Legislature Will Take One More Round of Testimony Before Redistricting

The proposed boundaries for South Dakota’s 35 legislative districts evidently aren’t yet a done deal.

Two of the Legislature’s leaders said Tuesday they will hold one more meeting of the redistricting committee.

The meeting will be Monday morning, 90 minutes prior to the official opening of the special legislative session when the new lines will be adopted.

The redistricting committee’s co-chairmen, Senate Republican leader Russ Olson, of Wentworth, and House Speaker Val Rausch, R-Big Stone City, decided to allow one more round of public testimony.

The committee met five times previously as a group and also held various public meetings hosted by subcommittees in reservation areas, Sioux Falls and Rapid City.

The last meeting of the full committee was at the Capitol on Sept. 27, when the panel adopted a recommended map that was to be offered to the full Legislature at the Oct. 24 special session.

Now there are signs that version of the map might be only preliminary. Olson said Tuesday that the committee will accept proposed amendments and maps through the close of business Thursday afternoon at the Legislative Research Council office.

Democrats, who are in the minority in the Legislature, don’t like some features of the map that was adopted Sept. 27. One of the most controversial features is the proposal to split Brown County across three legislative districts rather than two as has been the case for decades.

The vote on the recommended map broke along party lines during that Sept. 27 committee meeting. The committee’s 10 Republicans who were present voted for the map while the three Democrats opposed it.

The map was based on a proposal from Rausch and Olson. The committee adopted several amendments offered by members of both parties before splitting along party lines for the final vote.

The desire to allow additional public testimony on the final amended version of the recommendation was announced Tuesday afternoon.

Rausch and Olson plan to convene the redistricting committee at 8:30 a.m. Monday and take public testimony for approximately one hour.

The special session will follow, starting at 10 a.m. The House of Representatives will consider the map first, followed by the Senate.

House and Senate committee hearings aren’t planned.

The only purposes of the special session are to adopt new boundaries for South Dakota’s 35 legislative districts for the 2012 through 2020 elections and to adopt new boundaries for the state’s five Supreme Court districts.

New boundaries are drawn each decade after results of the U.S. census are complete.

One request for change is already being assembled by Rep. Frank Kloucek, D-Scotland. He is pushing for Bon Homme County to remain united in one legislative district rather than be split in two districts as has been recommended by the redistricting committee.

Kloucek said he’s gathered the signed backing of Bon Homme County’s five commissioners, the Springfield mayor and city council members, and the Avon mayor and city council members.

What he wants the Legislature to do is switch the alignments of numerous counties in south-central South Dakota.

His proposal calls for all of Bon Homme, rather than part, to be in a district with Douglas, Hutchinson and McCook counties. Putting all of Bon Homme with those counties would require finding a new home for Hanson County.

Kloucek wants to put Hanson with Davison County. That would mean finding a new home for Jerauld and Aurora counties, which are part of a district with Davison under the redistricting committee’s plan.

Jerauld and Aurora would be placed with Tripp, Gregory and Charles Mix counties under the Kloucek plan. The committee’s proposal has the southwestern precincts of Bon Homme with Tripp, Gregory and Charles Mix instead.

Kloucek said his proposed changes wouldn’t have any bearing on his residential eligibility. He lives in the part of Bon Homme that would be part of a district with Hutchinson, Douglas and McCook either way.

But there could be ramifications for two Republican incumbents, Rep. Ed Van Gerpen, of Avon, and Rep. Stace Nelson, of Fulton.

Under Kloucek’s plan, they would be in the same district as he would be. Under the committee’s plan, it appears Van Gerpen would be part of the district to the west with Tripp, Gregory and Charles Mix.

It appears Kloucek’s plan would put three House incumbents in one district while leaving just one House incumbent, Rep. Kim Vanneman, R-Ideal, in the other.

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