New legislative map finalizedRepublicans block amendments, including Kloucek’s Bon Homme plan.
By: Bob Mercer, The Daily Republic
PIERRE — The Legislature adopted new boundary lines for its 35 districts Monday. The new districts will be used for the 2012 through 2020 elections across South Dakota.
The map follows the lines exactly as recommended last month by the Legislature’s redistricting committee.
Republicans, who hold majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate, stayed together as a bloc Monday and rejected the nine amendments offered by Democrats and the one amendment proposed by a Republican.
The map was submitted by House Speaker Val Rausch, R-Big Stone City, and Senate Republican leader Russ Olson, of Wentworth. The committee made several adjustments but kept the basic alignments as proposed by Rausch and Olson.
House members debated for more than two hours before voting 50-18 for the committee map. The vote closely tracked party lines. One Democrat, one independent and 48 Republicans supported the plan in the House, while one Republican joined 17 Democrats in opposing its passage.
Senators voted for the plan 31-4 after a 55-minute debate. All 30 Republicans and one Democrat voted for it.
Sen. Jim Hundstad, D-Bath, said the situation was remindful of the no-amendment approach taken when the annual budget bill arrives for final passage.
“I had the feeling before we came that the bill had been written and the discussion was held. No surprises,” Hundstad said.
The votes were lopsided against six Democratic amendments offered in the House by representatives Frank Kloucek, of Scotland, Elaine Elliott, of Aberdeen, Susan Wismer, of Britton, Susy Blake, of Sioux Falls, Larry Lucas, of Mission, and Peggy Gibson, of Huron.
Senators on voice votes rejected the amendments offered in that chamber by Republican Jim Putnam, of Armour, and Democrats Jim Bradford, of Pine Ridge, Angie Buhl, of Sioux Falls, and Hundstad.
Rep. Mitch Fargen, the assistant Democratic leader from Flandreau, urged House members to vote against the Republicans’ map because it splits Brown County across three districts and doesn’t condense Rapid City’s northside neighborhoods into one district.
Fargen said districts that have lopsided advantages for one party are difficult areas for recruiting legislative candidates.
House Republican leader David Lust, of Rapid City, said citizens received more opportunities to be involved in the committee’s process than ever before. The committee as a whole held six meetings in Pierre and subcommittees held 11 more meetings throughout South Dakota.
Lust said the Democrats’ criticism focused on four “narrow areas” of disagreement regarding the splits of Brown County, Bon Homme County and North Rapid City.
“I think that’s a tribute to members of the redistricting committee,” he said. “We need to pay attention to the assent of the silent majority.”
The committee made numerous accommodations based on public testimony throughout the months-long process leading to the final map.
The House and the Senate rejected amendments that sought to keep Bon Homme County within one legislative district rather than two.
The final plan managed to keep Day and Hamlin counties intact, after the Republican plan initially sought to split Day and the Democratic plan proposed dividing Hamlin.
Brown County will be split between three districts, rather than two districts as it has been. “We thought it would be fair to have our fourth-largest county to have representation in three legislative districts, not just two,” Olson said.
Democratic lawmakers proposed various amendments that offered different approaches to divvying up Brown, but in the end none was accepted. A Brown County amendment that Sen. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, discussed during a morning committee hearing wasn’t offered.
“We’re not able to find compromise in Brown County,” Olson said.
The Republican and Democratic proposals matched on 14 of the 23 districts outside Rapid City and Sioux Falls. The committee dealt with overall growth of 59,000 population, with 25 counties gaining people and 41 decreasing.
Bon Homme, Butte and Spink counties are the three rural counties that will be represented by legislators from two different districts. Currently six rural counties have dual representation.
Hundstad said Brown County could wind up being represented by fewer legislators who are county residents. Parts of Brown will be in a district with Day, Marshall and Roberts counties, while other parts of Brown will be in a district with most of Spink and all of Clark and Hamlin counties. Most of Aberdeen will comprise the third district for Brown County.
“I don’t think we serve the people very well when we go between Columbia and Estelline, the two ends of that southern district,” Hundstad said.