It appears lawmakers are reaching a consensus on a Congressional redistricting map after both Senate and House State Agencies committees advanced proposals.
On Tuesday (Oct. 5) the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs committee met to debate SB 743 – a proposal introduced by Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock.
At the start of the meeting, chairman Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, warned members that if they do not pass a bill soon out of committee that efforts to extract the bill would be made.
Senate President Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, also paid a visit to the committee and reiterated the urgency to pass English’s bill as-is and deal with amendments later, “This is already going to put us into next week,” he said.
Sen. Breanne Davis, R-Russellville, along with Sen. Bob Ballinger, R-Ozark, refused to vote for the bill and wanted amendments related to deviations.
Sen. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, requested information about splitting Pulaski County into three separate districts: the 1st, 2nd and 4th. Looking at the map, he stated, you could see it’s predominantly African-American communities and the legislature would be inviting trouble by doing so.
Sen. Mathew Pitsch, R-Fort Smith, once again expressed concerns that the map keeps Sebastian County split and they have already been split for the past 10 years – the last time redistricting occurred.
The bill without amendment failed in committee. An effort made by Hickey to extract the bill out of committee also failed. Following an amendment made, which keeps Pulaski County split, it made it out of committee. A debate on that amendment occurred in the Senate chamber, where some of the most vocal Democrats voiced concerns for Pulaski County.
“It just happens that the whole area that you’re cutting out is represented by me,” said Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock. “The area is majority-minority. I go all the way up to Rose City and beyond that whole swath on the eastern part of Pulaski County is my senate district. It is predominantly Black, doesn’t have a lot of rich people in it so you had a choice.”
“You could have kept all of the counties whole and now my fellow senator in Pulaski County is saying to me that my district just doesn’t matter,” she added.
Ultimately, the amendment passed and will be taken up by the full Senate on Wednesday.
HOUSE CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING EFFORTS
House Bill 1982, as amended, passed out of the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs committee. Rep. Nelda Speaks, R-Mountain Home, proposal also splits Pulaski County into three districts.
While her bill heads to the House floor, the chairman of the committee, Rep. Dwight Tosh, R-Jonesboro, told members if her bill doesn’t clear the House they will come back and vote on the next proposal on the agenda.
COVID-19 RELATED BILLS ADVANCE
The Senate Public Health, Welfare, and Labor committee passed SB 739 sponsored by Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton. His proposals provide would create options for employees to remain employed by allowing them to take tests to show they either tested negative or have antibodies if their employer mandates a COVID-19 vaccination.
The measure now heads to the Senate chamber.
Also on Tuesday, the House chamber passed HB 1977, sponsored by Rep. Joshua Bryant, R-Rogers, which mirrors Hammer’s proposal. This bill was transferred to the Senate.
Editor’s note: Marine Glisovic is a senior political reporter for KATV News.