In A Flash

Louisiana House, Senate pass new versions of their own maps

By: - February 18, 2022 2:13 pm
Page Cortez

Louisiana Senate President Page Cortez, left. (Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator)

The Louisiana House and Senate on Friday sent the final versions of their new political maps to Gov. John Bel Edwards, but not before a fight between Acadiana lawmakers spilled out into public on the House floor.

Legislators expect the maps to go into effect for the 2023 election cycle and stay in place for a decade, lawsuits or vetoes could derail those plans. 

Neither map passed with a veto-proof majority, and Gov. John Bel Edwards’ staff Friday said he hadn’t decided whether to reject the maps yet. Civil rights organizations have also threatened to file lawsuits to get the maps thrown out in court.

Sen. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, said in an interview earlier this week that he did not expect the governor to veto the legislative maps. Based on discussions prior to the Legislature’s redistricting session, Cortez said Edwards appeared most inclined to veto U.S. House map and not the lawmakers’ own political districts.

The Senate passed the House map 25-11 but would need 26 votes to override a gubernatorial veto. The Senate map was approved in a 65-31 vote in the House, where 70 votes are needed for a veto override. A handful of senators and representatives were missing from both votes.

Democrats make up the bulk of the legislators who voted against the maps in both chambers. Black lawmakers are upset that neither of the maps increase the number of majority-Black seats in the Legislature and are hoping their votes in opposition strengthen any lawsuits seeking to get the maps thrown out.

Black residents make up 33% of Louisiana’s population, but majority-Black districts make up only 28% of the seats in the newly drawn maps. Civil rights organizations argue the new legislative maps violate federal voting rights laws because they dilute the voting power of Louisiana’s Black residents. 

In addition to Democrats, a smattering of Republicans in both chambers voted against the maps, including House Republican Caucus Chairman Blake Miguez of Erath.

Miguez is upset with the makeup of Senate District 22, which now includes a chunk of Lafayette Parish that it didn’t previously have. He said some communities in his region are split across two Senate districts that should have been kept whole.

Miguez is considering a run for that Senate seat, currently held by retiring Republican Fred Mills, but several legislators have said privately that the district was rearranged to allow another House representative, Stuart Bishop of Lafayette, to also run for that job. Bishop told The Advocate that the district wasn’t drawn with his potential Senate candidacy in mind.

Bishop, who oversees tax policy and the state construction budget for the House, is close with House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and Cortez. Miguez is an outsider on legislative leadership decisions despite his job as Republican Caucus chairman. 

“I haven’t forgotten where I came from, and that’s why I’m voting no for this bill today,” said Miguez on the House floor Friday.

A few other conservative Republican lawmakers who are allies of Miguez joined him in voting against the House map. 

Other Republicans voted against the maps for reasons that have nothing to do with Miguez or the racial makeup of districts. Both the House and the Senate proposals move legislative seats across the state, upsetting local lawmakers in both parties. 

The Senate map moves a Senate district in Shreveport, currently held by retiring Republican Barrow Peacock, to the Northshore area. The House map takes a district from Natchitoches, currently held by retiring Democratic Rep. Kenny Cox, and places it in New Orleans. 

The Legislative leadership said they moved Peacock and Cox’s districts to address population losses in the northern part of the state. While Louisiana’s southeastern region grew over the past 10 years, most of north Louisiana lost residents, which meant more districts had to move south, they said.

Additionally, the House map has swapped a majority-Black seat in New Orleans and for a majority-Black seat seat near Baton Rouge. 

The lawmaker most affected by those changes is Rep. Roy Daryl Adams, an independent from Jackson, who will now have to run in the new majority-Black district in the Baton Rouge area in order to keep his legislative job. Adams could change his registration to Democrat, which would improve his chances.

In an interview, Adams said he believes House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, may have targeted his district for an overhaul because Adams flip-flopped on the speaker during a veto override fight last year.

Last summer, Schexnayder attempted to override the governor’s veto of a ban on transgender people’s participation in sports competitions. Adams has said he told the speaker he would initially vote for the override but later changed his mind and sided with the governor. Schexnayder’s efforts to override the veto ultimately failed.

After Adams voted against the speaker, Schexnayder removed Adams from the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Adams said he thinks the overhaul of his district is also the result of the speaker being angry over his veto override vote.

“I think that has a lot to do with it,” Adams said.

Other than Adams, no other incumbent that is expected to seek reelection will be running in a district where he or she is at a political disadvantage.

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press.