TOPEKA — Kansas senators asked the House leadership Wednesday to avoid the temptation of making adjustments in any map that redraws Senate districts.
Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Tim Owens said the House should honor what has been legislative tradition that each chamber accepts the map from the other without making changes.
“I will not do anything with the House map if they honor the mutual respect,” Owens said.
However, House Speaker Mike O’Neal has said that if the Senate map doesn’t have strong support when it comes to the House, he would consider making adjustments to get a map that more senators could accept.
The statements between the two Republicans reveal the ongoing battle for control between conservatives and moderates. Owens is a moderate from Overland Park while O’Neal is a conservative from Hutchinson. Owens also faces a primary challenge from a conservative House member in his re-election bid.
The House approved its new map 109-14 on Feb. 9 and sent it to the Senate to consider — though in past years that has been a mere formality. O’Neal said last week that he would hope that the Senate would pass a version that redraws its 40 districts with a similar, stronger margin of support as the House bill passed.
Senators approved introducing a bill that contained a proposal from Owens putting Republican Sens. Steve Abrams of Arkansas City and Jeff King of Independence in the same Senate district in southern Kansas. Owens said he drew the lines to keep from collapsing a western Kansas district, which lost representation when the current districts were drawn in 2002.
Sen. Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, asked if there were alternatives to collapsing the southern districts, noting that the proposed lines for districts in Sedgwick County were close to the 5 percent deviation goal of the committee.
“We’re packed in there like sardines,” Wagle said.
Owens said his map was just a placeholder to start the discussion, which will continue March 7. He welcomed other proposals.
“People need to start bringing their maps out. These are the kinds of questions that we need to be talking about,” he said.