Two identical Congressional redistricting maps, a Senate and House version, have been sent to the governor’s desk. HB 1982 and SB 743 splits two counties within the state, Sebastian and Pulaski.
Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, and Rep. Nelda Speaks, R-Mountain Home, worked together and co-sponsored each other’s proposals.
While lawmakers such as Sen. Mat Pitsch, R-Fort Smith, were displeased with splitting Sebastian County for another 10 years, the biggest pushback was the Pulaski County split. The measure splits Pulaski County into three Congressional districts; the 1st, 2nd, and 4th. It also splits Little Rock into two districts.
On the north side of the river, in the Rose City area, there are three precincts that are being moved from the 2nd Congressional district into the 1st. South of the river, the southeast part of the county will be moved into the 4th district.
This measure did not sit well for several lawmakers including Rep. Fred Love, D-Little Rock, who reiterated in the House chamber that while the intent may not be to split minority communities, that is the impact it will cause.
“This map adversely impacts African-Americans. I did not know that my house was drawn into the 4th Congressional district, if we were talking about communities that have likeness and share likeness, parts of Little Rock do not belong in the 4th Congressional district. The interests are totally different,” said Love.
Sen. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, who has previously run for the 2nd Congressional District seat, said there were other maps drawn and proposed that kept all the counties whole. He said other options could have been discussed.
“In every other southern state, they have managed to draw at least one majority-minority Congressional district and they have all sent African-American members to Congress,” said Tucker.
“We’re the only southern state that has never sent an African-American member to Congress and we have an opportunity to draw a majority-minority district. But not only are we not doing that, we’re actually slicing and dicing the minority population,” he added.
Most lawmakers who supported this map said it was about population and not dividing minority communities. Critics predict that a federal lawsuit will be filed to void the map due to the minority concerns.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he is reviewing the bills and will decide next week.
Four bills have been sent to the governor’s desk – the two Congressional maps and two COVID-19 bills aimed at allowing employees to take tests instead of a vaccine if an employer mandates it.
A resolution to sine die on Oct. 14 at noon failed to pass in the Senate, meanwhile the House postponed the vote pending the Senate’s approval.
Editor’s note: Marine Glisovic is a senior political reporter for KATV News.