Speaker of Louisiana House of Representatives gives members day off Thursday despite the complaints he will tell a federal judge that there is not enough time to redraw Louisiana’s congressional districts to meet a court-ordered deadline next Monday.
House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, began the five-day special session on Wednesday, saying the break is in the interest of “transparency” in that it will give the public time to consider four different proposals that the representatives have tabled.
Schexnayder and Senate President Page Cortez R-Lafayette will appear before U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick for the Central District of Louisiana on Thursday. They filed a motion for a 10-day extension to its June 20 deadline for the Legislature to adopt a new map of Louisiana’s six U.S. House districts.
The special session could see few changes to the maps drawn by the GOP
Dick, an appointee of President Barack Obama, ruled against legislative leaders on June 6 in a lawsuit, Robinson v. Ardoin, from a group of black Louisiana voters who filed a lawsuit to block implementation of the Congressional map that the GOP-led Legislature approved in February. This map has only one out of six majority black districts, despite one-third of the state’s population being black, according to the 2020 census.
The House will begin consideration of four newly proposed maps in committee on Friday. The Senate, where two bills on the card have been introduced, will begin committee hearings on Thursday.
“It doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense to me,” D-New Orleans Rep. Royce Duplessis said. “We should meet tomorrow.”
Duplessis filed a of three House bills that call for a majority black second congressional district in Louisiana. Schexnayder is the author of the fourth bill, a status quo map that keeps the number at one. The two senates proposals too to differ in the number of black neighborhoods.
Many Republican lawmakers are still hoping for a bailout from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, where defendants in the voters’ lawsuit challenged Dick’s decision. She found the Legislative Assembly racially gerrymander five of the six districts to favor white conservative candidates and specifically ordered lawmakers to redraw them to include two majority black districts.
In his opening remarks to House members on Wednesday, Schexnayder said the special session was “premature and unnecessary” because the appeal is still pending. Members of the Legislative Black Caucus pointed out on Wednesday that three 5th Circuit judges rejected the speaker’s argument when they lifted a temporary suspension of Dick’s decision on Sunday. Although a separate appeals committee has yet to rule on the merits of the case, the judges who ruled against the stay said the defendants were unlikely to succeed in their appeal.
Responding to the speaker’s remarks, Rep. Tammy Phelps, D-Shreveport, said it was “premature” for legislative leaders to hire lawyers in the middle of the first redistricting session to discriminate against black voters. .
Around the middle of the first redistricting session in February, the Illuminator reported that the GOP leadership contracted with a private law firm for “redistricting advice” at taxpayers’ expense, which the contract now places at $60,000 per month. Few details have been made public about the work BakerHostetler does for lawmakers, and only a select few GOP legislative leaders have had access to their advice.
On Wednesday, across the aisle from the House, Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, said lawmakers had an obligation to at least attempt to comply with the judge’s order to draw a majority black second district. He urged his colleagues not to bet on a speculative appeal decision.
“I recognize that the probability of failure is much greater than the probability of success,” Ivey said. “Having said that, I believe it behooves us to at least try” to endorse a black second quarter.
Ivey, who opposed a black second congressional district in February and voted to override the governor’s veto on the current map, proposed a New version Wednesday would add a second black quarter.
Duplessis asked Schexnayder if his proposal would comply with Justice Dick’s order that any map adopted must have two majority black districts. The speaker avoided a direct response, saying only that his proposal “conforms to the redistricting”.
“We’re either going to obey the law or we’re not going to obey the law,” Duplessis said.
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