Frustrated by the political warfare over redistricting, Kansas Senate leaders on Tuesday said they would push for a constitutional amendment to establish a bipartisan commission to develop new district maps.
The measure will be considered during the wrap-up legislative session that starts today.
“The acrimony over redistricting casts a pall over every issue,” said Senate Vice President John Vratil, R-Leawood.
Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler, R-McPherson, and Vratil spoke with the Lawrence Journal-World on the upcoming wrap-up session.
As legislators return to work they face a daunting list of unfinished business, including writing a state budget and redistricting.
Every decade, legislators redraw state House, Senate, congressional and State Board of Education district boundaries to accommodate population shifts.
This round of redistricting has been particularly bruising and threatens to delay the Aug. 7 primaries until Aug. 28.
The proposal by Morris, Vratil and Emler, would set up a bipartisan redistricting commission that would draw new district maps, which would then be considered by the Legislature in an up or down vote without amendments.
The five-member commission would include one member selected by the Senate majority leader, Senate minority leader, House majority leader and House minority leader. The fifth member would be selected by a majority of the four other members and serve as chair of the commission.
The Senate leaders said they hoped to get their proposal on the ballot for voters to consider in November. Changes to the Kansas Constitution require two-thirds support in the House and Senate and a majority vote at the polls. If approved, the commission would be in effect for the next round of redistricting 10 years from now.
Little progress has been made on redistricting during the current session.
In the Senate, moderate Republicans have been fighting against conservative Republicans, who are aided by Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.
In the House, Republicans have been approving congressional maps that divide Democratic areas.
House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence said, “We are the only state in the country that has not completed the redistricting process. That is disgraceful and embarrassing.”