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Archive for Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Kansas House moves remap bill; Senate plans debate

February 8, 2012

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— The Kansas House gave first round approval Wednesday to a bill that redraws its members' districts to shift power within the chamber from rural communities to the Kansas City metropolitan area.

House members advanced the bill on a voice vote, setting up final action Thursday. The bill is expected to pass with bipartisan support, and both House Speaker Mike O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican, and Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, praised the measure.

Lawmakers must adjust the boundaries of their districts and the state's four congressional districts to account for changes in population over the past decade. The Senate was expected to consider multiple proposals Wednesday afternoon when it debated a congressional redistricting bill.

The House's debate on new boundaries for members' district was brief and free of partisan tensions that have marked past redistricting debates.

"All of us have some things that we'd like to change about this," Davis said. "I think we have gotten through this about as well as we could."

Reps. Trent LeDoux, a Holton Republican, and Forrest Knox, an Altoona Republican, proposed relatively small changes that would have affected districts in their areas. But O'Neal urged members not to alter the plan as drafted by the House Redistricting Committee, and the two amendments failed.

"There is an infinite number of ways you could draw these maps," O'Neal said. "This is not a perfect product, but I think it is a very good product."

The version of the bill approved by the House is likely to become law because, by tradition, neither chamber alters the plan for the other's districts. However, the two chambers often have disputes over a congressional map.

The bill before the Senate would expand the under-populated 1st Congressional District of western and central Kansas to sweep in the Manhattan area in northeast Kansas. Local officials want to remain in an eastern Kansas district, and some Republicans, including O'Neal, have criticized the measure.

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