Members of the governmental affairs committees of both chambers of the Legislature, along with representatives from Lafayette’s legislative delegation, will outline the redistricting process at a public forum scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Acadiana Center for the Arts.
The redistricting of Louisiana’s legislative and congressional districts — plus districts for the state Supreme Court, Board of Elementary & Secondary Education and Public Service Commission — begins with a special session beginning March 20. The redistricting is required of states following the release of decennial census figures.
Lafayette Parish’s growth over the last decade was 16 percent; the state added more than 31,000 residents. And with significant population losses in southeast Louisiana, particularly Orleans and St. Bernard parishes, due to Hurricane Katrina, coupled with an out-migration of residents from a cluster of parishes in northeast Louisiana, a strong case can be made that Lafayette should at the least gain an extra seat in the state House of Representatives. It’s possible a Senate seat could also be carved out of Acadiana that represents at least part of Lafayette.
Leading Tuesday’s forum will be Rep. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, chairman of the House & Governmental Affairs Committee, the panel that will do the initial heavy lifting in the redistricting process. Gallot met with The Independent
’s editorial board a few weeks ago and insists that he’s going into the process with an open mind.
One contentious issue that will likely divide lawmakers along geographic lines is the proposed creation of a coastal district spanning from Cameron Parish in the west to St. Bernard in the east. A map laying out this new district, which has been endorsed by freshman U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, and several political leaders in southeast Louisiana, breaks up the current 7th Congressional District seat held by Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, and divorces Lafayette from Lake Charles. The latter would become part of a western Louisiana district hugging the Texas border from Calcasieu Parish in the south to Caddo in the north.
Boustany has come out against the coastal district idea, as have several lawmakers representing the Lake Charles area, one of whom rightfully — in our view — pointed out that a single member of congress would have been hard pressed to handle the 2005 hurricane season during which Katrina devastated the southeast coast and Rita smashed the southwest coast less than a month apart.
Boustany favors a proposed redistricting that keeps Lafayette and Lake Charles — his urban population base — together and even grabs the Houma-Terrebone portion of the current 3rd Congressional District represented by Landry. This map, however, creates a congressional district that weds northern the northern Acadiana parishes of St. Landry and Evangeline with far north parishes like Ouachita.
See the competing maps and read more about a possible future showdown between Boustany and Landry in The Ind’s Feb. 9 cover story, “Charles in Charge.”