional district, the 2nd District based in New Orleans and now represented by Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans. The caucus had proposed a second black-majority district stretching from the Arkansas line on the north to the Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas on the south.
The state House plan includes 26 black-majority districts. The caucus said there should be at least 27. That plan is not scheduled to go into effect until the 2003 elections.
Jack Wardlaw can be reached at [email protected] or at (225) 342-7315.
The changing racial makeup of the city of Baton Rouge from majority white to majority black shows up in the new election districts for the Louisiana Senate.
Two of the three state Senate districts totally within the parish will be majority black in people and in voters.
"Itís because of the heavy African-American population in the city of Baton Rouge and the parish as a whole," explained Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, one of the parishís two black senators.
The 2000 U.S. Census showed the city of Baton Rouge has a black majority population for the first time in its history, while the parish remains majority white.
The census found 227,818 people living in the Baton Rouge city limits, with 113,953 identifying themselves as black and 104,117 white. The rest identify themselves as other races.
The concentration of minorities within the city had to be taken into account, said Sen. Jay Dardenne, R-Baton Rouge.
But another legal factor came into play as well ó the issue of "retrogression," Dardenne said.
The Senate remap plan could have run into legal problems if two area majority-black districts did not remain after new boundary lines were drawn based on population shifts in the last decade, he said. Civil rights-rulings by federal courts require such protection of minority voting rights.
Under the maps used to elect the current legislators in 1999, only one mostly black Senate district is wholly in the parish. It is represented by Cleo Fields.
A current second majority-black district, represented by Fieldsí brother, Wilson, includes a piece of East Baton Rouge but also the Felicianas and St. Helena parishes.
Under the new Senate redistricting plan, which would take effect for the 2003 elections, both of those districts would become totally in East Baton Rouge Parish. The parish would have three instead of two senators with districts wholly within it.
"If it were not for retrogression, there could have been two majority-white districts in East Baton Rouge and I certainly looked at the possibility of doing that," said Dardenne, who represents the third all-East Baton Rouge Senate district.
"But we ran into serious retrogression problems because of growth. Those (black) districts had to be protected," he said.
Carving out those black majority districts in East Baton Rouge makes the other East Baton Rouge-based district overwhelmingly white.
Two East Baton Rouge Senate Districts 14 and 15 are about a two-thirds black population, while Senate District 16, represented by Dardenne is 86 percent white.
Cleo Fields said it is good for Baton Rouge to have three Senate whole districts instead of having the parish split up among area senators.
"I think Baton Rouge gained influence in theLegislature. You only had two districts totally contained in the parish (before). Now you will have three legislators primarily concerned for East Baton Rouge, where all their constituents are located," Fields said.
Fieldsí district changes little. It still includes LSU and Southern University campuses.
The biggest growth areas in the last decade occurred in the southeastern part of East Baton Rouge and in adjoining Livingston and Ascension parishes, where white population is escalating.
That growth had a ripple effect throughout the area as Senate districts were redrawn.
The shifts caused Dardenne to give up areas of Villa del Ray and Park Forest to the majority-black district now represented by Wilson Fields. Wilson Fieldsí district is the northwest part of the parish, including Baker and Zachary.
Dardenneís district picks up Southdowns and Kenilworth ó areas once in Senate District 17 represented by Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Maringouin.
"Itís a natural area for me to pick up," said Dardenne.
Itís also a natural area for Democrat Marionneaux to give up. Those areas voted for Marionneauxís runoff opponent, business-backed Republican Tim Johnson, in a close 1999 election.
Marionneauxís new district will still include the Pride area in northeast East Baton Rouge Parish. But most of his constituents would be in East Feliciana, Iberville, Pointe Coupee and West Baton Rouge parishes. Thereís also a few precincts in St. Helena. That new district includes some suburban and rural area Wilson Fieldsí district gives up.
Marionneaux said his new district will be easier to represent.
"Itís more homogeneous," said Marionneaux. "It becomes more Democratic, and with that it becomes easier to represent."
"I think the voters, by and large, will be better represented. The voters in south Baton Rouge will be pleased with the representation of Sen. Dardenne or whoever follows in that area. The new area I pick up will also be well represented," said Marionneaux.
Marionneaux said he would have liked to have had West Feliciana in his district. But population losses in north Louisiana had a ripple effect, and West Feliciana ended up in Senate District 32, which is currently represented by Sen. Noble Ellington, D-Winnsboro.
West Feliciana would be the southernmost part of a district that starts outside Monroe in northeast Louisiana and includes all or parts of 10 parishes.
Senate District 13, currently represented by Sen. Clo Fontenot, R-Livingston, also enters the southeastern part of East Baton Rouge.
Thirty-six percent of Fontenotís 91 percent white district is in East Baton Rouge, including Jones Creek and Shenandoah areas and some parts of Central. The rest is in Livingston Parish.
Livingston Parish continues to be represented by Fontenot, who has most of the parish, and Sen. Louis Lambert, D-Prairieville, who also has all of Ascension Parish.
Taking the Fifth
Lee Fletcher (R) kicked off his bid to succeed term-limited Rep. John Cooksey (R-La.) on Thursday, the same day Gov. Mike Foster (R) signed a redistricting bill that increases the number of black voters in Cooksey's 5th district.
Overall, the new map tinkers little with Louisiana's seven House districts. The most notable change was the Legislature's decision to expand the 5th farther south into heavily black localities west of Baton Rouge, several of which voted overwhelmingly for Al Gore last year.
The 5th would gain 2 percent more black voters, giving the district the second-largest black population in Louisiana. The plan still faces a Justice Department review and potential legal challenges from black state legislators who had pushed for the creation of a second majority-minority district. Ex-Rep. Cleo Fields (D), currently a state Senator, may have run there.
Fletcher, a former Cooksey chief of staff, faces a GOP primary against ex-Rep. Clyde Holloway, who served from 1986 to 1992 in a Baton Rouge-area seat that included the southern reaches of the new 5th. State Sen. Robert Barham also may run. Possible Democratic candidates include former state Rep. Al Ater, Rapides Parish Sheriff William Earl Hilton, former State Senate President Randy Ewing, state Sen. Don Hines, a physician, and West Monroe Mayor Dave Norris.
The Legislature closed out a weeklong session on reapportionment late Monday by approving a plan for redrawing Louisiana's seven U.S. House districts that differs only slightly from one proposed by U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-Chackbay, at the opening of the session.
Ending a session that started Oct. 8, lawmakers voted to adjourn at 8:33 p.m. Under Gov. Foster's call, the session could have run until 6 p.m. Friday.
Despite a relentless fight by lawmakers who wanted to create a second black-majority district and others who wanted changes in the western and central parts of the state, the political makeup of all of Louisiana's districts will remain more or less the same as it is today.
The New Orleans area will see only minor district shifts for its congressional seats, with U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, picking up parts of Mid-City and Kenner from U.S. Rep. David Vitter, R-Metairie. Vitter in turn gains Destrehan and part of the area near City Park. He maintains much of the rest of his district, including Terrytown.
The House approved the plan, 65-34, in the form of a conference committee on House Bill 2 by Rep. Peppi Bruneau, R-New Orleans. The Senate passed it 21-16. Foster is expected to sign it into law.
'Not perfect by any means'
The plan then moves on to the U.S. Department of Justice for review, because Louisiana is one of nine states that require such scrutiny under the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
"I respectfully submit that the plan you've developed is not perfect by any means," said U.S. Rep. Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge. "But I do not believe you've fallen short of your responsibility."
The session was originally expected to end last Friday, but a successful amendment in the Senate shifted lines in the western part of the state, straying too far from the plan that preserves incumbent Congress members' seats and pushing the session into this week.
The Senate stripped off that amendment Monday, but the plan it sent to the House still contained unpalatable changes for Grant and Evangeline parishes that forced it into a special joint House-Senate committee for review.
That committee basically reverted the map to its original form.
Rep. Arthur Morrell, D-New Orleans, who led the fight to create a black-majority district in addition to the one already held by Jefferson, accused the joint committee of not giving him an active role in fleshing out the compromise.
Sen. Chris Ullo, D-Marrero, said Morrell's plan had been considered four times in the past week but invited him to present it again. Morrell ultimately declined, instead protesting the process.
Morrell's plan would have allowed the 5th District -- going up for grabs when it is abandoned next year by U.S. Rep. John Cooksey, R-Monroe -- to take in minority sections of Lafayette, Baton Rouge and Monroe, but foes argued that the federal government does not allow race to be the primary factor in redrawing districts.
'They're walking a dog'
The committee ultimately approved, 5-1, a compromise very similar to one presented by Tauzin last Tuesday, with only Sen. Noble Ellington, D-Winnsboro, objecting to shifting Grant Parish into the 4th District.
Earlier in the day, Sen. James David Cain, D-Dry Creek, complained on the floor that the congressional delegation had had too much control over redrawing the districts.
"I thought these districts belonged to the people, but isn't it sad that we got to do these districts like the congressmen want?" he said. "They're walking a dog and we're following right behind them."
