Senate doesn't need the House's help in drawing map but will have to negotiate over numbers, Thayer says

05/22/2013 10:07 AM

While Senate and House leaders acknowledge that they will have to draw new legislative district lines in a special session this fall, State Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said the House needs to stick to its own map and butt out of the Senate’s business.

Two federal court challenges have been filed to force lawmakers to act on redistricting. This week, House Speaker Greg Stumbo responded to the federal lawsuit and included a suggested Senate map .

However, Thayer said Stumbo’s suggested map improperly splits Ohio County, although the speaker’s office says an extra county could be split if lawmakers don’t count federal prisoners. The House tried to pass a new map of House districts during the 2013 regular session that didn’t count the more than 8,400 individuals housed in federal prisons around the state.

Thayer, who serves as Senate Majority Floor Leader, said the only point of controversy now is how Senate and House leaders will decide whether the new legislative districts will include those federal prisoners. He said not counting them could leave the maps open to a legal challenge because congressional district maps the General Assembly approved last year counted the federal prisoners.

Thayer also said he wants to get the districts redrawn so that lawmakers can meet the one year residency requirement if they have to move to run in a new district. But Thayer says they do not need the help of the House.

“Greg Stumbo’s Senate map reminds me of a John Grisham novel, it is a work of fiction written by a non-practicing lawyer,” Thayer said (at 4:45 in the interview below.

Thayer says he hopes Stumbo will make things less political and will apply the same standard to drawing a House map that he did to the “fictitious” Senate map.

“I think Speaker Stumbo should stick to drawing a House map that puts as few incumbents together as possible since he seemed so dedicated to drawing a Senate map that puts no incumbents together,” Thayer said (at 3:10). “I would urge him to leave the Senate map drawing to the senators.”

Thayer said it is safe to assume the chambers will pass each others maps as long as they stay within the 5 percent margin and the House gets over the “politics of retribution” that Thayer says has been driving previous House maps.

The Senate is close to drawing a map and there are multiple options according to Thayer. But he believes they will be ready by the time that a date for the special session is set.

“All things being equal and fair we would rather not have a map that puts any incumbents together if we can figure out a way to do that,” Thayer said (at 6:10). “I am not saying that’s going to happen, there still may be one or two occasions for that but we are committed under today’s circumstances to not having a map that is politically punitive.”

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