Lawmakers have one week left to wrap up their redistricting efforts, which have so far been nothing short of fitting for political theater. The Senate is backing a congressional plan opposed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, who does seem to have the House in his corner, as is usually the case. The proposed maps for Louisiana’s legislative seats snuck through the committee process Tuesday with only a little friction, but many House members are still hellbent on making changes to the Senate’s plan. They may have a chance to do so today, as both legislative plans receive action on the floor.
Then there’s everything else that needs to be remapped, like the Public Service Commission, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the courts. Technically speaking, all of the new political maps must be completed no later than 6 p.m. April 13, and they must pass muster with the U.S. Department of Justice, which is charged with ensuring Louisiana and other southern states apply special standards to minority districts. Of course, lawmakers can extend their special session, but not by much; from April 25 to June 23, they have a regular session scheduled as well.
The Louisiana Constitution mandates that districts must be redrawn by Dec. 31; but this year’s timetable doesn’t allow for many months more of debate, since statewide elections are slated to take place in the fall. Moreover, to meet the statutory pre-clearance submission deadline, legislative and BESE districts will have to be enacted and pre-cleared by Aug. 29. Congress, the PSC and the Louisiana Supreme Court will all hold elections in the fall of 2012, so those plans have a more flexible deadline for pre-clearance, as in June 27, 2012.
Most or all of these plans are in play today at the State Capitol. Lawmakers haven’t sent up any red flags yet when it comes to time constraints. However, they have been warned a few times by legislative leaders, such as Rep. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, who chairs the key redistricting committee in the House. “I imagine if we have to come back,” he told his colleagues last week, “you will.”