Gridlock: Remap plans hung up
By By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
Nov. 6, 2001
JACKSON Awash in political maneuvering and with their job unfinished, one house of the Legislature adjourned Monday while the other opted to come back Thursday for another shot at redistricting.
The basic issue redrawing congressional district lines as Mississippi loses one seat in the U.S. House remained unresolved. State House members voted to go home after legislative negotiators reached an impasse.
The Senate also adjourned, but voted to return Thursday at Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck's urging. Tuck said she hopes the House will return, too, based on a section of the constitution that says one house of the Legislature can not be out more than three days while the other is in session.
Sen. Videt Carmichael, D-Meridian, said, "People expect us to do our jobs, and we need to keep working."
Slow population growth over the last decade resulted in the loss of a U.S. House seat and legislators are wrestling with crafting four districts from the current five. The major difference involves a new central district that will be formed from parts of the current 3rd and 4th districts.
House conferees believe they made a major concession by putting Rankin County in a new central district during talks over the weekend. At this point, parts of Lauderdale and Clarke counties were placed in the Coast district, according to Rep. Joe Ellzey, D-Ellisville, who spent the weekend at the Capitol.
The House position, known as the "Tornado Plan," ignores past district lines and connects counties based on racial composition and voting patterns. In its original plan, the House placed heavily-Republican Rankin County in the northern district.
The Tuck Plan, produced by the Senate, seeks to keep many regional and economic interests together.
State Sen. Terry Burton, D-Newton, described the Tuck Plan as a compromise.
Monday's activity left local legislators scratching their heads, even as they indicated continued support for a regional plan that preserves the economic, military, educational, geographic and other common interests in distinct areas of the state. They particularly want to protect the I-20 corridor from Lauderdale County to Rankin County, which officials believe holds the promise of landing major automotive manufacturing operations in the future.
State. Rep. Tommy Horne, D-Meridian, said he believes Gov. Ronnie Musgrove will become involved to bring the sides back together.
If the impasse continues, Horne predicted the issue would end up in federal court.
Musgrove said redistricting was a job for the Legislature, not the courts.
They should not abdicate their responsibility to the people of Mississippi by allowing this issue to be decided in a federal court,'' Musgrove said. This work should be done in the Capitol, not a courtroom.''
For his part, U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, who would likely face U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows next year, said he hopes the Legislature will come up with a redistricting plan "that's in the best interest of our state. The only way that will happen is if personalities and partisan politics are put aside."
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3217, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.