Sen. Jay Dardenne, R-Baton Rouge, Senate floor manager of the bill, pointed out that House and Senate members redrew their own districts last week. "We have to recognize this is a political process," he said.
In the 1st District, Vitter picks up Destrehan and neighborhoods around City Park but gives up part of Kenner, Mid-City and some West Bank neighborhoods to Jefferson.
Jefferson loses hardly any of his 2nd District because the New Orleans area has lost population since the last U.S. Census in 1990.
The 3rd District loses small sections of Jefferson Parish, primarily in the less urban areas, as well as Destrehan.
The 4th District shifts lines in Allen and Evangeline parishes but still represents parts of those and also picks up Grant Parish.
Population growth in the Baton Rouge area geographically shifts parts of Point Coupee and Iberville Parish from the 6th District to the 5th District.
The 7th District experiences the line shifts only in parts of Allen and Evangeline parishes but otherwise remains the same.
Earlier in the session, state lawmakers approved plans to redraw their own districts, plus those of the state Public Service Commission and state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Next to Justice or fed court
Those actions will not be the last word. All the bills must be cleared by the U.S. Justice Department or a federal court. Outside groups that object to the proposals can file lawsuits.
Bruneau said the leadership has yet to determine whether the plans will be submitted to the Justice Department or to the federal district court in Washington, D.C.
After the plans are signed by Foster, Louisiana has 60 days to submit them for review. Though in the past the state has submitted them to the Justice Department, Bruneau said this year officials will look to see what other states are doing.
Louisiana is one of several Southern states to be required by the 1965 Voting Rights Act to seek federal approval for its planned changes to political districts based on whether there was historical discrimination against black voters.
The focus of the Justice Department review will be on race, particularly whether there has been "retrogression," or a reduction of minority voters' opportunities for representation.
Members of the Legislative Black Caucus have complained vigorously about the state House and congressional proposals. Sen. Charles Jones, D-Monroe said the case against the House plan is obvious because the number of black majority districts has gone from 27 to 26.
He also said the Justice Department would be critical of the Legislature's decision not to add a second majority black congressional district, especially because Louisiana's black population grew in the past decade. Jones said written objections to at least both of these proposals, as well as possibly the state Senate plan, will be sent to the Justice Department.
But whether Jones' view will prevail is still unclear. Throughout the discussion about redistricting, Bruneau has questioned whether the Justice Department will reject Louisiana's plans, citing a collection of court decisions in the 1990s that reversed many of the department's decisions based on race.
After days of discord, the Legislature adopted a congressional remap plan late Monday almost exactly like Louisianaís sitting U.S. House delegation wanted.
Lawmakers complained that little, if any, of their input ended up in the House-Senate compromise a special panel recommended.
Many complained that congressmenís re-election bids had been put ahead of constituent interests.
The majority of the House and Senate went along with the plan to divide the stateís 4.5 million population up among the stateís seven congressional election districts.
"This is a political process," said Sen. Jay Dardenne, R-Baton Rouge, as he answered critics.
The House and Senate votes concluded the work of the special legislative session and lawmakers went home, perhaps until their spring regular session in 2002.
Dardenne said congressmen have the right to put their imprint on remap plans. Legislators have protected their interests as new House and Senate districts developed and itís hypocritical for lawmakers to complain, he said.
The Senate voted 21-16 for the plan. A short time later, the House signed off on a 65-34 vote.
The bill now goes to Gov. Mike Fosterís desk for signing into law.
Members of the Legislative Black Caucus promised a lawsuit because the plan lacks a second majority-black congressional district even though black residents are one-third of the stateís population. They claim the plan dilutes black voting strength.
The final congressional remap ó which surfaced after a closed door meeting ó did not include key features of the House and Senate-passed plans.
Both the House and Senate had gone on record against congressional plans to split both Pointe Coupee and Iberville parishes between the Baton Rouge-based 6th District and the Monroe-based 5th District.
The final version resembled the wishes of U.S. Rep. Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge, who favored the two-parish splits, which give him the more-conservative parts of each parish.
Baker, who was involved in Mondayís negotiations, testified that he wanted to keep areas of the parishes he has represented because of ongoing projects in those areas.
"I thought it was important to keep continuity," Baker said. "There is nothing inherently wrong with division of representation."
However, Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Maringouin, compared Baker to a buzzard picking at areas he likes in the parishes ó "the white ones."
Marionneaux and state Reps. Don Cazayoux, D-New Roads, and Emma Devillier, D-Plaquemine, opposed the final plan, saying it splits the cities of New Roads and Plaquemine between two congressional districts to the detriment of the communities.
The plan also moves Grant Parish into the Shreveport-based 4th Congressional District from its current Monroe-based 5th District. The Senate had favored keeping Grant in the 5th District.
The final version of the plan also splits Evangeline Parish into only two congressional districts ó the 4th and 5th ó instead of three in the Senate-approved plan.
The plan splits eight parishes ó Ascension, Pointe Coupee, Iberville, Allen, Evangeline, St. Charles, Orleans and Jefferson.
The Houma-Thibodaux-based 3rd District represented by Rep. Billy Tauzin, D-Thibodaux, now covers all of Gonzales. The rest would be in Bakerís 6th District.
Sen. Don Hines, D-Bunkie, said some legislators are worried about splitting parishes. "It splits wards and precincts in Allen" between congressional districts, said Hines. "It just doesnít make sense. Thereís no community of interest," Hines said.
On the House side, Rep. Herman Hill, D-Dry Creek, criticized what he called "snake-like" boundary line zig-zagging through Allen Parish.
"Look at that line," he said. "Isnít it pretty. Theyíve got towns split, maybe even precincts split."
Rep. Arthur Morrell, D-New Orleans, pushed an alternative election plan that would have created two majority-black congressional districts.
He and other black lawmakers predicted the U.S. Justice Department or the courts will overturn the Legislatureís action as unfair to black voters.
"So-called community interest only pertains to those who have the majority votes," Morrell quipped. "Why are you so afraid to give a group of people a chance. Thereís been an increase in black population and youíre saying, ëNo.í You know this is going to be rejected."
"All is not happy. All is not fair," added Rep. Roy Quezaire, D-Donaldsonville, who argued for more deliberations.
Some opponents of the plan chanted, "Four more days, four more days," suggesting that the Legislature continue its special session for the rest of the week to reach a plan with broader support.
Rep. Peppi Bruneau, R-New Orleans, who authored the congressional plan, called the final product "the best weíre going to get."
Hereís how the House voted Monday in passing HB2, the congressional redistricting plan:
Voting FOR (65) ó Speaker DeWitt, Alario, E. Alexander, R. Alexander, Baldone, Beard, Bowler, Bruce, Bruneau, R. Carter, Clarkson, Crane, Daniel, Dartez, Diez, Doerge, Downer, Durand, Erdey, Faucheux, Flavin, Frith, Fruge, Futrell, Hammett, Heaton, Hebert, Hopkins, Hutter, Johns, Katz, Kennard, Kenney, LaFleur, Lancaster, LeBlanc, McCallum, McDonald, Montgomery, Morrish, Nevers, Odinet, Perkins, Pinac, Pitre, Powell, Romero, Salter, Scalise, Shaw, Gary Smith, Jack Smith, Jane Smith, John Smith, Sneed, Stelly, Strain, Thompson, Townsend, Triche, Tucker, Waddell, Walsworth, Winston, Wooton.
Voting AGAINST (34) ó Ansardi, Baudoin, Broome, K. Carter, Cazayoux, Curtis, Damico, Devillier, Farrar, Gallot, Green, Guillory, Hill, Holden, Hudson, Hunter, Iles, L. Jackson, M. Jackson, Landrieu, Lucas, Martiny, Morrell, Murray, Pierre, Pratt, Quezaire, Richmond, Riddle, Schwegmann, Swilling, Toomy, Welch, Wright.
NOT VOTING (5) ó Baylor, Crowe, Glover, McVea, Schneider.
Hereís how the Senate voted:
Voting FOR (21) ó President Hainkel, Barham, Campbell, Chaisson, Dardenne, Dean, Dupre, Fontenot, Gautreaux, Heitmeier, Hollis, Hoyt, B. Jones, Lambert, Malone, Michot, Romero, Schedler, Theunissen, Thomas, Ullo.
Voting AGAINST (16) ó Bajoie, Boissiere, Cain, Cravins, Ellington, C. Fields, W. Fields, Hines, Irons, C. Jones, Lentini, Marionneaux, McPherson, Mount, Smith, Tarver.
NOT VOTING (2) ó Bean, Johnson.
The Louisiana Senate failed to approve a U.S. congressional redistricting plan Friday, forcing lawmakers to return Monday to finish the job.
Senators advocating a proposal to dramatically alter the current seven congressional districts got enough votes to revamp the plan but could not muster the votes for final Senate approval.
That left the plan in legislative limbo. Itís the only issue left up in the air in the special session called to redraw election districts and to aid citizens called up for military duty in the war on terrorism.
