Lawmakers Negotiating Redistricting Compromise

Sept. 22, 2021, midnight ·

Nebraska's George W. Norris legislative chamber
Nebraska's George W. Norris Legislative Chamber stood empty Wednesday as senators negotiated behind the scenes (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

Listen To This Story

With a deadline offered by Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers looming, Nebraska legislators conferred informally Wednesday to try and set the stage for a redistricting compromise.

It was a day when all of the action on redistricting was taking place behind closed doors. On Tuesday, Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers said if lawmakers couldn’t give first round approval to legislative and congressional redistricting maps by Saturday, he thought they should go home and try again during the regular session in January. On Wednesday, he elaborated on the schedule he has in mind, referring to the first round of debate and voting, known in legislative-speak as “General File.”

“Saturday is the day that I told everyone we have to be done with General File… In order to give us a little bit of wiggle room, I’ve told the body that my intent, and my goal, is to have General File, on the congressional and legislative maps at least ready to go on Friday. In order to do that – today’s Wednesday – I would like to have a conceptual agreement late tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon on a map that can overcome a filibuster,” Hilgers said.

So far, the main sticking points have been how to redraw the closely-divided Second Congressional District, which needs to shrink by about 50,000 people to be equal to the other two districts, and how to redraw the map of 49 legislative districts to reflect a shrinking population in the west and growing population in the east. Wednesday morning, Hilgers, a registered Republican in the officially nonpartisan Legislature, insisted he was getting closer to a deal, but declined to disclose any details.

“I’ve made progress on it but I can’t – I can’t reveal the surprise until I get the – until the cake is baked. I’ve got a couple key ingredients but the cake’s not baked yet…I just hope it’s something edible,” Hilgers said.

That process continued throughout the day, with at least 49 cooks offering their own versions of the recipe.

Sen. Justin Wayne, the Democratic vice chair of the Redistricting Committee, said late Wednesday afternoon senators were making progress on a compromise.