The officially nonpartisan Legislature staged what looked like full-scale partisan wrangling over congressional redistricting Monday before giving the bill the second of three required approvals.
Senator Russ Karpicek of Wilber is one of the minority of registered Demcrats in the officially nonpartisan Legislature. His district includes Saline County, one of the few counties in the state where Democrats outnumber Republicans.
Ten years ago, Saline County was switched out of the Lincoln-area First Congressional District and into central and western Nebraska's Third District.
Karpicek wants it switched back, and made it clear he would filibuster in an attempt to get that done. He offered a map that would do that, and keep Sarpy County divided the way it is now - something that the Republican majority wants to change.
Under Karpicek's map, the state's three congressional districts would differ in population by only one voter. Lincoln Senator Bill Avery, a Democrat, said that was better than the Republican-supported map, which differs by up to 273 voters.
Citing U.S. Supreme Court decisions, Avery suggested that big a deviation would lead to a successful court challenge. ""What we're doing here is messing around with things that will not stand constitutional scrutiny," he declared. " So I'm asking you to step back a bit, take off your partisan hats, and ask yourself do you want to come back here in a special session and redo this once more?"
Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, a Republican, offered an amendment that kept the division of Sarpy County and the position of Saline County favored by his party members, but reduced the population differences to one by dividing Gage County. When Karpisek insisted on pursuing his proposal, Lautenbaugh temporarily withdrew his, while still defending it as a solution to criticism raised during the first round of debate.
"It would address the concerns that were so vocally voiced last week," he said, "if people are of a mind to actually do that. So you can ask yourself who is playing games here? Ask yourself who is actually trying to correct some issues that were raised, meritorious or otherwise, on General File?"
Karpisek's proposal was defeated, 28-16, and senators defeated another proposal to adopt a map drawn by the nonpartisan Legislative Research Office on a vote of 30-14. Lautenbaugh then offered his amendment. Senators adopted it, and then voted 34-14 to give the bill the second of three approvals it will require before being sent to the governor.
Congressional redistricting set for final passage
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May 22, 2011 - 7:00pm