Senate leaders decided to sort things out during the weekend and try again Monday to draw a congressional map closer to the one backed by Louisianaís current congressmen. That plan would leave 96 percent of Louisiana citizens in the same districts they are today.
Sen. Jay Dardenne, R-Baton Rouge, said it was too risky to try to get votes to straighten out the conflicts because too many senators had already left to go home and others were leaving.
"I didnít think I had the votes. We had some people missing," said Dardenne.
Missing for the congressional vote Friday afternoon were Sens. Ron Bean, R-Shreveport, Paulette Irons, D-New Orleans, Mike Michot, R-Lafayette, Greg Tarver, D-Shreveport, and Jerry Thomas, R-Franklinton.
Bean has been absent the whole session because of major surgery.
"I think Monday we will pass a bill out of here," Dardenne said. "By and large, we can pass a plan that is acceptable to the congressional delegation."
No member of Louisianaís congressional delegation was anywhere around although aides to U.S. Reps. Billy Tauzin, R-Thibodaux, and Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge, monitored the situation from outside the Senate chamber.
A top aide to Tauzin, who has been congressional point man on the plan, said no one in the Louisiana delegation is panicking.
"We are still confident that the House and Senate can reach a fair compromise that prevents most of Louisianaís citizens from being needlessly shuffled around districts," said Tauzin aide Ken Johnson.
Senate adoption of the alternative remap plan surprised even its lead proponent ó Sen. James David Cain, D-Dry Creek.
"I realize Iím beating a dead horse," said Cain, who has pushed the plan every chance he gets to no avail.
Cainís plan makes big changes in the north Louisiana-based 4th and 5th congressional districts in order to pull Allen and Beauregard parishes into the Lafayette-Lake Charles-anchored 7th District. The plan makes the 5th District ó where the Republican incumbent is not seeking re-election ó more Democratic.
The Senate had defeated the proposal just minutes earlier with only 15 senators voting for it and 17 against it. When another senator brought it back up, the Senate voted 18-13 to make the changes in the congressional bill.
On a final vote, however, the amended version of the plan fell two votes shy of the 20 needed to pass bills by the Senate.
Dardenne said the votes demonstrate "thereís a lot of fluidity in this process. Thereís no real commitment on that (Cain) plan."
As the plan hit the Senate floor, there remained disagreement between the House and Senate over whether Grant Parish should remain in the Monroe-based 5th District or move to the Shreveport-based 4th.
The plan backed by the congressmen moved Grant to the 4th District. That version passed the House, but a Senate panel put it back in the 5th. The Senate refused Friday to restore Grant to the 4th so the disagreement remains.
Both chambers had agreed to alter the congressional consenus plan to avoid splitting both Pointe Coupee and Iberville Parishes.
Pointe Coupee would move into the 5th District and Rep. Richard Bakerís Baton Rouge-based 6th District get most of Iberville Parish. Both parishes are in Bakerís district today.
Baker said he had sought to keep parts of Pointe Coupee and Iberville in his district because of on-going projects in those areas, such as the bridge across the Mississippi River at St. Francisville and Carville.
"There were project-driven issues. I was trying to maintain district cohesiveness," said Baker. "I will be comfortable with whatever is finally adopted" affecting the parishes, he said.
The Senate also overwhelmingly rejected the idea of creating a second majority black congressional district.
Lashing out at the state Senate, particularly at one of their own senators, members of the Jefferson Parish Council on Wednesday attacked a redistricting plan that would split much of the parish into three Orleans-based Senate districts, threatening to challenge the plan all the way to the Justice Department if the Legislature approves it.
Calling the proposal the "cannibalization" of Jefferson, the council voted to ask former U.S. Attorney Harry Rosenberg to explore a possible lawsuit and asked Gov. Foster to veto the redistricting plan unless amended.
The proposal, part of the district's redrawing based on Census 2000, would add large parts of Jefferson to three New Orleans districts in order to keep the same number of Orleans senators, despite the city's population loss.
"Jefferson grew in population, but Orleans would have six senators and we would have only three senators living in Jefferson. That's not fair for our citizens," Council Chairman Aaron Broussard said.
"We have been cannibalized to maintain incumbent seats in another parish," Councilman Lloyd Giardina said.
In the kind of political brawling spawned by reapportionment, some council members criticized Sen. Chris Ullo, D-Marrero, who chairs the Senate committee that created the plan Tuesday. Parish President Tim Coulon had asked Ullo to postpone the committee's decision and give Jefferson officials time to study last-minute proposals, but council members Wednesday said Ullo ignored the request and negotiated a deal to keep an incumbent-friendly district.
"Ullo is trying to accommodate himself at the expense of the parish," Councilman T.J. "Butch" Ward said. "He kept telling us he wanted to defer (the vote), but the powers that be would not let him. He's the committee's chairman. He's the powers that be."
Ullo could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Jefferson started whacking at the Senate's reapportionment plan last week as parish officials said Orleans senators were seeking political survival by extending their districts into Jefferson, particularly on the West Bank. A weekend meeting with Ullo produced a proposal in which only two Orleans districts would go into Jefferson. That was quickly dismissed at Tuesday's Senate hearing, where members scrambled behind doors to produce a new plan.
The plan reshapes the 7th District, represented by Sen. Francis Heitmeier, D-Algiers, to comprise almost all of Algiers and include parts of Gretna, Terrytown, Harvey and Marrero. The 3rd District, represented by Sen. Lambert Boissiere Jr., D-New Orleans, would extend from the lakefront south through Gentilly and the French Quarter, crossing the Mississippi River to add riverfront sections of Gretna and Harvey and a large part of Marrero. The 6th District, represented by John Hainkel, R-New Orleans, would keep Old Metairie, Bonnabel, Bucktown and other Metairie neighborhoods.
For as much as Jefferson might protest the plan, chances of a Foster veto are slim, his spokesman Stephen Johnston said.
"I really cannot envision a scenario in which the governor would veto a (reapportionment) bill that has gone through the whole legislative process," Johnston said.
Sharply divided along racial lines, the House voted 72-29 Wednesday for a congressional redistricting plan backed by incumbent members of Congress but opposed by African-American lawmakers who want a second black-majority district created in the state.
House Bill 2 by Rep. Peppi Bruneau, R-New Orleans, now goes to the Senate. If it clears the Senate in its present form, it will go to Gov. Foster, who is expected to sign it into law. It will then be up to the U.S. Justice Department and the courts to decide whether it complies with federal law and court decisions.
Minutes before the House voted for the plan, it rejected, 31-71, an amendment by Rep. Arthur Morrell, D-New Orleans, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, which would have created a black-majority district stretching south from the Arkansas line to the Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas.
"It's not going to stand," Morrell said of the Bruneau bill. "It purposely dilutes minority voting strength. We're going to be right back here doing it over."
Others are confident
But Bruneau said he is confident the bill will pass muster in Washington. "Every plan we have is in compliance with the Constitution of the United States," he said. "I'm very confident it meets all of the appropriate civil rights guidelines."
Louisiana is one of nine states that, under the Voting Rights Act, must get approval from the Justice Department for any election law changes.
The vote came after about three hours of debate.
The plan has the approval of six of Louisiana's seven U.S. House members, including Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, the delegation's only African-American member. Rep. John Cooksey, R-Monroe, did not participate in the plan because he is not seeking re-election.
The bill includes only minor changes to account for population shifts between the 1990 and 2000 censuses. More than 96 percent of the population would remain in their current districts.
Eight parishes would be split into more than one congressional district. Ten are split in the current setup.
St. Charles plan gets OK
One amendment that succeeded was pushed by St. Charles Parish lawmakers. The original plan would have placed the Ama and Boutte areas in Jefferson's district. But Rep. Gary Smith, D-Norco, said he did not feel comfortable putting a small rural area into a congressional district that primarily includes a large urban area, fearing the St. Charles communities would get lost in the mix.
Instead, the House voted 89-11 to extend Rep. David Vitter's district into Destrehan and St. Rose, neighborhoods Smith said are more closely aligned with the suburbs Vitter already represents in Kenner.
Smith said giving Vitter part of St. Charles also puts the congressman in a better position to deal with issues related to the possible expansion of Louis Armstrong International Airport into the parish.
Jefferson, in exchange, takes part of Terrytown on the West Bank from Vitter. Smith said Jefferson and Vitter both agreed to the amendments.
Unlike a version of the plan unveiled in August, the one approved Wednesday keeps all of St. Bernard Parish with Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-Chackbay, and keeps all of Tangipahoa Parish in Vitter's district.
How New Orleans area House members voted on House Bill 2, the congressional reapportionment plan:
YES: Alario, D-Westwego; Ansardi, D-Kenner; Baldone, D-Houma; Bowler, R-Harahan; Bruneau, R-New Orleans; Clarkson, D-Algiers; Crowe, R-Slidell; Damico, D-Marrero; Downer, R-Houma; Faucheux, D-LaPlace; Heaton, D-New Orleans; Hutter, R-Chalmette; Lancaster, R-Metairie; Martiny, R-Kenner; Nevers, D-Bogalusa; Odinet, D-Arabi; Pitre, R-Cut Off; Powell, R-Ponchatoula; Scalise, R-Jefferson; Schneider, R-Slidell; Smith, D-Norco; Sneed, R-Metairie; Strain, R-Covington; Tucker, R-Algiers; Triche, D-Thibodaux; Winston, R-Covington; Wooton. D-Belle Chasse.
