Redistricting Committee Will Air Competing Proposals in Hearings

Sept. 9, 2021, midnight ·

Senator Adam Morfeld listens in committee meeting Thursday
Sen. Adam Morfeld listens in committee meeting Thursday (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

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Amid accusations of bad faith and gerrymandering, the Legislature’s Redistricting Committee Thursday gave up for now on trying to compromise, and decided to present competing proposals in public hearings next week.

Thursday’s meeting had been billed as a session to try and find areas of agreement on the proposed redrawing of congressional and legislative districts. But right away Sen. Adam Morfeld, a Democrat in the officially nonpartisan Legislature, objected. Morfeld complained a plan he and other Lincoln senators agreed on was not included in a proposal by Committee Chair Lou Ann Linehan, a Republican. Morfeld elaborated after the meeting.

“I knew on Sunday night, when key senators reneged on a good faith agreement, that there would not be good faith in this process starting out. I hope that changes,” Morfeld said.

Linehan denied there was an agreement, and suggested the committee present both her proposal and a proposal by Sen. Justin Wayne, the Democratic vice chair of the committee, in public hearings next week. And she suggested the compressed timetable resulting from delayed census results had forced the committee to try an unusual process.

“If this was a normal process, what would happen is two senators would introduce a bill, there would be hearings on both bills, then the committee would exec (hold an executive session) and come up with a bill. We’ve been trying to do this backwards by having an agreed-on bill before we ever had hearings. We don’t need to do that. We can have hearings on both bills and then we’ll exec as a normal process, hopefully a week from tomorrow, and then we’ll come up with a bill,” Linehan said.

Executive sessions are meetings, closed to the public but open to the media, where committee hash out changes to proposed bills before advancing them to the full Legislature.

Wayne said he’s still optimistic.

“I have full faith in my colleagues that there’ll be a compromise and there’ll be a – actually, what we almost started doing here today -- where we put each map side by side and go district by district and come up with a compromise. I think out of this, and out of the public hearings, you see a third map produced by this committee,” Wayne said.

Linehan and Wayne said they plan to make minor adjustments to their proposals before they are discussed. The public hearings will be in Grand Island Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. at Central Community College, at the Capitol in Lincoln Wednesday at 9 a.m., and at the Scott Conference Center in Omaha Thursday at 10 a.m.