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Louisiana legislator sponsors bill to create an independent redistricting commission

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April 20, 2011

By Eileen McGuire-Mahony

Baton Rouge, LOUISIANA: With barely a break between finishing a bruising redistricting session and convening the 2011 regular session, Louisiana's General Assembly may yet address the matter of the state's political boundaries.

Redistricting rapidly became a non-holds barred fight between regional and partisan interests, and between competing political ambitions. While incumbents at both the state and Congressional level fared well enough, citizens in several regions are unhappy about the results and a sizable minority of legislators share that sentiment.

One, Republican Representative John Schroder, is sponsoring a bill to turn redistricting over to an independent commission in the future.[1]

Schroder's HB 405 would see 11 people named to a special commission. Each branch of the government would have some input, with the House and Senate each two appointees, and Governor having one. The final six members would be chosen by the state's Supreme Court.

Those six people would come from a list of nominees submitted by government watchdog groups and the president's of Louisiana's private universities. Some groups already identified as possibly nominators are the Council for a Better Louisiana and the Public Affairs Research Council, both of whom have been actively monitoring the 2011 redistricting process to date.

One in place, the commission would have the authority to handle all redistricting, that of both legislative chambers, the congressional districts, the state's Appellate Court and the Supreme Court, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and, lastly, the Public Service Commission.

The commission would have to submit three maps for each office and the state's legislature would have to pick one without making any amendments or changes whatsoever. If the legislature failed, the state's courts would step in.

Schroeder has an uphill battle. Getting a majority of legislators to agree to reduce, let along, give up, any power is a daunting task. After adding in the caveat that lawmakers could not amend a map received from the commission, a way to prevent politicians from passing a bill that they have amended until it bears no resemblance to the commissions's intent, only increases that challenge.

However, legislators may come under pressure from citizens and transparency groups if they refuse to do something about the unqualified fiasco that the most recent redistricting session was.

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