Topeka Lawmakers on a special committee redrawing congressional boundaries meet today with about a dozen proposed maps before them.
But it's the unofficial maps to split Lawrence between two congressional districts that have captured everyone's attention.
The committee plans to start narrowing its choices and possibly vote on a congressional plan early next month that will be presented to the Legislature when the 2002 session starts in January.
"Lawrence is the final question," said Sen. David Adkins, a Leawood Republican, and co-chair of the Special Committee on Redistricting.
Once the 2000 Census was complete, it was obvious that the growing 3rd Congressional District, which includes Lawrence and the Kansas City area, would have to give up some population to the 2nd District.
"I love Lawrence, but you just can't fit that many pickles in the jar," Adkins said.
Republican legislative leaders hinted openly that Lawrence should be prepared to be split between the 3rd and 2nd districts. Even Gov. Bill Graves said that would be OK with him.
But Lawrence community leaders have vehemently opposed such a move, saying the city would suffer if it had to coordinate federal projects between two congressional offices. Plus, they said, Lawrence should stay in the 3rd because it is linked economically, especially through Kansas University, with the Kansas City area.
Splitting Lawrence "is not the appropriate thing to do," said Rep. Troy Findley, a Lawrence Democrat and member of the redistricting committee.
Findley and Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley have devised a map that would keep Lawrence in the 3rd District.
Republicans oppose the proposal because it would move Riley, Pottawatomie and Geary counties from the 2nd District to the 1st District.
But the most recent flare-up occurred when Democrats released a map they said originated with 2nd District U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, a Republican. The map puts KU in the 3rd District and most of Lawrence west of Iowa Street in the 2nd.
Ryun denied he endorsed such a proposal. His Washington office chief of staff Mark Kelly said the map simply was part of a discussion aimed at trying to gain consensus among the Kansas congressional delegation.
The map also splits the southeast Kansas town of Parsons in Labette County, a proposal that has gained the ire of state Sen. Derek Schmidt, an Independence Republican and also a member of the redistricting committee.
"Southeast Kansas was mutilated 10 years ago," during the last round of redistricting, Schmidt said. "I would like to see it put together, not torn apart more."