Independent redistricting commission approved

The Legislature’s redistricting process will include the help of an independent commission under a bill given final approval April 13.

The Legislature has been responsible for drawing new governmental boundaries every 10 years after the decennial census for districts pertaining to the U.S. House of Representatives, the Legislature, Public Service Commission, University of Nebraska Board of Regents and the state Board of Education.

LB580, introduced by Gretna Sen. John Murante, creates the Independent Redistricting Citizen’s Advisory Commission to assist in the process beginning in 2021.

The commission will be established by Jan. 30 of each redistricting year. Each of the three legislative caucuses will appoint three people to serve on the commission, with no more than five members with the same political party affiliation.

To be eligible for service on the commission, a person must be a Nebraska resident and a registered voter who, at the time of appointment, has not changed political party affiliation within the previous 24 months.

Residents registered as lobbyists within the previous 12 months, public officials, candidates for elective office and those holding a political party office in Nebraska or the United States will not be eligible. Also ineligible will be an individual who is a relative of or employed by a member of Congress or the Legislature, a constitutional officer or an employee of the University of Nebraska.

Under the bill, the following will be delivered to the Legislature no later than 30 days after the census data is received:
• final maps illustrating each of the six redistricting plans adopted by the commission;
• any corresponding public hearing reports;
• a summary of differences between any of the redistricting plans adopted by the commission and the corresponding base maps developed by the Legislature’s Research Office; and
• formal opinions from the secretary of state and the attorney general regarding the constitutionality of the maps.

The chairperson of the Executive Board will introduce a bill for each redistricting plan adopted by the commission within two days of delivery of the final maps. The bills will be placed directly on general file.

If any of the bills fail, do not pass or are vetoed by the governor, a new redistricting plan will be prepared.

After two hours of debate on final reading, Murante filed a motion to invoke cloture, or cease debate and vote on the bill. The motion prevailed 35-11. Thirty-three votes were needed.

Senators then passed the bill on a 29-15 vote.

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