Topeka The Kansas Senate on Wednesday approved a bipartisan congressional redistricting plan that puts all of Lawrence in the 2nd U.S. House District.
The measure passed 23-17 and now goes to the House, where it is expected to face opposition because it moves Manhattan, which is now in the 2nd District, into the 1st. Fifteen Republicans and eight Democrats voted for the plan, and 17 Republicans voted against it.
Today, east Lawrence is in the 3rd District and west Lawrence is in the 2nd.
Legislators have to redraw district boundaries to accommodate for population shifts that have occurred over the past 10 years.
The vast 1st District, which covers western and much of central Kansas, lost population and needs about 58,000 people to reach the ideal district size.
Most of the debate Wednesday dealt with how to add population to the 1st. A Senate committee approved a plan putting Manhattan in the 1st.
But the Kansas Republican Party, Kansas Chamber of Commerce and key Republican officials oppose that move. During debate in the Senate, all of Gov. Sam Brownback’s top staff members were in the chamber monitoring the action.
Sen. Mike Peterson, R-Wichita, proposed a map that would have kept Manhattan in the 2nd, but it would have split Topeka between the 2nd and 1st Districts.
Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, said the proposal seemed like a good fit because the Topeka school district had a lot of at-risk students, the same as in western Kansas.
But Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said the proposal needlessly split a community of interest just as legislators had done 10 years ago to Lawrence. “There is no greater community of interest than a city of the first class,” Hensley said. Peterson’s proposal failed, 17-22.
Earlier, Sen. Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan, proposed a map that would have kept Manhattan in the 2nd and extended the 1st into the top northern tier of counties to the Kansas-Missouri line. But that failed, too.
Reitz said Manhattan wanted to stay in the 2nd District because it is represented by U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka. She has a position on the Appropriations Committee and that is crucial to funding the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility and Fort Riley, he said.
But as the debate wound down, Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, said U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, who represents the 1st, would do a good job representing the interests of Manhattan.