BATON ROUGE — The only Republican bill that would have increased minority representation through redistricting reached its death on the House floor Wednesday, prompting its author to give his fellow lawmakers a tongue-lashing.
Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, authored HB22, a Supreme Court map that would have created a second majority black district on the state’s seven-member court. The bill made it out of committee on a bipartisan vote but was involuntarily tabled on the House floor, much to the chagrin of its author.
“We’ll just continue to get by here in Louisiana, because we are too stupid to work together,” Ivey said in a no-holds-barred condemnation.
Rep. Mark Wright, R-Covington, moved to table the bill after asking whether it would be better to consider Supreme Court maps during the regular session in March.
Every House Democrat present voted in opposition to tabling the bill, but the motion passed 53-43, with a handful of Republicans, including Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma and the second ranking legislator in the House, and Rep. John Stefanski, R-Crowley, chair of the House committee that oversees redistricting voting, against the motion.
Over the last two weeks, Republicans, who hold roughly two-thirds of the seats in the Legislature, have advanced bills to redraw the maps of the state’s six congressional districts, its 105 House districts and its 39 Senate districts without adding any more majority-minority ones.
They have passed bills that maintain the racial breakdowns for members of the Public Service Commission and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and they had advanced a Supreme Court bill that would leave the current district boundaries largely intact.
Ivey is known to be an independent thinker. In a committee hearing last week, Ivey said, “I kind of march to the beat of my own drum.”
Several years ago, Ivey was dubbed by some lawmakers as “Mr. Transparency” for his tendency to say what he thinks.
He did so during an eight-minute speech following the vote to table the bill, during which he pledged not to bring any more legislation in the regular session.
“The apathy throughout the state is evident in each of you when you fail to act, when you can, when you should,” Ivey said. “I’ve bit my tongue over the last nine years, and I’m not going to do it anymore.”
“I tell people this institution is the laziest group of people I’ve ever worked with because it’s true, because we’ve got problems everywhere and we don’t want to solve them,” Ivey said.
State Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, took offense at Ivey’s comments.
“This is a lesson we all need to learn about,” Harris said. “Life does not give you what you want. It gives you what you deserve.”
That comment from Harris led to immediate uproar from the floor that caused House Speaker Rep. Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, to step in to calm the chamber down. Several members of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus objected to Harris’ sentiment.
“I take offense to that because you say it’s what I deserve,” state Rep. Kenny Cox, D-Natchitoches, said.
State Rep. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, defended Ivey and thanked him for his comments.
“Here’s the deal: if you’re in power and you want to keep power, and somebody calls that out, that’s not an issue. That’s just what it is,” Marcelle said. “I do believe this process is tainted.”
The special session must wrap up by 6 p.m. Sunday, but legislative leaders have indicated a desire to finish by Thursday or Friday, even though Supreme Court maps might get put aside.
Magee thought the maps would be revisited during the regular session, but added, “I’m not sure if it will get anywhere.”
Supreme Court maps are a unique beast in the redistricting session. Unlike legislative maps, the Legislature is not required to redraw them. The Supreme Court districts were last reconfigured in 1997, using data from the 1990 census, after a federal court compelled the state to create a majority-minority district in New Orleans.
Another hurdle in passing Supreme Court maps is that they require a two-thirds vote in both chambers, while legislative maps require just a simple majority, making it more of a challenge to find agreement.
Meanwhile Wednesday, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder’s state House redistricting bill, HB 14, headed to the Senate floor for final approval after a Senate committee voted 5-2 in favor of it.
“I think I accommodated almost every single member to the best of my ability and tried to make this a member-based approach,” House and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. John Stefanski, R-Crowley, testified.
Stefanski noted the bill, which redraws the boundaries of many of the state House districts, accounts for the population shift from north Louisiana to south Louisiana and boosts minority representation in District 62.
State Rep. Daryl Adams, an Independent from Jackson, holds that seat.
State Sens. Edward Price, D-Gonzales, and Jimmy Harris, D-New Orleans, objected that the bill would not increase minority representation in the House.
Stefanski’s committee on Wednesday deferred — and thus rejected — efforts by state Rep. Cedric Glover, D-Shreveport, to make changes in Schexnayder’s maps for the House districts in the Caddo and Bossier areas.
Allison Kadlubar and Margaret DeLaney contributed to this story.