Congressional, legislative redistricting plans clear first round

Lawmakers gave first-round approval Sept. 24 to proposals that would modify Nebraska’s congressional and legislative districts to reflect population changes.

Congressional plan

As introduced by the Redistricting Committee, LB1 would have moved much of northwestern Douglas County, which currently is entirely within the 2nd District, into the 1st District.

The proposal, offered by Elkhorn Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, the committee’s chairperson, would have moved all of Saunders County and Sarpy County into the 2nd District. Roughly the eastern third of Sarpy County currently is in the 1st District.

LB1 stalled during general file debate Sept. 17.

Linehan introduced an amendment, adopted 38-8, that she said would keep Douglas County intact within the 2nd District. She said the proposal also would move Saunders County into the 2nd District and split Sarpy County between the 1st and 2nd districts along a boundary similar to the current one.

Under her proposal, Bellevue would remain in the 1st District, and Papillion and La Vista would move from the 2nd District to the 1st District. Thurston, Burt, Washington, Otoe and part of Polk counties would move from the 1st District to the 3rd.

Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne opposed the amendment, saying he does not “necessarily like and agree with [what] the congressional maps are.” He said some senators have expressed a desire to keep Sarpy County wholly within a single congressional district, something Wayne said could be done.

Senators voted 36-10 to advance LB1 to the second round of debate.

Legislative plan

Among other changes, Linehan’s proposal in LB3 would have combined existing districts 23 and 24 and created a new District 24 in southwestern Sarpy and southeastern Saunders counties to account for a population shift from western to eastern Nebraska.

LB3 also stalled during the first round of debate Sept. 20.

Wayne introduced an amendment on general file that instead would move District 36 from central Nebraska to western and southern Sarpy County, encompassing Gretna and Springfield.

Portions of the current district, which comprises Custer, Dawson and the northern part of Buffalo counties, would become part of districts 41, 43 and 44.

When deciding which district to move, Wayne said, the committee considered concerns about moving District 44 to the east and the further consolidation of legislative districts west of Kearney.

Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenburg, who represents District 36, said he agreed to offer his district as a “solution in this process” in part because it would position the counties he currently represents as “anchor counties” in their new districts.

He said the proposal also would allow lawmakers to complete the redistricting process now rather than take it up in January, which would delay next spring’s primary elections.

“As senators, we are often faced with tough decisions,” Williams said. “I’m making this decision because I believe it is the right decision for the state of Nebraska and my constituents.”

Brainard Sen. Bruce Bostelman opposed the amendment and the bill. He said he and Sen. Robert Clements of Elmwood drafted a plan that would not require moving a legislative district, thereby ensuring “proper representation” for rural Nebraska.

“If that means a senator on the eastern side of the state has … 1,000, 2,000 more people than the senator [in] the western part of the state, so be it,” Bostelman said.

After adopting Wayne’s amendment on a vote of 43-5, lawmakers voted 43-5 to advance LB3 to select file.

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