Legislators shift focus to redistricting process

Staff Report

A sense of accomplishment prevailed among state lawmakers after a productive 2021 session, but a much tougher challenge may loom this fall.

Much of the discussion will focus on the redistricting, a process that follows the release of findings from the census every 10 years.

A census conducted during a pandemic adds to the typical concerns the effect of participation – or lack thereof – will dictate the redistricting process.

Meetings to begin the process usually kick off during summer, but uncertainty over the participation could lead to concern over accuracy.

Rep. Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine

“It’s going to be quite interesting,” said State Rep. Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine. “For my district, in particular, we’re still waiting for the numbers, but some will remain at the status quo and others will pick up constituents.”

The jury is still out in Iberville, although Plaquemine and St. Gabriel could both see at least modest growth.

The tally could be somewhat higher in West Baton Rouge Parish, particularly in the Brusly/Addis area, thanks to a housing boom in the past 10 years.

Most lawmakers peg Ascension and, to a lesser degree, Livingston parishes as the two areas that stand to gain the most from the census and subsequent redistricting process.

“It’s going to be something to figure out when it comes to redistricting off a census conducted in the pandemic, but the preliminary numbers look like the state population has shifted to south Louisiana, particularly the I-10/I-12 corridor,” said state Sen. Ed Price, D-Gonzales, who represents the St. Gabriel area.

The biggest shift will come from the New Orleans area, which sustained a loss of approximately 150,000 residents in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Those numbers have since rebounded to the population prior to the hurricane that left thousands homeless and triggered a migration away from the Greater New Orleans region.

The northern portion of the state stands to lose the most in the redistricting process, particularly with outward migration from areas such as Shreveport and Monroe.

“The preliminary numbers suggest that the state will revert to more representation from the River Parish region and less from the northern part of the state,” Price said. “Either way, it’s going to be a battle because of all the new population.

“You can tell how a parish has grown by the number of new registered voters,” he said. “In that respect, Ascension has grown immensely.”

Informal meetings among lawmakers will begin later this summer, either in late August or early September.

They will follow those meetings with a statewide tour to promote the plans and gauge public opinion.

The process will culminate with a special session, likely in February, to finalize the plan.

Both the congressional and state legislative districts are drawn by the state legislature. The lines are subject to veto by the governor.

The decision on district lines shifts to the Louisiana Supreme Court if the legislature cannot approve state legislative boundaries.

The guidelines imply that the legislative districts – both state and congressional – are contiguous and respect recognized political boundaries and natural geography “to the extend practicable.”

The state House of Representatives has 105 members, while the state Senate has 39.

The Republican Party holds a super majority in both chambers.

The House consists of 68 Republicans, 35 Democrats and two independent members.

Republicans comprise 27 Senate seats, while Democrats occupy 11. One seat remains vacant.