Archive for Tuesday, May 8, 2012

GOP redistricting fight could mean courts make final decision

May 8, 2012

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— Kansas legislators grew increasingly concerned Tuesday that a dispute over redistricting among majority Republicans may prevent passage of any proposals for adjusting the state's political boundaries and leave the map-making to the courts.

Legislative leaders were contemplating whether the Kansas Supreme Court could intervene if lawmakers fail to pass anything. A federal lawsuit already has been filed because legislative, congressional and State Board of Education districts haven't been adjusted to account for population shifts over the past decade.

The impasse centers on redrawing state Senate districts. The Senate narrowly approved a plan favored by its moderate Republican leaders and most Democrats. The House, where conservative Republicans have a majority, expects to debate a different plan Wednesday favored by conservatives.

Conservatives contend the plan backed by Senate leaders is designed to keep them in power by thwarting challenges to incumbents in Republican primary races. GOP moderates and Democrats argue that conservatives hope to draw lines that will give them control of the Senate and eliminate it as a check on conservative Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's agenda.

Some legislators are nervous about letting the courts decide redistricting, but the Legislature is scheduled to end its 90-day session Friday. Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Tim Owens, a moderate Overland Park Republican, expressed frustration with trying to find a plan acceptable to both GOP factions.

"I'm so tired of this debate," said Owens, a U.S. Army veteran. "It's like an old expression I had in the military: Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig."

House Speaker Mike O'Neal's decision to have his chamber consider its own plan for redrawing Senate districts breaks with decades of tradition where each chamber drew a new map for its members and the other wouldn't change it.

O'Neal said the House is drafting a plan to give the Senate an opportunity to reconsider the proposal it approved on a 21-19 vote last week.

"It's out of our hands," he said. "It's totally up to them, how they handle it."

A bipartisan plan approved by the House for redrawing state representatives' districts is tied up in the dispute, as are proposals for adjusting the lines of the state's four congressional districts. Each of the 10 State Board of Education districts combines four Senate districts and can't be drawn until the Senate plan is settled.

The National Conference of State Legislatures said Kansas is the only state in which legislators haven't approved a congressional redistricting plan. Eight other states haven't finished legislative redistricting; two of them, Alabama and Mississippi, don't have legislative elections this year, and two more, Maine and Montana, plan to tackle the task in 2014, according to the NCSL.

"I've never seen it quite this bad on redistricting," said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat and, after more than 35 years, the Legislature's longest-serving member.

The Kansas Constitution says the attorney general must present House and Senate redistricting measures approved by lawmakers to the state Supreme Court. The justices can accept or reject a plan, but there's no provision for the court to draft one itself.

The state constitution also doesn't say whether the attorney general can submit a plan that has failed to pass one or both chambers to the Supreme Court.

"That's an open question," said Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a conservative Republican and former law professor. "It's certainly a question that's never been ruled on."

The pending federal lawsuit, which was filed by a Republican precinct committee woman from Olathe, suggests that a panel of three judges could allow her attorneys and Kobach to submit plans, or accept one she likes, similar to plans favored by conservatives. Kobach, the state's chief elections officer, is the defendant in the lawsuit.

Some legislators said neither the federal judges nor the state Supreme Court probably would make protecting incumbent legislators a relatively high priority in considering maps.

"It is definitely Russian Roulette game for everybody," said Sen. Dick Kelsey, a conservative Goddard Republican.

Comments

JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 11 months ago

The GOP is imploding both at the national level and even more importantly in Kansas. I hope all the moderate Republicans will take the reasonable step of joing the Democratic Party. It is the only sane thing left to do at this point.

Fossick 2 years, 11 months ago

Far be it from me to cheer the GOP*, but are you talking about the GOP that holds 75% of the House and senate seats in Kansas, every statewide office, all four congressional seats, both senate seats, and which nationally picked up 6 senate seats, 63 House seats as well as control of the House, 6 governorships, and a large number of state legislative chambers in 2010? That GOP? A lot of words might apply to the Republicans, but "imploding" is not one of them.