NO: Carter, D-New Orleans; Green, D-Marrero; Landrieu, D-New Orleans; Lucas, D-New Orleans; Morrell, D-New Orleans; Murray, D-New Orleans; Pratt, D-New Orleans; Quezaire, D-Donaldsonville; Richmond, D-New Orleans; Schwegmann, D-New Orleans; Swilling, D-New Orleans; Toomy, R-Gretna.
Congressional districts in the New Orleans area will experience only minor shifts under a revised redistricting plan approved by House and Senate committees Tuesday. An alternative plan that would have created two black-majority districts in the state, instead of the present one, was rejected.
The proposal goes to the House floor today.
The plan gives U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, a slightly larger section of Jefferson Parish and a small strip of St. Charles Parish -- areas currently represented by Reps. David Vitter, R-Metairie, and Billy Tauzin, R-Chackbay.
Unlike its previous incarnation, the current plan keeps all of St. Bernard Parish with Tauzin and all of Tangipahoa Parish with Vitter. It also keeps Vitter's district from extending into St. Charles Parish.
The congressional redistricting plan has been endorsed by six of the seven incumbents. Rep. John Cooksey, R-Monroe, was not included because he is not seeking re-election.
The Legislature is required to redraw the districts every 10 years based on U.S. Census figures.
Tauzin, the dean of Louisiana's House delegation, unveiled the original plan in late August, but it met with opposition from officials in St. Bernard and Lafayette, who objected to those parishes being split between two members of Congress.
Tauzin and others remedied that over the weekend, hatching a plan that allows 96.8 percent -- as opposed to the previous 94 percent -- of Louisiana residents to remain in their current districts.
In the New Orleans area, Vitter's district loses a few neighborhoods in western Jefferson Parish, including parts of Harvey, Terrytown, Woodmere and Estelle. Those areas go to Jefferson.
Tauzin also surrenders part of his district on the West Bank to Jefferson, including neighborhoods in Stonebridge and part of Timberlane.
The new parts of Jefferson's district in Jefferson Parish have a slight white majority in many parts, but the district maintains a substantial minority population. Jefferson is the only African-American member of the delegation.
He also picks up a strip of St. Charles Parish, running from Ama to Boutte, that has a large minority population. State Rep. Gary Smith, D-Norco, and Sen. Joel Chaisson II, D-Destrehan, however, said they will fight plans to split their parish between two representatives. Tauzin currently represents all of St. Charles Parish.
Despite that objection, Tauzin said the latest redistricting plan does little, if anything, to change the political landscape for incumbents.
"The new plan is better than the plan before," he said. "I think we've come literally to the point where we have a compromise plan that can pass the House and the Senate."
It passed the Committee on House & Governmental Affairs, 9-6, unchanged, while a slightly altered version cleared the Committee on Senate & Governmental Affairs, 4-3.
The Senate committee shifted a few dividing lines so that Allen and Point Coupee parishes would not be split between two members.
The primary objection to the plan on both committees came from minority legislators who want to create a second black-majority district in Louisiana, aside from the one represented by Jefferson.
An alternative plan redraws the 5th District seat that Cooksey is vacating to take in minority sections of Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Monroe.
"One third of the state is black, while one seventh of the representation is black," said Sen. Charles Jones, D-Monroe, who led the fight in that chamber. "This plan will allow the one third of the state that is black to elect the person of their choice."
Although bills creating the second black-majority district failed in both committees, Jones said they would be resurrected as amendments on the floors of both chambers.
A House committee stood firmly Tuesday behind a plan for drawing new state House of Representatives districts that protects most incumbents, rejecting all attempts to substantially change it. Meanwhile, a Senate committee revised and then passed a plan to redraw the 39 Senate districts.
House Bill 1 by Rep. Peppi Bruneau, R-New Orleans, and Rep. Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans, goes to the House floor today. If the bill can muster at least 53 votes in the House, it is sure to clear the Legislature because the Senate traditionally rubber-stamps the House plan. Gov. Foster is expected to sign it.
The situation is similar with Senate Bill 1, by Sen. Chris Ullo, D-Marrero, which came out of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday, and is to be debated on the Senate floor today.
The story may not end there. Under the federal Voting Rights Act, the Legislature's decisions need the approval of the U.S. Justice Department, and opponents of the House plan say it may be in trouble there because it reduces the number of black-majority districts from 27 to 26. Regardless of what the Justice Department does, the plan also could be challenged in court.
Reps. Arthur Morrell and Karen Carter, both D-New Orleans, said they will try again to change the House plan on the floor. But all of their attempts to alter it in committee were rejected.
After more than two hours of debate, the committee voted 9-3 in favor of the plan.
The committee had voted down alternative plans offered by Morrell, Carter, and Reps. Melinda Schwegmann, D-New Orleans, and Kay Iles, D-DeRidder. The districts now represented by Schwegmann and Iles are being eliminated under the plan the committee sent to the floor.
In that proposal, Orleans Parish, Jefferson Parish and rural south central Louisiana all lose seats. New districts are created in the Mandeville, Gonzales and Lafayette areas.
Bruneau said the plan complies with all recent court decisions and with the provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Schwegmann said the plan dismantles her District 98, leaving her in District 94 with very few of her old precincts but most of Bruneau's. "All I'm asking for is fairness," she said.
The Senate committee spent Tuesday scrambling behind the scenes to figure out a way to shift around the four black-majority districts in New Orleans, all of which lost population in the past 10 years. The solution was to extend one or more of the districts to the West Bank, but the question remained which senators would have to cross the river.
The Senate's original plan called for the districts of Sens. Paulette Irons and Diana Bajoie, both D-New Orleans, to reach into the West Bank. By the end of the day, neither of their districts were extended. Instead, Sen. Lambert Boissiere Jr., D-New Orleans, would be the one to journey across the river, with his district picking up parts of Algiers, Gretna and Marrero, along with keeping parts of the Lakefront and Gentilly sections of Orleans.
Jeff, Tammany disgruntled
The solution was greeted with groans from representatives of St. Tammany and Jefferson parishes, who said the emphasis on preserving the black-majority Orleans districts precluded the kind of political redrawing they wanted to see.
Attorneys for various Jefferson parish government offices said their area has been slighted, noting that while Jefferson has about the same population as Orleans, it has three state senators, while Orleans has six.
Sen. Tom Schedler, R-Slidell, said that even though St. Tammany is the fastest-growing parish, it has yet to pick up another state senator who lives in the area.
Instead, his district would lose a large chunk of Slidell to Sen. Lynn Dean, R-Caernarvon, which Schedler said probably would guarantee that Slidell would be represented by somebody from St. Bernard. The other two districts in St. Tammany, now represented by Sens. John Hainkel, R-New Orleans, and Jerry Thomas, R-Franklinton, also are based in other parishes, Schedler said. That leaves only one St. Tammany-focused district.
Leaders of the state House and Senate predicted Monday that the Legislature will finish the special reapportionment session well before the Oct. 19 deadline.
"If we really get with it, we can get out of here by Saturday," Speaker Charlie DeWitt, D-Lecompte, told House members.
Senate President John Hainkel, R-New Orleans, didn't make that specific a prediction, but he said "I think we can get this over with extraordinarily early."
Two legislative committees are scheduled to plunge into the process of redrawing Louisiana's election districts today, meeting at 9 a.m. to start working on bills to be sent to the House and Senate floor.
Senate leaders said they hope the full Senate can start voting on plans by Wednesday afternoon; the House is likely to do so Thursday.
Reapportionment, the main issue of the 12-day special session that kicked off Monday evening, took a back seat to ceremonies and speeches related to the recent terrorist attacks and the U.S. response.
The work begins today in the House and Senate governmental affairs committees, as they start to sort out plans for redrafting districts for the Legislature, the seven Louisiana seats in Congress, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Public Service Commission.
On the House committee agenda are plans for the 105 state House of Representatives districts, the congressional seats and the eight BESE districts. The Senate committee agenda called for work on the 39 state Senate districts, Congress, BESE and PSC.
Members of the state's congressional delegation are expected to testify for a congressional plan submitted by six of the seven incumbents. Rep. John Cooksey, R-Monroe, did not participate because he is not seeking re-election in 2002.
The incumbents' plan has wide bipartisan support, but faces fierce opposition in some parishes that would be split between two or more congressional districts -- in particular, St. Bernard and Lafayette parishes.
Bills were filed Monday to enact the congressional incumbents' plan, plus a rival one supported by the Legislative Black Caucus; a plan for the 105 state House districts drawn up by Reps. Peppi Bruneau, R-New Orleans, and Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans, plus rival ones submitted by incumbents adversely affected by it; a plan for the 39 Senate districts drawn up by Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee members; and plans for BESE and PSC drawn up by incumbent members of those bodies.
