GOP stands together on Minn. redistricting planby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Republicans in the Minnesota Senate say they plan to redraw the boundaries of the state's 201 legislative districts just as House Republicans are -- changes that set up a confrontation with Gov. Mark Dayton.
A House committee is expected to approve the first part of that plan Tuesday night. It combines 20 current districts in the House and six in the Senate in ways that favor Republican areas.
If the new maps survive a possible veto by the governor and an expected court challenge, some incumbents may have to run against each other, retire, or move.
House Republicans released their plan on Monday in an opening salvo in the battle over redistricting. State Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, said the Senate is inclined to adopt the House proposal.
"The Senate map will be substantially similar, if not identical," said Michel, who called the House plan a "fair proposal."
"I don't know if we're at the end of redistricting, but I like the product that has come out so far," he said.
Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature are charged with redrawing political boundaries based on population changes determined by the 2010 Census. They have to come up with plans for new legislative and congressional districts.
Republicans argue that Minnesota's population grew faster in GOP-controlled areas than DFL controlled districts, and that's why the maps favor Republican areas. But Democrats are crying foul, alleging that Republicans are abusing the process.
"Part of the problem that we have now is that the desire of the majority in the House to redraw boundaries that really benefit them politically," said state Sen. Patricia Torres-Ray, DFL-Minneapolis. "It changes the culture of so many of these districts."
By adopting identical maps, the Legislature would speak with one voice on redistricting. State Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, chairwoman of the House Redistricting Committee, said it met some of the principles Dayton laid out in an April letter to lawmakers.
Some of those principles are maintaining equal representation for all voters; keeping cities in the same district if possible; and providing fair representation for racial and language minorities.
"We put together a good plan that abides by those principles that he agreed with us that are important to have, so it's my hope that the governor is going to sign this bill," she said.
That may be a big hope. Democrats in both the House and Senate are encouraging Dayton to veto the bill.
"I would hope that the governor would ... insist upon public input or public comment," said State Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope. "The Senate, in particular, has not had a hearing outside of the building."
Anderson said she held several hearings across the state to discuss redistricting. In the Senate, Michel said he intends to allow plenty of time for public testimony.
But Sen. Torres-Ray said the Senate should have gathered advice both before and after the maps were released. She is one of 19 DFL incumbents who the House plan puts in the same district with another sitting state lawmaker. The plan pairs seven Republicans with other sitting lawmakers.
Torres-Ray said she doesn't take issue with the makeup of the proposed new district, but is unhappy that Republicans paired her with another female lawmaker, state Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis.
"That's the political design that they wanted," Torres-Ray said. "Here we are two women who care very deeply about our communities, who understand our communities quite well, who are respected in our communities. We are going to have to spend a lot of resources and energy doing this political maneuver, rather than just figuring out to resolve the issues for our communities."
If the House and Senate pass the redistricting plan, Dayton will have to act on it. Dayton's spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci said the governor hasn't taken a position yet, saying he wants to see a map that is supported by both parties.
"He's not going to support any redistricting plan that does not have broad bipartisan support," Tinucci said.
The House and Senate have not yet released their plan for the state's congressional districts, but Michel says he'll release the Senate version later this week.
If lawmakers and the governor can't agree by Feb. 21, 2012, the courts will redraw the state's political map.
- All Things Considered, 05/03/2011, 5:20 p.m.