The committee hearings continued today with a continued discussion of splitting counties.
HB 1963 by Rep. Jim Dotson and Sen. Breanne Davis splits Sebastian, Saline and Jefferson Counties, but leaves Pulaski County whole. Davis, who hails from Pope County, proposes to move that county into the 2nd District. Dotson said the population differences in each district were negligible. Davis has a similar map, SB 725, that achieves population party by splitting Pulaski rather than Saline County. This bill would take North Little Rock out of the 2nd District and put it in the 1st.
Legislators from Sebastian and Saline County opposed splits of those counties. Davis said too much was being made of splitting counties because it means they’d have two members of Congress to call on. She also said, with the big gain in population in the 3rd District, some changes were inevitable including some that might move areas from familiar territory.
Much discussion of keeping similar communities together. But this was before the discussion of bills to split up Democratic Pulaski County.
Rep. David Ray, a Pulaski County Republican, presented a plan (HB 1964) that would split three counties including Pulaski. He’d add Yell County to the 2nd District. He’d acceded to Sebastian County’s wishes to be wholly included in the 3rd district, but he continues a split of Crawford County, while including Carroll and Madison counties. He moves most of the needed territory in the 4th District from the 3rd. His proposal would split the city of Jacksonville into two districts, one critic noted
Three Democratic proposals followed, from Rep. Vivian Flowers, Sen. Clarke Tucker and Sen. Joyce Elliott. They generally aimed at aligning Pulaski County with Delta counties with significant minority populations. Flowers would do this by splitting the northern parts of Pulaski and Lonoke counties. Flowers said minority representation was one consideration in districting decisions. She also said only one map presented so far better meets population equality but doesn’t consider minority representation. Her interest in that issue received only criticism, including from Sen.Trent Garner.
The Tucker and Elliott bills don’t split Pulaski. Tucker couldn’t attend, but Elliott presented his SB 727 as very simple. It is similar to Sen. Bart Hester’s earlier alignment except without splitting Pulaski County. Farmers from Desha and Poinsett County objected to this district because it separated counties which currently both fall in the 1st District.
Elliott then turned to her bill and continued the pitch for consideration of minority interests.
UPDATE: I had to break from coverage at this point. It doesn’t appear from today’s discussion what the shape of consensus legislation is going to be. Preserving Sebastian County seems like. Efforts to slice up Pulaski Count are popular among Republicans, though they’ll look hypocritical and partisan if this idea carries the day. Not that those attributes disqualify legislation these days.