Redistricting hearing held in Grand Island

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 10:47 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Nebraska lawmakers met in Grand Island Tuesday for the first of three redistricting meetings to be held throughout the state. The Unicameral redraws boundary lines every 10 years to make the population as even as possible in each congressional district.

Two plans were drawn up by two state senators to even out population in the areas seeing the most growth.

Sen. Justin Wayne, a Democratic representative for District 13 and Vice Chair for the Redistricting Committee, drew up his plan by adding part of Sarpy County to the 1st Congressional District, keeping Douglas County intact and moved Platte County to the 3rd Congressional District.

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, a Republican representative for District 39 and Chairperson for the Redistricting Committee, had a different plan. She split Douglas County in half and added Saunders and Sarpy Counties to the 2nd District.

The redistricting process is being based off the 2020 federal census, which Wayne said normally becomes available earlier in the year. However, due to COVID-19, the committee is a bit behind their usual schedule. Wayne added that in addition to the census coming out later than usual, they have 30 days to make a final decision compared to the 90 days they’re typically given.

During the first hearing, members from different congressional districts spoke, stating their opinion on the redistricting plans. Though the focus of the redistricting plans were in and around Omaha and Lincoln, boundaries in the entire state could be affected by these decisions.

Senator Matt Williams, a representative of District 36, said he doesn’t agree with the plans to redraw district lines that affect his area.

“Re-configuring a legislative district can cause significant disruptions, not only to schools and hospitals, but also to businesses and our state’s number one industry - agriculture,” Williams said.

Wayne said, since 2010, four congressional districts in western Nebraska had seen a loss in population, while three districts in the eastern side of the state had seen a drastic growth in population.

Because of rules set by the legislature, the committee held hearings like the one on Tuesday to help guide their decisions.

“LR134 is our guiding principles that the entire legislature adopted such as, preserving the core and community interest which means we don’t want to take a community and move the entire district without trying to preserve that core group of constituents to make sure their voices are heard,” Wayne explained.

He said this was only one example of LR134 and that there were a few more guiding factors behind the principle.

The next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 15 in Lincoln. The final hearing is planned for Sept. 16 in Omaha with the floor debate beginning Sept. 17.

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