Despite a plea from Sen. President Jimmy Hickey, a Senate committee today defeated a motion to send a compromise congressional redistricting plan to the Senate with plans to tinker with some precincts to make population differences smaller.
At issue was Sen. Jane English’s SB 743, mirrored in the House by a bill by Rep. Nelda Speaks. Hickey proposed to give the bill a do-pass, with an understanding no vote would be held until Friday to allow for any possible amendments.
Sens. Breanne Davis and Bob Ballinger said other similar plans were drawn but had tighter population differences thanks to some changes in Pulaski County precincts. The districts range plus or minus about .4 percent from being equal.
The English map splits parts of Jacksonville and Sherwood and, by the language in the bill now, also carves out precincts from North Little Rock and Little Rock to send to either the 1st or 4th congressional districts.
Sen. Clarke Tucker noted the carve-outs are predominantly African-American areas, a problem. This is “inviting trouble,” he said. Committee Chair Sen. Jason Rapert essentially said, tough, Republicans are in charge.
Sen. Mat Pitsch of Fort Smith objected strenuously, again, to leaving part of Sebastian County in the 4th District.
Davis said the Bureau of Legislative Research could correct the splits of Jacksonville and Sherwood, so time was given to see if amendments could be drawn that would fix that.
The committee will meet again after the Senate session.
The House committee couldn’t complete action on Speaks’ bill before its session began. They will return as well.
UPDATE: Hickey at the opening of the Senate session asked to extract the bill from committee. The motion passed with the minimum 18 votes, but when the ballot was sounded, one of the aye votes was not in his chair and his vote was stricken, killing the effort.