All state election districts -- from Congress to local school boards and police juries -- must be redrawn to conform to 2000 Census statistics. But only the statewide ones are done by the Legislature.
The session must end by Oct. 19 at 6 p.m.
Protection of incumbents appears to be the Legislature's top priority as lawmakers begin a 12-day session tonight to redraw the state's political districts on the basis of the 2000 census.
Already approved by a House subcommittee and ready for debate are plans for the state House of Representatives, Congress, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Public Service Commission. A Senate committee is considering, but has not yet voted on, a draft plan for the state Senate districts.
The plan for the state's congressional districts was drawn up by six of the seven incumbent members of Congress. The plans for BESE and the PSC were sent to the subcommittee by members of those bodies and approved unchanged. The Senate draft plan has none of the 39 incumbents running against each other. In the House plan, incumbents are protected in 102 of the 105 districts.
The session will be gaveled to order at 5 p.m. and must adjourn Oct. 19 by 6 p.m. Gov. Foster has limited the session's scope to redistricting and consideration of financial support for military personnel called to active duty in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Wayne Parent, chairman of the political science department at Louisiana State University, said he expects "raw politics" to be the order of the day.
"Politics is never so evident as when they're dealing with the politics of their own districts," he said.
At the committee meetings leading up to the session, race was the principal point of contention in the U.S. House and state House plans, and it could become so in the Senate. Here is a rundown on the plans.
The six incumbent congressmen -- minus Cooksey -- submitted a plan taking into account population shifts but making few changes from the plan now in effect.
Locally, the 1st District -- represented by Rep. David Vitter, R-Metairie -- would lose some of Tangipahoa Parish and some of West Jefferson while picking up the eastern portion of St. Charles Parish. District 2 -- represented by Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans -- would pick up some rural areas of St. Bernard and gains parts of West Jefferson, remaining about 65 percent African-American. District 3 -- represented by U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-Chackbay -- would lose parts of St. Bernard and West Jefferson, while picking up a chunk of Lafayette Parish.
That plan has drawn opposition from the Legislative Black Caucus because it includes only one black-majority district, as there is now. State Rep. Arthur Morrell, D-New Orleans, caucus chairman, has filed a plan that would create a second black-majority district.
The special subcommittee approved a plan for redrawing the House's 105 districts under which Orleans and Jefferson parishes would each lose a seat, as would rural south-central Louisiana. New districts would be created in the Mandeville, Gonzales and Lafayette areas.
That plan has drawn opposition from a coalition led by Rep. Karen Carter, D-New Orleans, who said the proposal will not win approval from the U.S. Justice Department because it reduces the number of black-majority districts by one to 26.
The focus of the discussion is House District 98 on the New Orleans lakefront, which is a black-majority district although it is represented by Rep. Melinda Schwegmann, D-New Orleans, who is white. The committee plan would merge it with District 94 to form a new white-majority district.
The coalition has proposed merging District 98 instead with the Old Metairie-based District 81. Carter said the coalition probably will have a new proposal today that will address the District 98 issue without involving Jefferson Parish.
The Senate committee has before it a plan that would redraw the 39 Senate districts in such a way that no incumbents would have to run against each other. Nonetheless, the proposal has drawn criticism.
In the New Orleans area, the committee plan would extend Senate District 1, now represented by Sen. Lynn Dean, R-Caernarvon, into St. Tammany Parish to pick up the Slidell area. This is opposed by officials in St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, which are in District 1 now, and in St. Tammany. Plaquemines officials don't want their parish split into two districts, and St. Tammany and St. Bernard officials are concerned about combining such distant areas as eastern St. Tammany and St. Bernard into one district.
The plan addresses an underpopulation problem in New Orleans-based Districts 4 and 5 by extending them across the river onto the West Bank.
The plan could be open to controversy because black-majority District 7 would become a white-majority district. But proponents say that could change when the Senate committee takes up the plan.
Public Service Commission
The five Public Service Commission districts do not have to be revised because they fall within federally set population limits. The five incumbents filed a plan anyway, and it was approved by the subcommittee.
State school board
The plan to revise the state's eight BESE districts is not expected to engender much controversy, officials say, because it makes little change from the plan adopted in 1991.
Redistricting gets under way in Louisiana this week as state legislators begin a racially tinged debate over whether to embrace an incumbent-protection map endorsed by House Members or a plan pushed by African-American state legislators to create a second majority-minority district.
A state House subcommittee last week endorsed the incumbent-friendly map, which tinkers little with the state's seven House districts. About 94 percent of residents would remain in the same districts, analysts said.
The GOP would maintain an edge in the open 5th district, currently held by Rep. John Cooksey (R). Cooksey, who's retiring to run for Senate, has not endorsed the proposed map.
Rep. David Vitter (R) described the proposal as "straightforward and reasonable. .... It's based on the present districts. It's a consensus approach. I don't think it's terribly controversial in any way."
The plan to create a second majority-minority district is being advanced by state Rep. Arthur Morrell (D), chairman of the state's Legislative Black Caucus. It would create a district that starts in the northeast corner of Louisiana, includes Monroe, follows the Mississippi River down through part of Acadiana, and east to Baton Rouge.
However, Morrell is having trouble convincing his colleagues that his plan would not prompt the same redistricting court battles that the state faced in the 1990s.
Lawmakers created a second black- majority district in 1991, but it was ultimately rejected by the Supreme Court, which has ruled that districts cannot be drawn solely on the basis of race.
Ex-Rep. Cleo Fields (D), who now serves in the state Senate, held the eliminated district. New Orleans Rep. William Jefferson (D) is the delegation's only black Member.
"That's the kind of district, as you know, that was already considered unconstitutional," Rep. Billy Tauzin (R), the dean of the House delegation, said recently of the proposal.
Louisiana's black population increased by 12 percent in the 1990s, or 153,000 people, to 1.5 million, nearly 33 percent of the state's total population, according to the 2000 census.
As the special legislative session on reapportionment unfolds, we'll hear a lot of moaning and groaning from people who don't want the Legislature to split their parishes between election districts.
St. Bernard Parish officials were all up in arms at a recent hearing because of proposals to split the parish between two different U.S. congressional districts, as well as another to allow state Senate District 1, based in St. Bernard, to meander over the St. Tammany line to take in the Slidell area.
Similarly, the Lafayette Parish delegation says it's horrified by plans to split that parish between two congressional and two Public Service Commission districts. Do you or anyone you know really care which of the five Public Service Commission districts you vote in? I sure don't.
There also are gripes about plans to split Plaquemines Parish, and so on.
A little historical perspective on how Louisiana election districts have evolved is in order.
As the state's largest parish, Orleans Parish has been split every which way since Louisiana became a state in 1812. Throughout the 20th century the city was in two congressional districts, both shared with other parishes. I predict that when this session is over, it still will be.
Of course, the city has always had many legislative districts.
From 1900 until the 1960s, each of New Orleans' 17 wards had at least one House member. In 1900, it was one each. In 1921, the state Constitution provided two representatives for Wards 3 (Mid-City), 7 (Gentilly) and 11 (Irish Channel), and one each for the rest.
Outside New Orleans, for much of the 20th century each parish had one House member, period. There was little attempt to make election districts conform to population changes. This was characteristic of most states in the South and Midwest, where country folks dominated the legislative halls.
This didn't really begin to change until the U.S. Supreme Court, in a series of decisions beginning in 1963, decided that each person's vote should carry the same weight as another's.
It took a while in Louisiana for all this to sink in. At a special session in 1966, the state was divided into House and Senate election districts, scrapping the old system that relied on parishes and Orleans wards. That had some weird side effects, such as in Jefferson Parish, where in 1968 the parish's six-member House delegation was elected from the parish at large. That was perhaps the oddest situation, but all over the state there were multiparish districts electing two or more members.
Hardly involved were Louisiana's black voters, the vast majority of whom were denied political participation until after passage of the federal Voting Rights Act in 1965. It wasn't until 1968 that voters sent the House its first black member since Reconstruction, Rep. Dutch Morial, D-New Orleans. And it wasn't until 1974 that a black senator was elected, Sen. Sidney Barthelemy, D-New Orleans. The 1971 governor's election was the first of the century in which black voters played a decisive role, helping to elect Edwin Edwards.
It was after the 1970 census that these trends -- one-person, one-vote and minority participation -- converged and gave Louisiana politics its modern shape. The federal courts appointed a special master to redraw legislative districts. That was Edward Steimel, then president of the Public Affairs Research Council. The districts that were drawn still pretty much structure the Legislature.
One thing Steimel did was throw out the old multimember districts, electing each senator and representative from his or her own district, even though that meant splitting some parishes between districts. The single-member district principle was enshrined in the 1974 Constitution, and few would consider changing it today.
When districts must be redrawn, keeping parish lines sacrosanct has a low priority. We should be used to it by now.
A House subcommittee has approved proposed redistricting plans for Congress, the state House of Representatives, the Public Service Commission and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, but a controversy continues over how many black-majority state House districts should be included.
