In the span of an hour and a half, a Congressional redistricting plan cleared nearly three-fourths of the hurdles needed to become law.
The new controversial map, which you can view here, splits 5 counties and reconfigures the Fourth Congressional District into northwest Arkansas.
The new map has the following features:
- Moves Madison, Franklin, Johnson and Yell counties into the Fourth
- Moves portions of Crawford, Sebastian and Newton into the Fourth
- Divides the city of Alma between the Third and Fourth
- Moves a portion of Searcy County into the Third
- Moves a portion of Jefferson County into the First
- Moves Lincoln, Desha and Chicot counties into the First
The House State Agencies Committee passed its version of the plan, HB 1836, in a contentious meeting full of resistance from Sebastian and Crawford County legislators and a large amount of parliamentary drama.
In the end, confusion on a roll call vote showed the bill clearing the House panel with the minimum 11 votes needed to spring the measure. The committee passed the bill despite pleas for more time to debate the new map from Rep. Tracy Pennartz (D-Fort Smith) and Rep. Terry Rice (R-Waldron).
The map was finalized on Monday afternoon and members had not seen the map until shortly before the vote.
On the Senate end, the Senate State Agencies Committee also approved a companion bill, SB 972. It then was considered in the full Senate and passed on a 23-12 bipartisan vote over objections from members of both parties.
Sen. Jerry Taylor (D-Pine Bluff), whose home county of Jefferson would be divided between the First and Fourth Districts by the Arkansas River, asked, "Has common sense left this building, just walked out?"
With passage in the Senate and the clearance of the House committee, HB 1836 will be considered tomorrow morning on the full House floor. If it passes, the Senate could suspend its rules and consider the bill within hours. Since it has passed an identical measure, the vote would be a formality.
If that scenario plays out, the 88th General Assembly could sine die, or officially adjourn, with all of its work completed.
House Speaker Robert Moore (D-Arkansas City) said that was a likely goal for Tuesday. He said he expected to see bipartisan support for HB 1836 on the House floor although none of the 8 Republicans endorsed it in committee.