Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Redistricting might become a legislative brawl, but coastal Louisiana could benefit. By Walter PierceIn less than three months state lawmakers will gather for a special session to redraw Louisiana’s congressional and state House/Senate districts to conform with new census figures. This promises to be a contentious powwow for state districts as Republicans seek to solidify political gains, Democrats try to mitigate their declining clout and regional interests compete for influence.
Of equal interest will be the redrawing of Louisiana’s congressional districts. Because of a population decline since 2000, the state will forfeit one of its seven U.S. House districts. Thus far two proposals for how those districts should look have been floated — one from Louisiana Family Forum and a second from state Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville — and others are likely to come. LFF’s plan is a blueprint for marginalizing Democrats and ensuring conservative Republican hegemony; the latter is fairer to everyone, and it offers a proposal that is gaining support among lawmakers south of I-10: creation of a district spanning from Cameron to Plaquemines parishes skirting the Gulf of Mexico.
Louisiana Family Forum and its political action committee, Louisiana Family Forum Action, have historically lobbied for initiatives that, for example, marginalize our lesbian-gay population and antagonize the state’s non-evangelicals. LFF has been a divisive force in Louisiana politics, and its redistricting proposal for the state’s six congressional districts maintains that tradition and deserves skepticism.
The LFF plan dilutes the state’s black voters, the vast majority of whom vote Democrat, by combining half of black-majority Orleans Parish with the overwhelmingly white, conservative St. Tammany and Washington parishes. The other chunk of Orleans Parish is combined in LFF’s proposal with the southeastern coastal parishes and the parishes skirting the western edge of the Atchafalaya Basin.
I wouldn’t, however, call LFF’s plan a Trojan horse — we know there are Greeks huddled in its belly, ready with daggers and blood lust. And in fairness — if you can call it that — LFF’s plan appears to focus on neutering Democrats, not blacks, although in this increasingly polarized, conservative state, the overlap between Democrat and black is closing.
Harrison’s plan, in contrast, creates a district that comprises Orleans Parish, slices west through the river parishes and north to include part of East Baton Rouge — a majority black district. The U.S. Department of Justice, through the federal Voting Rights Act, is requiring Louisiana to maintain a black-majority district. Harrison’s plan seems to satisfy the VRA, although it can be fairly argued that Louisiana’s black population is still getting short shrift: 2009 census figures show very close to one third of the Bayou State’s population is black, so shouldn’t one third — two of six — of our redrawn House districts be black-majority?
Harrison’s plan is likely to run afoul of Rep. Charles Boustany of Lafayette who, as we learn in today’s news article by Jeremy Alford (“Getting Shored Up,” page 5, which also includes a map of Harrison’s proposal), is adamant that Lafayette and Lake Charles remain in the same district; Harrison’s plan divorces them, bumping Calcasieu north into a district — little changed from the current District 4 — comprising a column of parishes running north-south along the Texas border to Arkansas. If part of the rationale in redistricting is to consider geographic and cultural affinities, that is a shortcoming; Lake Chas has about as much in common with Shreveport as Lafayette has with Monroe.
But it’s a minor nit to pick; the population of coastal Louisiana from Cameron to Plaquemines has much in common — lots of Cajuns, Catholics, rig workers and fishermen, with urban pockets and college towns like Lafayette, Thibodaux and Houma. And most of this population is confronted with the ongoing ecological and economic cataclysm known as coastal erosion.
These are commonalities — exceptionalities would be a better word were it a word — that a representative in Congress can reflect and embrace.
Close to one third of the Bayou State’s population is black, so shouldn’t one third — two of six — of our redrawn House districts be black-majority?
New menu items ready for the Lenten season
The Cane Fire Film Series screens “MaidenTrip” on Monday, March 10, at the AcA.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The vibe of the tribe done modern
The Louisiana Workforce Commission said Friday that initial claims rose to 2,125 from the previous week's total of 1,964. There were 2,887 initial claims during the comparable week in 2013.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
She’s the daughter of the legendary Johnny Cash, but she’s been a gifted artist in her own right for three decades, and she’s coming to Lafayette.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Prepare yourselves for sun
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
Due to the chaos of Mardi Gras and the weather, the entry deadline for this year's INDesign Awards has been extended by one week.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
Queen Evangline and King Gabriel ruled Tuesday night
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
IND Style does Gabriel
Newsy bits for the fam
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.