The plans approved Wednesday will be filed as bills at the special session next week, with Rep. Peppi Bruneau, R-New Orleans, as lead sponsor. The bills will be sent to the House & Governmental Affairs Committee, which has the same membership as the subcommittee and will start work on them Tuesday. Lawmakers with alternative plans said they will file bills of their own, as well as try to amend the subcommittee's bills.
The Legislature meets Monday at 5 p.m. in a 12-day session called by Gov. Foster to redraw the state's election districts on the basis of the 2000 Census. The session must adjourn by Oct. 19 at 6 p.m.
Before Wednesday's meeting, members of a coalition headed by subcommittee member Rep. Karen Carter, D-New Orleans, held a news conference to endorse an alternative plan for the state House, one that provides one more black-majority district than the 26 included in the subcommittee version drafted by Bruneau and Rep. Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans.
The major difference between the Bruneau and Carter plans centers on the 98th District on the New Orleans lakefront. The district is now black-majority although it is represented by Rep. Melinda Schwegmann, D-New Orleans, who is white.
The Bruneau-Murray plan breaks up the 98th District, leaving Schwegmann to run against Bruneau in a revised 94th District that includes 32,318 of Bruneau's present constituents and 8,189 of Schwegmann's.
Carter contends that because the Bruneau plan reduces the number of black-majority districts, it runs afoul of a prohibition in the federal Voting Rights Act against "retrogression," or reducing minority voters' opportunities for representation.
The coalition's alternative plan merges much of Bruneau's district with the 81st District in Old Metairie, represented by Rep. Jennifer Sneed, R-Metairie.
Sneed hotly denounced that idea, saying, "The hard-working people who live in my district don't want to lose representation just because New Orleans happened to lose population."
The subcommittee approved Bruneau's plan without dissent after Carter had left the room. Supporters of her coalition's proposal said it will be filed as a rival bill.
Rep. Arthur Morrell, D-New Orleans, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said he, too, will file a rival bill, one that creates more black-majority districts than either Bruneau or Carter.
The subcommittee also, without dissent and with little discussion, approved the Bruneau drafts for new congressional and education board districts, which had been presented at previous meetings, and a PSC plan supported by the five incumbent commissioners.
Opposing the PSC plan was former Commissioner John Schwegmann, D-New Orleans, husband of Melinda Schwegmann, who said he will present a bill of his own that draws districts "without regard to politics, race or religion."
The Bruneau plan makes little significant change in the present districts, which already satisfy requirements for population.
The subcommittee's plan for the state's congressional districts includes only one black-majority district, the present 2nd District represented by Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans. Morrell said he will file a bill providing two black-majority districts.
A state Senate committee Thursday unveiled a plan for redrawing the Senate's 39 districts that does not require any incumbents to run against each other but does make significant changes in a number of New Orleans-area districts.
For example, the districts of Sens. Paulette Irons and Diana Bajoie, both D-New Orleans, would be extended onto the West Bank, and Sen. Lynn Dean, R-Caernarvon, would have to run in Slidell. Plaquemines Parish, formerly the backbone of Dean's Senate District 1, would be divided among three districts. "We're being cannibalized," Plaquemines Parish President Benny Rousselle said.
Sen. Chris Ullo, D-Marrero, chairman of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the plan involves "no retrogression. It has the same number of black-majority districts that we have now."
But Rep. Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans, corrected him, saying that the 7th District in Algiers was created as a black-majority district in 1990, but under the new plan would pick up parts of Terrytown and some Plaquemines precincts and would wind up 53 percent white. Although the district is black-majority, it has elected Sen. Francis Heitmeier, D-Algiers, a white man.
The New Orleans-based districts of Irons, Bajoie, Lambert Boissiere Jr. and Jon Johnson, all black Democrats, hold onto their black majorities despite picking up new territory. All those districts have lost residents since 1990 and had to expand to remain viable.
Also among the significant changes to districts:
-- The 6th District, represented by Senate President John Hainkel, R-New Orleans, loses some of its Uptown New Orleans and East Jefferson territory, and gains ground in St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes.
-- Because of population losses in North Louisiana, the 32nd District, represented by Sen. Noble Ellington, D-Winnsboro, reaches south into the Florida Parishes to pick up West Feleciana Parish.
-- Dean's 1st District loses the west bank of Plaquemines and picks up 27 precincts in St. Tammany, basically the Slidell area. Plaquemines Parish is split among Dean, Heitmeier and Ullo's 8th District.
Former Senate President Sammy Nunez, D-Chalmette, showed up at the committee meeting along with Rousselle and former Rep. Frank Patti, D-Belle Chasse, to protest the dismemberment of Plaquemines.
The Legislature meets Oct. 8 in a 12-day special session to redraw districts for the Legislature, Congress, the Public Service Commission and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Thursday's meeting was a joint one between the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee and a special House reapportionment subcommittee.
U.S. Reps. Billy Tauzin, R-Chackbay, and Chris John, D-Crowley, appeared before the panels to formally present a draft proposal for redrawing the seven congressional districts. Tauzin said it is endorsed by six of the seven incumbents. Rep. John Cooksey, R-Monroe, did not take part because he's not running for re-election in 2002.
The draft was modified slightly from the one made public two weeks ago in that it leaves intact Rapides and Allen parishes, which were previously split. But it still takes part of St. Bernard, now in Tauzin's 3rd District, and puts it in the 2nd District of Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans.
Several representatives of St. Bernard interests showed up to protest the split. Tauzin said he hated to lose any of St. Bernard, but that the numbers make it necessary.
Rep. Arthur Morrell, D-New Orleans, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, presented an alternative plan that creates two black-majority districts instead of the one in the incumbents' proposal. The second district runs along the Mississippi River from the Arkansas line to Baton Rouge.
The loss of a black-majority House seat in New Orleans continues to be a major sticking point in debate over a redistricting plan that lawmakers will consider in a special session next month.
Rep. Karen Carter, D-New Orleans, on Wednesday called the draft proposal an "illegal plan" because it would reduce the number of black-majority districts despite an increase in African-American population.
"If the Legislature passes a plan that is in violation of the law, the end result will be a (court-appointed) special master drawing our districts instead of us doing it ourselves," she said.
A special House subcommittee on reapportionment spent several hours discussing plans to redraw the 105 House districts on the basis of the 2000 census. The panel will meet jointly with the Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee today to discuss new U.S. House districts, and plans to redistrict the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Public Service Commission in advance of the special session beginning Oct. 8.
Rep. Peppi Bruneau, R-New Orleans, chairman, said the subcommittee will begin voting on amendments to the state House plan Oct. 5.
Carter's statement was part of a heated discussion on the impact of the draft proposal, submitted by Bruneau and Rep. Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans, on Orleans Parish districts. Bruneau and Rep. Charles Lancaster, R-Metairie, defended the draft against attacks by Carter and Rep. Arthur Morrell, D-New Orleans, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus.
Under the draft plan, New Orleans and East Jefferson each lose one House seat, as does rural South Central Louisiana. The seats move to higher-growth areas around Mandeville, Gonzales and Lafayette.
Opponents of the draft plan insist that it runs afoul of a provision of the federal Voting Rights Act banning "retrogression," meaning that the number of black-majority districts can't be reduced when black population is increasing.
"The Voting Rights Act doesn't trump the Constitution," said Lancaster, in reference to recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions banning racial gerrymandering.
Morrell and Carter argued for a rival plan that keeps the number of House districts in New Orleans intact by extending several that are underpopulated into Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes.
Rep. Melinda Schwegmann, D-New Orleans, and Kay Iles, D-DeRidder, protested plans to merge their districts with adjoining ones. Under the draft plan, Schwegmann would share a district with Bruneau, and Iles would be in the same district with Rep. John Smith, D-Leesville.
"I would like you to certainly not put politics first. Put the districts first, put the neighborhoods first and put the people first," Schwegmann said. Under the draft plan, her Lakefront District 98 moves to the Mandeville area, while much of its population disappears into districts 96, 97 and 101.
The revised District 94, she said, includes only 10 precincts and 8,139 people from her old district, but 42 precincts and 32,318 from Bruneau's.
"None of us want to run against each other, but if we have to do that, at least make it equitable," Schwegmann said.
Several committee members complained about Gov. Foster's decision to leave the Louisiana Supreme Court districts out of the special session call. Foster said that because they are 3 years old, they don't need redoing.
But Rep. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, noted that they were drawn on the basis of 1990 census figures that are now obsolete.
Bruneau said "it wasn't exactly my decision," but added that there isn't much the Legislature can do about it except for calling another session.
On his weekly radio-TV address, Foster said he plans to keep his hands off the reapportionment process, leaving the decisions up to lawmakers "unless I find out that somebody's being really, really mistreated."
Times-Picayune House Speaker pro tem Peppi Bruneau, R-New Orleans,
who is chairman of the Reapportionment Subcommittee of the House Committee
on House and Governmental Affairs, said Louisiana was "on the cusp" of
losing a member of the House of Representatives based on the 2000 census
after going from eight to seven representatives in 1991.
