Louisiana likely to retain six House seats, for now

Staff Report

Louisiana could eventually lose a Congressional seat in Washington if state population growth remains sluggish, the chairman of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee said last week.

Louisiana’s 2.4 percent growth rate over the past 10 years trails both the nation and the Southern region, said District 42 state Rep. John Stefanski, R-Crowley.

Rep. John Stefanski, R-Crowley

The national population has grown 7.35 percent since 2010, according to the 2020 Census.

The average growth of 10.22 percent across the Southern region poses greater concern, he said.

“If we keep this trend 10 years from now, I do not think we will keep six congressmen,” Stefanski said. “I think we will lose one, so we need some major shift in Louisiana if we want to continue to have the same amount of representation in congress.”

Most of the population loss across the state has come from rural areas, particularly north Louisiana.

The two northern Congressional districts are represented by 4th District Congressman Mike Johnson, R-Shreveport, and 5th District Congresswoman Julia Letlow, R-Start.

Those two districts lost a combined 80,000 residents in the past 10 years.

Areas that have seen the most growth include West Baton Rouge, Ascension and Livingston parishes, along with Orleans Parish and areas south of Lafayette. Calcasieu’s population also grew, largely due to LNG-related jobs in the southwest Louisiana.

Iberville Parish's population dropped from 33, 387 to 30,241, according to the 2020 U.S. Census.

'A Giant Puzzle'

State lawmakers face the task of redrawing 105 state districts that will be as legal and fair as possible – a task much easier said than done, Stefanski said.

Only 39 of the 105 districts are within the allowed deviation. Each House district has to be within 5 percent – up or down – of the 44.359 deviation.

“Trying to draw 105 districts to meet that deviation is pretty difficult,” he said. "It’s a giant puzzle, in essence, where we’re trying to fit those 105 pieces in the state of Louisiana.”

One district in compliance does not guarantee neighboring districts will come into compliance.

Neighboring districts could be “way under or way over.”

“So, every district will have to change, and every member is going to have to be expecting that change,” Stefanski said.

It’s a move every lawmaker takes personal, he said.

“It’s going to be extremely personal to every member,” he said. “As I was meeting with all these members, it’s readily evident they understand their district, they know the geography the people in their areas, so this whole process is very personal to all House members.”

A majority vote is difficult to achieve because of those personal dynamics, but lawmakers will have to reach an agreement during the special session.

Lawmakers may also redraw the state Supreme Court districts. The last redistricting came in 1997, based on the 1990 population.

“As you can imagine, the state of Louisiana has changed a lot since 1990, and there is a big interest from the members on trying to redraw the Supreme Court,” he said. “But the state Constitution requires super majority for vote to change those, very difficult to get those 70 votes to redraw those districts as well.

The state must also tackle the Public Service Commission, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Congress.

Congress gets the most attention, but it’s the easiest to redraw.

Discussion on the actual remapping will not begin until lawmakers finish the redistricting “road shows” to gauge public input statewide.

“If not, we erode confidence of the public if we had drawn it up already,” Stefanski said. “What’s the purpose of taking it before the public if the thought is we already drew everything?”

Lawmakers are aiming for an early February 2022 session. Stefanski expects it to last three weeks.