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SPOTLIGHT
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Stark differences between the GOP wings

Published on -5/8/2012, 9:16 AM

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There has been a session’s worth of haggling and negotiating between the House and Senate over reapportionment of the state’s congressional, House and Senate districts, and the emotions and politics of divvying up the Legislative districts are about to peak.

Legislatively, the Senate wants its districts drawn in a manner that gives moderate Republicans a chance to retain their seats and protect enough Democrats that after this fall’s elections, those moderates and Democrats can still dominate the Senate. The House — and the governor — aren’t buying that approach.

The matter is complicated because there are Republicans and Republicans, and the difference between the two wings of the party are apparent in issues such as education funding, tax policy, abortion, social service funding and several other issues important to the House and the governor.

The conservative House is more than a little fed up with the moderate Republicans/Democrats in the Senate stymieing its bills. The governor sides with the House.

The negotiations so far have been testy, but there is still one giant hammer held by the House that Statehouse insiders are watching.
It’s the up-to-now-pretty-noncontroversial reapportionment of the House that chamber has passed, and seen the Senate pass, only to be killed later.

That House reapportionment map is the weapon. The map is surprisingly, maybe amazingly, Democrat-friendly. Yes, there are a few instances where more Republicans would be added to Democrat-held districts, but practically, it is a lot more Democrat-friendly than a hard-bitten partisan would imagine from a 125-member chamber in which 92 members are Republican.

House leadership has touted its redistricting map which passed 109-14 way back on Feb. 9 as a model of bipartisan work on an important issue. And, the Senate by this time is getting a little tired of hearing House leaders stop just short of asserting that they were standing atop the water during remap deliberations for their chamber.

The bomb in the picnic basket? The possibility that the House’s Republicans might just decide that if the Senate won’t come up with a Senate map that the House likes, it may change its own map to punish Democrats there with districts that are far more Republican-friendly than those that have been approved so far by the Senate.

With 92 Republicans, that doesn’t seem to be much of a chore, does it? And, don’t forget that House Democrats realize — but don’t talk out loud about — the map that the chamber has approved for the upcoming election cycle is considerably less punishing to their party than it might have been.

House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, says he’s not personally planning to rip up the House’s own map, but that he has members in his caucus who aren’t adverse to the idea. H’s been telling House Democrats that they ought to be talking to Senate Democrats about siding with the House on a moderate-Republican unfriendly map of the Senate.

Will some House Republican, maybe one watching the calendar and hoping that the session can be adjourned by Friday, decide to pull the trigger on a new House of Representatives reapportionment map?

We presume we’ll know later this week. If it happens, well, this complicated reapportionment business gets even more complicated — and rancorous.

Syndicated by Hawver News Co. of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report. To learn more about this statewide political news service, visit www.hawvernews.com.
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