State lawmakers are planning a two-day retreat in which members of the House and Senate Governmental Affairs committees will meet privately to discuss the redrawing of state legislative, congressional and other districts following the 2010 Census.The redistricting could dramatically alter the post-Katrina political landscape and greatly impact areas like Lafayette, one of the state's few growth spots. An article in yesterday's Advocate reported that committee members are scheduled to meet Oct. 1-2 at the old England Air Force Base in Alexandria for closed-door sessions on redistricting. The state legislature will redraw districts in 2011 based on the new 10-year Census numbers, all of which will originate from the Governmental Affairs committees.
The nonpartisan nonprofit Public Affairs Research Council, which has been arguing for a citizen-based committee to take charge of redistricting, quickly issued a rebuke of the closed-door meetings yesterday. PAR writes:
Redrawing district lines in Louisiana is expected to be exceptionally politically charged in 2010 because of the state’s significant population loss and redistribution. Louisiana is projected to lose one congressional seat and see some shifting in state legislative power—away from parts of the New Orleans area in favor of faster growing parishes... Given the significance of the 2010 redistricting cycle for Louisiana and the potential for major shifts of power nationally and within the state, every single meeting on the subject should be open to the public so that the debate can be fully aired.
Legislative members are countering that the planned retreat is purely "educational" and will be followed by public hearings. House Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Rick Gallot tells The Advocate: “When we really start to work obviously all of that will be open. To open the educational session to the public “would only serve to distract from the real target here and that is to educate the committee. It’s not to shield anything from the public."