Here's a clue: "analysis" and "wishful thinking" have different meanings. If the Dems want to gain on the GOP here and keep what they have nationally, they're going to have to come up with some good ideas and some better candidates. Paul Morrison, Mark Parkinson, and Cindy Neighbor do not constitute a plan. Wishing, wishing, wishing for the other party to implode is not really a plan, either.

  • I voted for 3 Republicans last time around, and I'll be hard-pressed to find 2 this time who will earn my wholly irrelevant endorsement.

JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 11 months ago

I think they picked up seats because rednecks voted in response to a black man being elected president. They won't vote again as the tea party accomplished nothing. Kansas won't be fooled again by the right wing party of doom.

kansanjayhawk 2 years, 11 months ago

That is silly. Why would even a moderate join the party of tax and spend, lose moral values, and hatred for traditional America? The moderates need to compromise and do what they claim they do so well.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 11 months ago

Translation: Resistance is Futile!! You will be absorbed!!

William Weissbeck 2 years, 11 months ago

Tax and spend at the state level is hardly something Kansas Democrats have either excelled in or made a practice of. For all the recent Democratic governors, the legislature has been solidly GOP. It's a matter of priorities, like education, and avoiding the social crap. It's called governing for all Kansans, not trying to create some weird John Birch meets John Calvin/Oliver Cromwell enclave in the middle of nowhere. I wouldn't throw the lose moral values thing around too much. The GOP has more than a few whose behind closed door activities we'd all just as soon not know about.

jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

Tax and spend is better than borrow and spend. Moral values aren't lost just because they're not imposed by government. What compromise are you suggesting?

Jimo 2 years, 11 months ago

Just to clarify -- which party is "the party of tax and spend, lose [sic] moral values, and hatred for traditional America"?

ruraljayhawk 2 years, 11 months ago

Hide and watch! Brownback's policies will become known as the darkest days of Kansas politics. As he continues to steal the finances of schools, social services and justified pay increases for teachers and public servants his name will always be associated with the low point of the breakdown of one of the strongest state value institutions in this country. Redistricting to help his and his cronies reelection is going to backfire in a huge way as has happened In the past. Get the popcorn and soda ready...

kansanjayhawk 2 years, 11 months ago

I think you have conveniently forgotten that when this Governor arrived the state general fund was below $1000! Brownback will be remembered as a reformer who ushered in a new era of opportunity for all Kansans. Our faith must not be in government, in fact, big government needs to get out of the way and let the growth come from a strong private sector.

BigAl 2 years, 11 months ago

The Kansas republican party is showing exactly what is wrong with Washington DC. Today's republicans cannot work with themselves, let alone democrats. No wonder they have become the party of "no" and they refuse to compromise on any issue, even their own issues. Today's republicans are "party over country". Disgusting.

usnsnp 2 years, 11 months ago

Kind of funny watching the politicians trying to cut each others throut so they can have a district that they do not even have to campain in to get elected. They are too afraid to have an election where they wough have to campain, all they want is a sure thing so they can stay on the government gravy train. All I hear is that people are going to have to sacrifice so we can get out of the debt problem, except I have not seen a single sacrifice comming from the State or Federal elected officials.

jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

I want my tax dollars back that get spent on these lawsuits - elected officials should do their jobs.

Clearly4Kansas 2 years, 11 months ago

It's apparent that the liberal republican senate leadership (Morris, Vratle, Emler, et al) planned from the beginning to obstruct all attempts to pass a fair, representative map. That way an unelected hard left group (Ks supreme court) would draw a map that only protects the liberal elites. Rumors from state senators a few years ago was that Steve Morris and Kathleen Sebeilus met in private with the chief justice to implement the education funding decision ahead of the ruling. History will now repeat itself.

jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

Wow - I'd like to think you're being sarcastic, but I'm afraid it's not the case.

The "liberal republican...leadership", "hard left SC", etc. are figments of your imagination.

Your post shows how far the center has shifted right in some cases.

jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm not at all sure that's true, although it seems "fair and balanced".

Those on the far left are as upset with Obama and the Democrats as those on the far right.

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