In just a few hours, we should have a pretty good handle on what Louisiana’s future congressional districts will look like for the next 10 years. With roughly a week and a half remaining in their special session, lawmakers are being asked to choose among four remapping plans. In the Senate, there’s only one player on the floor: Senate Bill 24 by Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, which would include a swath of the metro area in New Orleans’ minority-majority district. It’s favored by local business interests and keeps the traditional nine-parish area mostly intact, while incorporating new outlying areas such as Assumption and St. John the Baptist in what is now the 6th Congressional District. It also has the two vertical north Louisiana districts favored by Gov. Bobby Jindal. As for the political rub, it separates Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, a point of acidic contention among coastal lawmakers.
Matters are exponentially more difficult in the House, where lawmakers are slated to start their hearings this morning. There are a total of three plans pending action, but there is an odds-on favorite: House Bill 6 by Rep. Erich E. Ponti, R-Baton Rouge, which passed the committee process with the largest margin so far. It includes Baton Rouge in a more easterly district that stretches through Washington and St. Tammany parishes to the Mississippi state line. It has the crucial north-south districts running vertically and keeps Terrebonne-Lafourche whole. By contrast, House Bill 39 by Rep. Dee Richard, a Thibodaux independent, addresses the coastal area’s concerns as well, but creates two horizontal north Louisiana districts, one of which could possibly yield minority representation alongside New Orleans’ historic district. The big surprise with Richard’s plan, however, is that it would extend Baton Rouge’s congressional district south through Terrebonne-Lafourche and to the edges of the Gulf of Mexico. Finally, there’s House Bill 43 by Rep. George Gregory Cromer, R-Slidell. This proposal would separate Terrebonne and Lafourche, placing the latter in Baton Rouge’s district. For the most part, the nine-parish metro area is not kept whole, but there are two vertical north Louisiana districts in Cromer’s map.