The size of any state's congressional delegation is
dictated by population and growth -- or loss -- of residents compared with
In a speech to the Press Club of Baton Rouge, Bruneau
said the Louisiana congressional delegation will remain at seven members,
but unless more people move to the state, Louisiana will lose a
representative in the 2010 census.
Census data show the state's population grew by
249,000 to 4.47 million, about a 5.9 percent increase in the past decade.
Meanwhile, the growth rate in the South was 17.3 percent, and the national
population grew 13.2 percent.
"We have dropped in population from 21st to 22nd,"
Bruneau said. "We are not going to lose a congressional seat this time. We
Bruneau said the parochialism among urban, suburban
and rural areas for jobs and economic development must be overcome. "We
need to grow up . . . and think in terms of the state and an area," not
just a city or a parish, he said.
Lawmakers are expecting a special session in October
to redraw state Legislature districts as well as those for the U.S. House
and the state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Public
Service Commission and Supreme Court.
Rep. Arthur Morrell, D-New Orleans, chairman of the
Legislative Black Caucus, has called for the creation of a second
African-American congressional district. Some have proposed one hugging
the Mississippi River, from the Arkansas border down to near the New
But Bruneau said he doubts that can be accomplished.
He said although Morrell made his presentation to the committee last week
in New Orleans "and put up some maps" for the panel, Morrell has not
provided population figures or statistics on how a second minority
district can be drawn.
The only minority congressional district in the state
is a compact one in the Orleans-Jefferson parishes area represented by 2nd
District Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans.
In 1991, the Legislature created a second
African-American-majority district that ran across north Louisiana and
dipped into Baton Rouge in a Z shape. To replace that one, it created
another that formed a wedge from north Louisiana into the area south of
Baton Rouge, represented briefly by state Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge.
Both of those plans were thrown out by a federal
court, which ruled that the district was an improper racially based ger-
Bruneau said with seven congressional seats in the
delegation, it is virtually impossible to carve out a second
minority-controlled congressional district "without it being race-based to
a large degree.
"If there were eight congressional districts, it might
Because of the federal court rulings in the past eight
years that offer guidelines for drawing district lines, Bruneau said,
reapportionment should not be as contentious or divisive this year.
Ed Anderson can be
reached at [email protected]
or (225) 342-7315.
House Speaker pro tem Peppi Bruneau, R-New Orleans, who is chairman of the Reapportionment Subcommittee of the House Committee on House and Governmental Affairs, said Louisiana was "on the cusp" of losing a member of the House of Representatives based on the 2000 census after going from eight to seven representatives in 1991.
The size of any state's congressional delegation is dictated by population and growth -- or loss -- of residents compared with other states.
In a speech to the Press Club of Baton Rouge, Bruneau said the Louisiana congressional delegation will remain at seven members, but unless more people move to the state, Louisiana will lose a representative in the 2010 census.
Census data show the state's population grew by 249,000 to 4.47 million, about a 5.9 percent increase in the past decade. Meanwhile, the growth rate in the South was 17.3 percent, and the national population grew 13.2 percent.
"We have dropped in population from 21st to 22nd," Bruneau said. "We are not going to lose a congressional seat this time. We were close."
Bruneau said the parochialism among urban, suburban and rural areas for jobs and economic development must be overcome. "We need to grow up . . . and think in terms of the state and an area," not just a city or a parish, he said.
Lawmakers are expecting a special session in October to redraw state Legislature districts as well as those for the U.S. House and the state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Public Service Commission and Supreme Court.
Rep. Arthur Morrell, D-New Orleans, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, has called for the creation of a second African-American congressional district. Some have proposed one hugging the Mississippi River, from the Arkansas border down to near the New Orleans area.
But Bruneau said he doubts that can be accomplished. He said although Morrell made his presentation to the committee last week in New Orleans "and put up some maps" for the panel, Morrell has not provided population figures or statistics on how a second minority district can be drawn.
The only minority congressional district in the state is a compact one in the Orleans-Jefferson parishes area represented by 2nd District Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans.
In 1991, the Legislature created a second African-American-majority district that ran across north Louisiana and dipped into Baton Rouge in a Z shape. To replace that one, it created another that formed a wedge from north Louisiana into the area south of Baton Rouge, represented briefly by state Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge.
Both of those plans were thrown out by a federal court, which ruled that the district was an improper racially based ger- rymander.
Bruneau said with seven congressional seats in the delegation, it is virtually impossible to carve out a second minority-controlled congressional district "without it being race-based to a large degree.
"If there were eight congressional districts, it might be possible."
Because of the federal court rulings in the past eight years that offer guidelines for drawing district lines, Bruneau said, reapportionment should not be as contentious or divisive this year.
Ed Anderson can be reached at [email protected] or (225) 342-7315.
Under the tedious-sounding labels of reapportionment and redistricting, the process generally seeks to equally distribute representation according to population, with consideration for geography, demographics and common interests. But at its most politically potent, the process also can be used to protect incumbents, to create friendly districts for ambitious politicians or to help one party gain an edge over the other.
For this cycle, the big question in Louisiana is which areas will gain seats and which lose because of shifting population.
In the New Orleans area, the early figures are clear: the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain will gain influence at all levels at the expense of Orleans and Jefferson parishes.
"It's a kind of a zero-sum game, because we have a fixed number of seats," said Rep. Peppi Bruneau, R-New Orleans, who will be the guiding force on the state House side of the reapportionment process.
Under federal and state law, the Legislature is required to draw districts that include roughly the same number of people within relatively compact areas. The theory is that people from a community or region have similar interests that can be served within a single representative district. When population shrinks, the boundaries must be expanded to take in more people, sometimes putting two incumbents into the same district.
"The Constitution and laws require that every citizen's vote should count roughly the same as every other citizen's vote," Bruneau said.
"The hardest part is dealing with those areas that have lost population. It's always difficult to look someone in the eye that you've served with and say there's going to be two of you running against each other. . . . But that happens."
Drawing the lines
Race is inevitably an issue in redistricting. Although Louisiana's population is roughly a third African-American, black voters are not evenly spread across the state. That means that it's relatively easy to create a minority congressional district in the New Orleans area, where the city is about 60 percent African-American. But under recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, it has become virtually impossible to draw a second one in north or central Louisiana.
After the 1990 census, the Legislature carved out a Z-shaped minority district that meandered across the map in north Louisiana, starting in the Shreveport area and working its way south of Baton Rouge. The courts threw that out and the Legislature tried again with a wedge-shaped district jutting southeast from the Shreveport area.
That didn't work either, and the courts forced lawmakers to adopt a plan in which only one of the seven congressional districts is black-majority. That's not likely to change this year, but minority representation will be a factor in drawing legislative and other districts.
The law and a plan
It's a problem in state House and Senate districts, because black-majority legislative districts in New Orleans lost population. But Bruneau said he doubts there'll be any fewer minority districts after the Legislature has done its work, because any plan has to satisfy both the federal Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.
"If it doesn't satisfy the law, we don't have a plan," he said.
Here's how the reapportionment process is shaping up at the various levels:
Of the seven U.S. House districts, only the 3rd, represented by Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-Chackbay, is near the ideal size of 638,425 residents. Tauzin's district is 741 under that figure, but it will have to undergo changes because of the ripple effect of changing adjoining districts.
Under federal law, all of the nation's 435 congressional districts must be as near the ideal size as is practicable. Deviations of up to 5 percent each are permitted for legislative and other districts.
Census figures show that Districts 2 (New Orleans area), 4 and 5 (both North Louisiana) are under-populated, while Districts 1 (suburban New Orleans), 6 (Baton Rouge area) and 7 (southwest Louisiana) are over-populated.
District 2, represented by Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, is the state's only black-majority district (61 percent), and both Bruneau and his state Senate counterpart Chris Ullo, D-Marrero, said it will stay that way, even though it has to pick up about 46,000 new residents.
Bruneau said the district will likely expand into West Jefferson and west St. John the Baptist Parish, leaving its racial makeup similar to what it is now.
Both north Louisiana districts, 4 and 5, will have to expand southward, and politics may be involved in both cases.
Ullo said there are portions of west central Louisiana that would like to move from District 4 to District 7. And because District 5 will be an open seat in the 2002 elections (incumbent Rep. John Cooksey, R-Monroe, plans to run for the U.S. Senate) there's already been some jockeying among potential candidates in the Legislature over how the lines should be drawn.
Ullo said there is going to have to be some shifting among New Orleans area districts, but "it looks to me right now like we'll be able to work it out so that none of the incumbent senators will have to run against each other."
In Orleans Parish, districts 2, 3, 4 and 5, all minority districts, have lost population and must expand. In Jefferson, east bank districts 9 and 10 also are under-populated. Ullo said the combination of those factors could result in a Senate seat shifting from the east to the west bank.
Also, St. Tammany-based Senate districts 11 and 12 are both over-populated, but Ullo said it's not yet clear that the north shore has gained enough to justify an additional Senate seat.
