BATON ROUGE — After hours of behind-the-scenes negotiations, the House and Governmental Affairs Committee voted 14-1 Thursday to pass an amended version of the congressional map backed by Gov. Jeff Landry.
The amendment to Senate Bill 8, authored by state Sen. Glen Womack, R-Harrisonburg, was presented by state Rep. Les Farnum, R-Calcasieu, and created by multiple senators.
The goal of the amendment was to keep from dividing Calcasieu and Ouachita parishes into more than one congressional district each. However, the amended version of the bill splits East Baton Rouge Parish into three congressional districts.
“We have issues with all sorts of natural disasters in our area and a hard enough time getting the adequate supplies and resources to our region in those situations with one congressman, and I can imagine it might be a little more difficult with two,” said Farnum.
“In that effort, we set out to make ourselves whole, and in the process, a lot of folks in other areas wanted to come along and be a part of this to correct little tweaks in their area,” he said.
State Rep. Denise C. Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, strongly opposed Farnum’s amendment due to East Baton Rouge Parish being split into three districts and presented her own to replace it after it passed.
“I think it is disingenuous that we sit here and drop maps that change Baton Rouge because some senators got in a room and decided to change my district,” said Marcell. “And I am not voting for any map that has Baton Rouge split three ways.”
Marcelle’s amendment would have kept Womack’s original map except for adding Red River Parish to District 6. Her amendment was defeated 11-5 after an objection from Farnum.
Notably, all five black representatives on the committee voted in favor of Marcelle’s amendment, but Marcelle was the only committee member to vote against passing Farnum’s amended version of the map.
One-third of Louisiana’s population is black, and only one of the six congressional seats is now held by a black representative.
The Legislature rejected proposals last year to create a second majority-minority district. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a similar decision by the Alabama Legislature, and a federal district judge ordered Louisiana to come up with a new map.
Landry, a Republican who took office this month, has said he supports creating two majority-minority districts to keep the federal judge from drawing the maps.
Most black leaders would prefer to draw the maps somewhat differently to increase the percentage of black residents in two of the districts. But they have supported Landry’s plan as representing their best chance politically to gain two majority-minority districts.