A House committee Tuesday narrowly advanced two shell bills to be ready for a federal decision on the state Legislature’s redistricting plan.
House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, said the U.S. Department of Justice has until Saturday to “pre-clear” or ask for changes in the Legislature’s recently drawn districts from which state senators and representatives will be elected.
Legislators met in special session during March and April to redraw district election lines to account for population changes mapped in the 2010 U.S. census.
Federal authorities can either approve the legislative redistricting plans or suggest changes that would bring the plan into compliance, said Senate President Joel Chaisson II, D-Destrehan.
If the changes recommended are minor, then House Bill 432 and Senate Bill 170 would be far enough through the process that they could be amended to handle the changes.
Chaisson and Tucker said that the two bills will sit on the House calendar until needed. After a public hearing, the House would amend both bills, then send measures to the Senate for concurrence.
If the bills were not on the House calendar, legislative regulations would require super majorities to suspend the rules and consider just to hear the measures during the last week of the session.
The Legislature must adjourn by 6 p.m. next Thursday, June 23.
If the federal government’s recommendations are too numerous, then the Legislature will have to convene a special legislative session to handle the changes, Chaisson said.
Louisiana is a Voting Rights Act state, meaning it must win federal approval of election law changes because of a history of racially discriminatory practices.
Elections for the state Legislature are scheduled for October.
Justice Department lawyers interviewed about two dozen legislators last month about failed efforts to create a 30th majority-black election district in the state House.
The House stripped a 30th black-majority district that was included in the original plan.
The bill passed by the legislators and signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal has 29 majority-black districts for representatives.
Voting FOR pre-positioned redistricting bills (10): State Reps. Taylor Barras, D-New Iberia; Patrick Connick, R-Marrero; Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur; Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles; Cameron Henry, R-New Orleans; Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette; Nick Lorusso, R-New Orleans; Erich Ponti, R-Baton Rouge; Steve Pugh, R-Ponchatoula; and Jane Smith, R-Bossier City.
Voting AGAINST HB432 and SB170 (6): Chairman Rick Gallot, D-Ruston; and state Reps. Jared Brossett, D-New Orleans; Herbert Dixon, D-Alexandria; Girod Jackson III, D-Harvey; Rosalind Jones, D-Monroe; and Mert Smiley, R-St. Amant.