By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – At presstime Tuesday, a Senate committee has rejected the House’s redistricting proposal.
Last Friday the House of Representatives passed House Joint Resolution 1, which spells out new district lines in the state’s 122 House districts following the release of the 2010 Census.
Under the House proposal, all of Yalobusha County would have been in House District 33 for the first time in more than three decades.
Currently Yalobusha County is split, with District 33 composed of the northern two-thirds of the county and District 24 encompassing the southern third of the county, dividing Coffeeville. Under the House proposal, the entire county would have been in District 33.
“I think 1975 was the last time Yalobusha County had an election when the county was all in one district,” District 33 Representative Tommy Reynolds said about the plan. Reynolds has served since 1980, giving him hands-on experience with redistricting at the local and state level for the ‘80s, ‘90s and now the 2000s.
His experience landed him an active role in this year’s redistricting – he serves as House Legislative Reapportionment and Con-gressional Redistricting Chairman.
Reynolds touted the House plan, explaining that the number of split precincts in the state would be cut by more than half – from 449 to 191.
In addition to Yalobusha, four more counties would not be split by House districts under the House plan. The plan also unsplits 21 cities that have been divided, including Coffeeville.
The House voted on the Resolution last Friday, passing 65-56. The vote was split largely along party lines, but Reynolds noted there was Republican support.
Before the Tuesday vote in the Senate, Republican Lt. Governor Phil Bryant told the Associated Press that he would not automatically accept the plan, although in the past the House and Senate have accepted each other’s redistricting plans.
“The fact that 56 Republicans and Democrats in the House voted against the House leadership’s reapportionment plan indicates that the members of the Senate should carefully examine the plan for fairness,” Bryant spokesman Mike Bullock said Saturday.
“We had four Republicans that voted for this plan and there were 40 that wanted to,” Reynolds countered in a phone interview with the Herald Monday. He also cited a Saturday vote to remove a procedural block that passed with a loud voice vote and no debate.
“I know in their hearts, I have the documents they turned in,” Reynolds told the Herald about Republican involvement.
“We had more inclusion in this process, and I’ve got it over there on file, where members came and made their suggestions,” Reynolds told the Associated Press.
Reynolds said that if the House and Senate can not come up with a compromise, redistricting could land in federal court. This could also mean a repeat of 1990, when Mississippi lawmakers could not reach consensus on drawing new state legislative districts. As a result, legislators were forced to run in their old legislative districts in the 1991 general election and again in new legislative districts in a 1992 special election.
“Why should the taxpayers want to finance one election this year and another next year. We have done what we were supposed to do,” Reynolds added.
House Resolution 1 is not technically dead, a two-third vote by the Senate committee could revive it.
But Senate Elections Committee Chairman Terry Burton told the Clarion Ledger Tuesday that he doesn’t plan to have another committee meeting and doubts the votes are there to do so.