In a last-minute plea, Louisiana Senate President Page Cortez and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder are set to appear before U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick on Thursday to ask for more time to redraw the state's congressional districts.

Last week, Dick ordered a new map, with a second majority-Black congressional district, by June 20. Gov. John Bel Edwards then called a six-day special session, starting Wednesday at noon and ending by 6 p.m. June 20, to do the work.

But top lawmakers said it is not practical to get the job done in that time frame, especially on such a volatile topic. They requested an extension on Monday, barely 48 hours before the session begins.

“The current schedule set by this court would require the Legislature to redistrict (if at all) behind closed doors, without meaningful input and without opportunity to respond to that input,” according to the request submitted to the court.

“It would make little sense to invalidate a redistricting plan enacted after a lengthy process of public input and then order a new plan to be enacted by excluding the public from any meaningful involvement,” it says.

The lawmakers also said that, although they plan to pursue appeals of the current map, “the Legislature intends to make a good-faith effort in the meantime to enact a plan that satisfies the principles the court articulated.”

“The House will come in and work like we have always done,” said Schexnayder, a Gonzales Republican.

Cortez and Schexnayder are scheduled to make their pitches in person — as ordered by the judge — at 9 a.m. Thursday in Baton Rouge’s federal court.

Cortez, a Lafayette Republican, could not be reached for immediate comment.

State Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, a key figure in the Senate in the redistricting debate, said Tuesday the request makes sense.

“It is very difficult to pass a bill as complicated as a redistricting map in the time frame that Judge Dick has given us and still honor the principles of transparency and provide the opportunities for public input,” Hewitt said.

She said it is “ironic” that Cortez was ordered to appear in court at the same time he would have been presenting a new map to a Senate committee on Thursday.

Rep. John Stefanski, R-Crowley, the top mapmaker in the House, echoed Hewitt’s point.

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“Due to the (special session) call and the judge’s order, it’s basically impossible to pass anything in five days, especially something of this magnitude,” Stefanski said in a text message.

He said no House committee meetings are set for Wednesday and the initial gathering will likely be a brief one.

The Senate and House leaders are among defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed by minority voters after the GOP-controlled Legislature overrode Edwards’ veto of a “status quo” map, passed in February, that favors White Republicans in five of the six congressional districts and one Black Democrat.

Critics contend that, because the Louisiana population is nearly one-third Black, the state should have two of the six congressional districts configured in a way that minorities have a chance of winning election. Dick made the same point in her ruling June 6. Edwards has praised the court ruling.

Hewitt and others argue that the map approved by lawmakers in February meets the requirements of the U.S. Voting Rights Act.

Some Republicans are skeptical that the Legislature will be eager to pass a new map.

“Knowing the Republicans, I don’t think they’re willing to surrender this early on the judicial process,” said House Majority Leader Blake Miguez, R-Erath. “They’ll want to wait for appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Legislative leaders said in their request that bills typically take multiple days before being reported out of committee, and the Senate might get them on the fourth day and start a multiday process of its own.

“This timeline will expand, however, if there are multiple bills, amendments or lengthy debate, which add time and complexity to the process,” they said.

The Louisiana News Bureau said that, in 1994 and 2001, the Louisiana Legislature approved new congressional maps in six days.

Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, on Tuesday refiled his bill from earlier this year that would add a second majority-minority district by moving residents of the 6th District to the 5th District, resulting in Black voters making up more than half of the 5th and 2nd districts.

Asked about the request for more time, Fields said, “I am going to leave that up to the court.”

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