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Louisiana Legislature schedules special session for redistricting

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The Louisiana Legislature is scheduled to hold a special session to discuss political redistricting beginning in February. The special session will convene at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, February 1, 2022 and adjourn at 6 p.m. on Sunday, February 20, 2022.

Redistricting is a process that occurs every 10 years based on population changes reflected after each United States Census is taken.

The 2020 United States Census results reveal that the state of Louisiana’s population has grown 2.74% from 2010 – 2020, a gain of over 124,000 people. Some parts of the state lost residents while other parts of the state gained residents. This means that political districts will have to be redrawn within the state.

Over the 20 days of the upcoming special legislative session, state lawmakers will redraw the state’s congressional, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Public Service Commission, Louisiana Supreme Court and state legislative (House and Senate) districts.

Under federal law, congressional districts must be drawn so that they are equal to each other in terms of population count.

One of the major redistricting issues facing Louisiana lawmakers is the decrease in population in northern Louisiana measured against the population increase in the southeastern portion of the state.

Of the 105 Louisiana House districts, 29 had too many constituents and 37 had too few. This means that 46 of these house districts will have to be redrawn, which will effectively cause a “ripple effect” throughout the state of Louisiana.

District 36 State Senator Robert Mills (R – Benton) recently sat down with the Bossier Press-Tribune in an exclusive interview for the purpose of discussing the impact that the redrawn districts will have on our region.

“The state senate districts are very concerning. Everything is going to change dramatically,” said Senator Mills.

“Every state senate district (of the state’s 39 districts) has to have by law (federal law and state law) 114,000 people (plus or minus five percent) in order to be legal. Over the years that have passed since the 2010 census, Louisiana has grown a little bit. Not much, but a little bit. We went from 4.2 million people to 4.65 million people. But unfortunately for Northern Louisiana, all of that growth was really centered around the areas north of New Orleans and in the Baton Rouge area,” Mills added.

Senator Mills went on to say “North Louisiana is just decimated. Other than northern Bossier Parish (the lakes area) and Haughton, my district (Senate District 36) has been decimated. Webster Parish lost tons of people. Claiborne Parish lost tons of people. Bienville Parish lost tons of people. Only in Bossier Parish did we have substantial growth. So, Senate District 36 as it is drawn today, is one of only two state senate districts in Northern Louisiana that is conforming to the new number.”

“The new number is derived by taking Louisiana’s 4.65 million population count divided by the state’s 39 senate districts. So, that is 119,500 people that I have to have in my district (plus or minus five percent). District 35 State Senator Jay Morris has a district that is also conforming. We are the only two districts, (literally north of Hwy. 190 in south Louisiana), that are conforming,” Mills added.

Mills went on to say, “In Senate District 39, there is a shortage of 16,600 people. Senate District 37 is 9,000 people short. So, how do you draw a legal senate district in these areas? Under law, you start with the majority minority districts. They have to be protected. A simple mathematician would say south Louisiana has grown substantially while north Louisiana has shrunk substantially. We’ll just take one of your districts in north Louisiana and move it to south Louisiana. It sounds simple until you start stepping on people’s toes and taking their state senator away. There is only one state senate district in south Louisiana that people call vacant or does not have somebody that will be an incumbent. In Northern Louisiana, State Senator Barrow Peacock in District 37 is term limited. State Senator Greg Tarver in District 39 looks to possibly pick up a bunch of Bossier Parish. District 33 State Senator Stewart Cathey looks to possibly pick up a bunch of Claiborne Parish and even some of Webster Parish. But, what are you going to do? You have to be legal. Everyone is in the same boat.”

Senator Mills concluded by saying “The most likely case is that the Shreveport – Bossier area is going to lose a state senator. Politically, that’s not good. But, you can’t generate people where you don’t have them.”

The Bossier Press-Tribune will be closely monitoring the upcoming special legislative redistricting session and bring you updates on the redistricting process as they happen.

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