Louisiana News

Louisiana Senate committee passes Senate, congressional redistricting maps

(The Center Square) – The Louisiana Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee approved new state Senate and congressional district maps Friday over objections from Democrats and others calling for more minority representation.

The committee voted 6-3 along party lines to move Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, and Senate Bill 5, sponsored by committee chair Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, to the Senate floor for further debate.

The committee deferred Senate Bills 2, 4 and 9 – all sponsored by Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge – as well as Senate Bill 11, sponsored by Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco; Senate Bill 16, sponsored by Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria; and Senate Bill 17, sponsored by Sen. Ed Price, D-Gonzalez, on the same party-line vote.

Both SB 1 and SB 5 would maintain the current number of minority majority state Senate districts. All of the rejected bills would have expanded minority representation. The votes come after the committee spent days hearing from constituents, lawmakers and advocates calling for more minority leaning districts.

Fields highlighted statistics from the 2020 census that showed the Black population in Louisiana grew by 3.78%, while the white population decreased 6.3% over the past decade. The state’s Black population now accounts for 33.13% of the total, while the white population represents 57%.

Fields’ SB 2 would have created two minority majority congressional districts: the Second Congressional District with a Black voting age population of 55.5% and the Fifth Congressional District with a Black voting age population of 55.2%.

Fields urged the committee to approve the bill or any of the four others to expand minority representation to carry the conversation about a second minority congressional district to the Senate floor for debate.

“If you choose not to vote this map favorable, there are about four other maps that (follow) this one. Vote at least one of these maps favorable,” Fields said, noting SB 2 is essentially the same map the NAACP Legal Defense Fund promoted during a redistricting roadshow leading up to the special session.

In arguing for her bill, Hewitt explained why she and other Republicans are hesitant to add a second minority majority congressional district.

“I do not believe, and there is too much uncertainty to convince us otherwise, that a second majority minority district can be drawn in Louisiana that is sufficiently compact and would perform as a minority district without greatly diminishing that opportunity to elect a candidate of choice that is currently afforded the voters in Congressional District 2,” she said.

“By taking minority voters out of a district that is 56% Black (voting age population) today and creating two underperforming districts as proposed in several other bills, we would jeopardize the current majority minority district and this Legislature would be remiss in our obligations to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

“Moreover, Congressional District 2 over the past decade has seen a drop in Black (voting age population) from 58.5% down to 56.3%,” she said. “We’re drawing this map for the whole decade, and this gives us the greatest assurance we comply with the law.”

Cortez offered the same reasoning behind not expanding the number of minority majority districts in the state Senate.

Price highlighted repeated calls for more minority representation at “every stop” of the roadshow in presenting SB 17, which includes two minority majority state Senate districts near Shreveport and West Baton Rouge.

“I just would like that this committee please consider that, bring it to the floor and let the entire body have the discussion on this bill,” he said.

Hewitt said the committee plans to take up bills Monday regarding new districts for the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Public Service Commission.

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