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Filibuster dooms GOP plan for new legislative districts in Nebraska
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Filibuster dooms GOP plan for new legislative districts in Nebraska

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Take a look at the key differences in redistricting proposals for metro Omaha congressional districts.

Deadlock in the Legislature once again.

The legislative redistricting proposal supported by the Republican majority in the nonpartisan Legislature was ensnared Monday night by a filibuster, falling six votes short of the support required to end debate on the measure.

A cloture motion failed on a 27-18 count.

One Republican, Sen. John McCollister of Omaha, joined Democrats in voting against the motion; four Republicans, Sens. Robert Hilkemann of Omaha, Mark Kolterman of Seward, Rich Pahls of Omaha and John Stinner of Gering, were recorded as not voting.

The result sent the Legislature's Redistricting Committee back to work on new legislative and congressional redistricting plans; the committee's congressional plan was ensnared by a filibuster last week. 

The deadlock came at the end of a contentious debate that included allegations that the redistricting plan supported by Republicans purposely targeted some Democrats who hold nonpartisan seats in the Legislature and their districts.

The result at the end of eight hours of debate mirrored last week's inability to move ahead with a congressional redistricting plan that was also forwarded to the legislative floor on a 5-4 vote that reflected the partisan divide in the Redistricting Committee.

The Legislature now faces the challenge of finding at least 33 votes for negotiated congressional and legislative redistricting plans so they can become effective immediately and allow for orderly preparation for the 2022 elections.

The deadlock turns the spotlight on Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, a Republican, and Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha, a Democrat, who emerge as the leading figures in attempting to broker an agreement.

"We'll get there," Wayne said earlier in the day. "The momentum is toward compromise."

Linehan, who is chairwoman of the Redistricting Committee, said "we'll go back to the room to negotiate."

Wayne is vice chairman of the committee.

Monday's day-long debate centered on the overarching desire of rural senators to protect rural strength in the Legislature along with turning the spotlight on the partisan division in a unique legislative body whose senators are elected on a nonpartisan ballot.

In practical political terms, protecting rural legislative districts is tantamount to protecting Republican and conservative representation.  

A redistricting agreement is expected to add one urban seat to the Legislature to reflect urban growth documented by the 2020 census.

Monday's most spectacular fireworks were allegations that the GOP's legislative redistricting plan was aimed at individual senators who are Democrats along with districts that currently are represented by Democrats.

"We all know what actually is going on here," said Sen. Jen Day of Omaha, a Democrat.

"It's very apparent that specific senators were targeted," she said.

"My district, a suburban district, was turned into rural districts."

Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha, a Democrat who will seek reelection next year, said that under the majority redistricting proposal she would "lose 82% of my current constituents."

Cavanaugh said the redistricting plan supported by Republicans is "a partisan plan to prevent Senator DeBoer from being reelected."

Sen. Wendy DeBoer of Bennington is a Democrat.

Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln, a Democrat who was reelected to a second term in 2020, said the boundaries of her district were sharply revised because "it's not Republican enough."

All but four of the 14 distinct neighborhoods in her district were removed, Wishart said, and "the only reason is partisanship."

"How are we going to be able to work together after all of this?" DeBoer asked. "This is not us at our best. We are failing Nebraska."

"What we're doing right now is partisan," said Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha, a Democrat.

"There are some pretty strange-looking districts in Douglas County," he said.

Linehan said the redistricting recommendations were not personal, but directed at drawing reasonable districts with an eye on "how do we keep as much of rural Nebraska represented as we can."

Wayne said the redistricting maps proposed by the Republican majority on the committee was "ignoring the public" opposition to those plans expressed at hearings in Grand Island, Lincoln and Omaha.

During Monday's session, senators expressed support for an amendment that would reject the committee's recommendation that District 24 represented by Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward be moved into Sarpy County and instead reshape the district.

Speaker Mike Hilgers of Lincoln scheduled consideration of redistricting maps for the Nebraska Supreme Court and Nebraska Public Service Commission for Tuesday morning, reserving most of the day for private negotiations on redistricting.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon

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