Tenn. lawmakers approve GOP redistricting plans

On January 13, 2012, in News 2012, by Mark Norris

ERIK SCHELZIG, KnoxNews.com, WashingtonExaminer.com, TheRepublic.com
January 13, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Lawmakers on Friday approved new boundaries for the 132 seats in the redistricting plansand the state’s nine seats in the U.S. House.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey hailed the Republican-controlled redistricting plans as “fair, legal and logical,” though Democrats complained the process was secretive and unjust.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said it would be impossible to please every incumbent.

“It’s not perfect by any means, and there’s something about this plan that just about everyone can dislike a little bit, and some dislike a lot,” Norris said. “I’m glad this doesn’t come up any more often than every 10 years.”

Senate Republicans rejected Democratic efforts to significantly redraw the maps, though they did make a few concessions that earned them the votes of Democratic Sens. Jim Kyle of Memphis and Andy Berke of Chattanooga. The Senate redistricting proposal passed on a 21-9 vote.

In the original Senate, plan Kyle, the Senate Democratic leader, was meant to share a more conservative district with Republican Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown. But late changes instead paired Kyle with fellow Democratic Sen. Beverly Marrero.

Kyle, who said his vote for the measure was part of the negotiation process with Republican leaders, wouldn’t say whether he plans to run against his colleague.

“The first thing you do is get in the district, and the second thing you do is decide what you’re going to do,” Kyle said. “I’m not a fast decision maker.”

Berke’s district was adjusted to include more Democratic areas of Chattanooga to offset areas he will pick up in conservative Bradley County.

Ramsey said he had agreed with Kyle’s proposal to change the district lines within the Democratic areas of Shelby County “and not messing with the Republicans.”

Sens. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet and Kerry Roberts of Springfield were the only Republicans to vote against the Senate plans, which would leave Roberts without a seat to run for when his term ends this fall.

The congressional redistricting plan stopped short of splitting traditionally Democratic Nashville into several U.S. House districts,

Senate Republicans rejected efforts to redraw the lines for the 9th District in Memphis, where Democratic U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen has complained that the new lines would remove all the major Jewish institutions and much of the Jewish vote from his district.

The House had passed its plan for the lower chamber’s redrawn maps on Thursday that would draw five African-American Democrats into three seats, meaning at least two won’t return to the chamber next year.

The redistricting proposals now head for Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature. Spokesman David Smith said he expects the governor sign the measures into law.

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