Senator: Legislators should ‘think regionally’ about redistricting

Sen. David Adkins, R-Leawood, pointed to a painting of a steer running from three cowboys.

“I brought a visual aid here,” Adkins joked. “The steer is Lawrence and I’ve been trying to catch it all session.”

Adkins, chairman of the Senate Reapportionment Committee and 2002 attorney general candidate, joined Lawrence and Douglas County legislators for a Capitol Connections breakfast at The Hereford House, 4931 W. Sixth St. About 70 people attended the Chamber of Commerce event, sponsored by The Lawrence Journal-World and Southwestern Bell.

Trying to pin down where Lawrence should go in the fierce congressional redistricting battle has been difficult. In the past, the community has been a “pingpong” between the 2nd and 3rd districts, Adkins said. Now, legislators are considering splitting the city something Adkins is not interested in.

Lawrence is currently in the 3rd District with the Kansas City area and is represented by U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, the only Kansas Democrat in Congress. Lawrence officials have said they want to stay in the 3rd District, citing the city’s economic links to Kansas City.

“I do believe there is an emerging and important area of interest between Kansas City and KU,” Adkins said.

He said he was urging legislators to “think regionally” when drawing new district lines, and to keep communities of interest together. That might mean moving Lawrence to the 2nd District, which is represented by conservative Republican Jim Ryun.

“What we have been told is, if we cannot keep Lawrence whole and in the 3rd District, Lawrence would prefer to remain whole,” Adkins said.

Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, criticized current redistricting maps.

“It’s gerrymandering at its best or worst, depending on your opinion,” he said. “It was a map that basically was drawn at the behest of the Republican National Committee and the Bush administration.”

Redistricting and budget decisions were the main topics of discussion at the breakfast, and tough decisions are expected for the end of the legislative session, which reconvenes Wednesday.

“A stormy day is perhaps what’s ahead of us when we go back on Wednesday,” said Sen. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence.

The legislators also talked about ways to boost revenue, such as increasing taxes on cigarettes, alcohol and franchise fees. Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, said Kansas should look to increase tourism by running ads similar to those of Oklahoma or Branson, Mo.

“Surely if Oklahoma has something, we have something in Kansas we can be looking at, too,” she said.