Nonetheless, it's evident that the districts of Sens. Tom Schedler, R-Slidell, and Jerry Thomas, R-Franklinton, will have to shrink, and the territory they lose will have to go somewhere -- some of it possibility into the District 6 of Senate President John Hainkel, R-New Orleans. Hainkel might gain some north shore voters while giving up some in Orleans and Jefferson.
For most state Senate and House members, this reapportionment is for one election only: 2003. All veteran lawmakers will be term-limited out in 2007.
In redrawing the state's 105 House districts, Bruneau noted that "we have three areas of significant population gain: the Ascension-Livingston area (suburban Baton Rouge), St. Tammany and the greater Lafayette area. All will be gaining seats from areas where we've lost significant population -- that would be the metropolitan area of Orleans and Jefferson, and the western part of the state."
More specifically, he said that in the New Orleans area "we'll lose two seats on the east bank, one in New Orleans, one in Jefferson."
Meanwhile, the numbers make it clear that St. Tammany will gain a seat. Taken together, Districts 76, 74, 77 and 90 (all within St. Tammany) are 48,055 people over the ideal population -- more than enough for one House district.
All Orleans Parish House districts are under the ideal population, some more seriously than others. The most glaring examples are adjoining Districts 99 and 101, raising the possibility that Reps. Leonard Lucas and Cedric Richmond, both D-New Orleans, could find themselves opposing each other in 2003.
A similar, but less drastic, situation exists in abutting Uptown Districts 91 and 93, represented by Reps. Rene Gill Pratt and Karen Carter, both D-New Orleans.
In East Jefferson, Districts 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 88 and 92 are all under the minimum size for a House district, meaning that one will likely have to be dismembered to bring the others up to size. The most seriously under-populated district is 88, which was represented by veteran Rep. James Donelon, R-Metairie, until his resignation last week. Its population is 6,084 below the ideal.
"I think the east bank delegation will get together sometime soon and try to reach an agreement among ourselves," said Rep. Jennifer Sneed, R-Metairie.
Louisiana has seven high court districts, the same number as congressional, so the ideal district size is the same, 638,425. However, the court districts can have a 5 percent deviation either way, unlike the congressional ones.
The court districts most seriously under-populated are District 7, a black-majority district in New Orleans, and District 4 in Northeast Louisiana. District 7 is 62,310 below the ideal, District 4 is 62,310 under.
District 7 is served by Justice Bernette Johnson of New Orleans, District 4 by Justice Chet Traylor of Columbia.
The most over-populated district is 5 in central Louisiana, served by Justice Kitty Kimball of New Roads. It is 57,023 over the ideal size.
Bruneau said that though District 7 must grow, it will likely remain a minority district.
Board of Education:
The state's top school board has 11 members, eight elected from districts and three appointed by the governor. The ideal population for each BESE district is 558,622.
The district most seriously out of whack is District 2 in New Orleans, represented by Keith Johnson of New Orleans. The black-majority district is 42,536 below the ideal. District 8 in central Louisiana, represented by Linda Johnson of Plaquemine, is 20,985 below the ideal.
District 6 in the Baton Rouge area, represented by Richard Musmeche of Baton Rouge, is the most overpopulated: 40,460 above the ideal.
Public Service Commission:
Public Service Commission members are elected from five districts, with an ideal population of 893,765.
Bruneau said all five districts are already within the 5 percent deviation, so the state could legally skip reapportioning the PSC. "We may make some minor adjustments, but that'll be it," he said.
Bruneau is chairman of a special state House subcommittee that will oversee the reapportionment process. It will hold its next public hearing at 1 p.m. July 25 in room 165 of the Business Administration Building on the University of New Orleans campus.
Ullo is chairman of the state Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee. That panel also plans a series of statewide hearings, beginning July 24 at Alexandria. The meeting for New Orleans area parishes will be held Aug. 8 at 10:30 a.m. at UNO, with the exact location to be announced later.
Jack Wardlaw can be reached at [email protected] or (225) 342-7315.
A study released today by the Presidential Members of the U.S. Census Monitoring Board found that minorities in Louisiana lost voter representation when corrected census data was not released from the 1990 census. The study can be viewed at http://www.cmbp.gov. The study, conducted by Dr. Allan Lichtman, one of the nation's preeminent election experts, analyzed the ten states with the largest undercount in the 1990 census to find if the use of corrected census data would have affected the opportunities for minority voters to fully participate in the political process and elect officials of their choice.
Given the history of the undercount, the study could indicate a significant loss in minority voter representation if adjusted census data is not released in 2001. "The implications of these findings speak directly to the future voting opportunities for minorities in Louisiana. Without the most accurate picture of the state, equal representation is much harder to achieve," said Gilbert F. Casellas, Presidential Co-Chair of the Monitoring Board. "Louisiana is among the most affected states because of the tremendous undercounting of minorities," said Lichtman. "Minorities comprised 61 percent of the state's undercounted population. " Lichtman said the use of corrected data would have enhanced minority voter opportunities by increasing the baseline of majority-minority districts against which the next redistricting plan will be measured. The U.S. Census Monitoring Board, established by Congress in 1997, is a bipartisan board that monitors the Census Bureau's conduct of the 2000 Census. Its findings are reported every six months to Congress.
information on the Board, visit: http://www.cmbp.gov.
Redistricting should be less contentious this year than after the 1990 census, when the state lost a congressional seat and wrangled with the courts over minority districts, a leading state lawmaker says. Sen. Chris Ullo, D-Marrero, said he was pleased to see smaller-than-expected losses in the state's only majority black district, now represented by Democratic Congressman William Jefferson of New Orleans. ``We were anticipating losses of about 39,000 in Orleans Parish and it only lost 12,000, so it doesn't look like too big a problem there,'' Ullo said. ``I think we can come up with something that Bill Jefferson and the minority community will be satisfied with, along with Justice Department.''
Statewide, the black population has increased by 152,663, to almost 1.5 million, or from 29 percent to 32 percent of the state's population. But Ullo did not foresee consensus in the Legislature for forming a second black congressional district. ``I know a lot of people are thinking about trying to put that together, but I don't see how we can do it,'' Ullo said. Louisiana had two majority black districts in the early 1990s, but one, which was in the shape of a letter ``z'' was ruled unconstitutional in 1993. Ullo is chairman of the Senate and Government Affairs committee, which will reshape state Senate districts and join House leaders on redrawing congressional lines. As for the new state Senate boundaries, Ullo said he foresaw few complications. ``I see some shifting _ just a little bit with somebody having to give up couple precincts and some having to take new ones in,'' Ullo said. Still both Ullo and Senate President John Hainkel, R-New Orleans, say they want redistricting dealt with next fall in a special session that includes no other matters. ``There's always one person or another concerned about their own district and if there are other issues in there you could see some horse trading,'' Ullo said. ``I'd rather handle it on a clean basis.''
According to U.S. Census figures released in late December, Louisiana's population grew by a little more than 249,000 to about 4.47 million. Each congressional district will include about 36,000 more people than in 1990, for a total of about 638,400. The state's 39 Senate districts will grow by an average of 6,400 people to 114,600. Louisiana's 105 House districts will average about 1,400 more residents for a total of about 42,600. Growth in some districts surpassed average growth for the state, meaning their districts will have to be shifted to remove people. Those who lost population since 1990 will have to regain that plus the average district increase for the chamber in which they serve. Among congressmen, Jefferson, Reps. Jim McCrery, R-Shreveport, and John Cooksey, R-Monroe, will need to pick up more residents. Jefferson will need 48,000, McCrery 22,000, and Cooskey 28,000. Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-Chackbay, will see little change as his district is only about 1,000 people below where it needs to be. Reps. David Vitter, R-Metairie, Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge, and Chris John, D-Crowley, all will have residents taken away. Baker must lose about 45,000, Vitter 28,000 and John 26,000.
For McCrery and Cooksey, who share the entire width of northern Louisiana, there is nowhere to expand but south, probably into districts now held by John and Baker. Since Tauzin will need few changes, Jefferson likely will take from Vitter, Ullo said. State House members needing the most new voters are Reps. Lydia Jackson, D-Shreveport (9,000), Israel Curtis, D-Alexandria (9,000), and Kay Iles, D-DeRidder (10,000). Dropping the most will be Reps. John Diez, D-Gonzales (17,000), Matthew Schneider III, R-Slidell (16,000), and Mike Strain, R-Covington (14,000). Senators gaining the most residents will be Lambert Bossiere, D-New Orleans (19,000), Diana Bajoie, D-New Orleans (18,000), and Greg Tarver, D-Shreveport (17,000). Those whose districts will shrink the most are Sens. John Schedler, R-Slidell (35,000), Huelette Fontonot, R-Livingston (21,000), and Louis Lambert, D-Prairieville (20,000).
While the numbers show a few lawmakers will see substantial changes in their districts, Ullo said the Legislature should try to keep the district map as close as possible to what it is now - and not just to make the incumbents happy. ``This is something we've been tweaking for the past 30 years,'' Ullo said. ``We have districts that have been approved in public hearings and by the Justice Department, so we'll try to stick to those lines.''