Archive for Thursday, February 21, 2002

Senate map’s fate still unclear

Redistricting plan wins committee OK, but possible veto looms

February 21, 2002


— A Senate redistricting plan already approved by that chamber won a House panel's endorsement Wednesday, but Senate President Dave Kerr says he believes Gov. Bill Graves will likely veto it.

The plan that the House Redistricting Committee endorsed, on a voice vote, was drafted by a coalition of the 11 conservative Senate Republicans and the chamber's 10 Democrats.

Coalition members said their map made fewer changes to existing districts and was better for their political prospects than a plan backed by Kerr and endorsed by the Senate Reapportionment Committee. The coalition substituted its plan for the one Kerr favored during Senate debate and won Senate approval.

Kerr, R-Hutchinson, said Wednesday that the plan approved by the Senate was "a secret map" that ignored the committee process and he was working to find a better map.

"The way it was done, and tactics used, created a lot of anxiety, and many members feel their interests were violated," Kerr said. "I would be surprised if the governor doesn't veto it."

After meeting Wednesday with Kerr, Graves said he was letting the process work itself out before making a decision.

"I'm reserving all my options. I haven't agreed to sign or not sign," Graves said. "But, I have reservations about the Senate map."

The coalition plan for Senate redistricting was scheduled for a House debate Monday.

A key difference between the coalition's plan and the one Kerr favors is the treatment of Sen. Janis Lee, D-Kensington.

The Kerr-backed map would put Lee and conservative Sen. Stan Clark, R-Oakley, into a single new district in northwest Kansas.

The coalition's plan would collapse Lee's district and the area now represented by Sen. Larry Salmans, R-Hanston, against whom Democrats feel Lee would have a better chance for re-election in 2004.

In addition, all parties agree the lines in the coalition's map for Johnson County favor conservative Republicans by not combining rural voters in the southern part with suburban ones further north.

"My fellow conservative friends were being harmed," said Sen. Kay O'Connor, R-Olathe, a conservative who acknowledged drawing the county's districts for the coalition.

Members of the House Redistricting Committee said Wednesday that they were concerned the Senate wouldn't uphold a deal made at the beginning of the session to not change the other chamber's map and drag out the redistricting process.

"It seems to be a matter of semantics, but I made it clear to the Senate president we understood the agreement to mean they would leave our map alone," said House Redistricting Chairman Rep. Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson. "I did not get any assurances from him."

The House redistricting bill went to the Senate Reapportionment Committee earlier this week, where it remains.

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