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Area lawmakers likely to support first proposed redistricting plan

Hawk Eye, The (Burlington, IA) - Thursday, April 14, 2011
Author: By CHRISTINIA CRIPPES ; ccrippes@thehawkeye.com
State representatives, senators see good and bad in proposed maps. 

When the state last redrew its legislative and congressional districts in 2001, state Sen. Tom Courtney's district was created. The proposed redistricting maps legislators in the Senate and House will vote on today are less dramatic for southeast Iowa than 10 years ago. 

Because the changes are fair and result in slight shifts to their districts, area lawmakers say they're inclined to support the bill. 

"I'm certainly not seeing any good reason to vote against it," said state Rep. Tom Sands, R-Wapello. 

While none of the six districts -- four House and two Senate -- in southeast Iowa would look exactly the same, the proposed state districts would see a few precincts lost and a few gained. 

House District 88 would resemble the current 87, which Sands currently represents. It would lose West Burlington and pick up parts of Muscatine County, including West Liberty. 

The new House District 87 would resemble the current 88, which Rep. Dennis Cohoon, D-Burlington, represents. It would keep Burlington and gain West Burlington, while losing a couple townships. 

Senate District 44 would keep its number and cover House districts 87 and 88 to resemble the seat currently held by Courtney, a Burlington Democrat. 

House District 84 would resemble the current 91, which Rep. Dave Heaton, R-Mount Pleasant, represents. It would lose the eastern part of Lee County while picking up parts of Washington and Jefferson Counties. 

House District 83 would resemble the current 92, which Rep. Jerry Kearns, D-Keokuk, represents, and would pick up the eastern part of Lee County comprised of Green Bay and Washington townships. 

Senate District 42 would cover House districts 83 and 84 and resemble the current District 46, which is held by Sen. Gene Fraise, D-Fort Madison. 

Sands and Courtney said the big fear if these proposed maps are not accepted is what the next proposal would entail. If the lawmakers reject the maps, which they are not allowed to amend, they will get a new proposal mid-May, which they would vote on in June. If the second option is rejected, lawmakers will have one more opportunity to set the final districts. 

"I think both sides are equally unhappy or happy with it," Courtney said, adding that while the first proposal may be rejected or may be vetoed by the governor, he'd be surprised if that turns out to be the case. 

Sands and Courtney also pointed to how close the populations are of each legislative and congressional district. The difference between the smallest and largest congressional districts is 76 people, or a 0.01 percent variance. The difference between the smallest and largest Senate district is 1,002 people, or 1.65 percent, and the difference between the smallest and largest House district is 587 people, or 1.93 percent. 

The congressional map will lump together four sitting congressmen -- U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-1st District, and U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-2nd District, would both live in the new 1st District, and U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, R-4th District, and U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-5th District, would both live in the new 4th District -- but where current lawmakers live is not allowed to be factored into how the maps are drawn in Iowa. 

In fact, making populations nearly equal while not dividing counties where possible is the main concern the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency focuses on when drawing the maps. 

Iowa's current 2nd District congressman Loebsack already has said if the maps are approved, he will move into the new 2nd District, since 14 of the 15 counties he represents remain in the 2nd District, just not the one he calls home. 

Former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack, a Mount Pleasant native, previously has expressed interest in running for a federal office. She has called lawmakers in the 2nd District, including Courtney, but has not made any announcements about her intentions. Loebsack also has called area lawmakers, including Courtney and Fraise. 

Heaton said he doesn't believe a visit to the Capitol planned for next week by Vilsack's husband, Tom, current Agriculture secretary and former Democratic governor, is entirely innocent. 

"There's methods to his madness," Heaton said. 

The bills with language to make the first set of maps official passed out of their respective committees earlier this week. The proposed maps can be viewed by visiting www.legis.iowa.gov and clicking on the "Iowa Redistricting" link on the left.