Miss. lawmakers battle over redistricting plans - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Miss. lawmakers battle over redistricting plans

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By Mike McDaniel - mmcdaniel@wlbt.com

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - As lawmakers continue to battle over how the state's district lines will look, one group is demanding they stop playing politics.

It's three plans, two chambers and one statewide debate as redistricting takes center stage at the state capitol, added to the production, a new grassroots organization, headed up by Rickey Cole, demanding lawmakers put the spotlight on a solution.

"It's time for the adults in this capitol in Mississippi politics to stand up and demand cooperation, respect and compromise," Cole said.

Cole, a former state Democratic Chairman, says a redistricting plan introduced by Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant is more of personal interest rather than state interest, saying the plan is geared more towards Republican strongholds.

"Here he is running for governor, but he apparently would rather be chairman of the Republican Party, all the taxpayers pay him but apparently only the Republicans count." Cole said.

Bryant's plan, as passed by a senate committee, would keep 3 Republican senate districts intact in Hattiesburg, while another senate committee plan would collapse one, making it a democratic district.

That district belongs to Senator Tom King.

"It not only affects the Pine Belt but also other areas of the state such as North Mississippi and one on the coast," Sen. King said.

One of the underlying issues with redistricting, Cole says, is campaigning, saying Republicans just need to be a little more competitive in those already Democratic districts.

Meanwhile, the Senate killed a plan from the house, one Governor Haley Barbour called "not fair", but to Representative Bobby Moak, that's not the case.

"I certainly don't think it was unfair," Rep. Moak said. "It got more than a majority of the vote to be sent over to the Senate."

If new lines aren't agreed on, lawmakers would have to face 2 elections, one under their current districts and the other under new districts drawn up by a panel of judges.

"If we don't do this, it could wind up costing the taxpayers of the state tens of millions of dollars to have extra elections," Rep. Moak said.

"Taxpayers cannot afford litigation and special elections," Cole said. "I challenge Phil Bryant to give up demography for lent."

With all eyes now on the Senate, the so-called Bryant plan is expected to hit the floor by Thursday afternoon.

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