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Kan. House panel introduces rival Senate map

Published on -5/2/2012, 4:17 PM

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- The Kansas House broke with tradition Wednesday by proposing its own state Senate redistricting map, signaling its opposition to new electoral boundaries approved by the Senate angering some members of the upper chamber.

The House Appropriations Committee introduced the map of Senate districts a day after the Senate approved its own version of the map on a 21-19 vote. That map collapses two western Kansas districts and creates a new district in Johnson County to account for population growth over the past decade.

"We passed our map. And that's the one we're satisfied with," said Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton Republican.

House Speaker Mike O'Neal said, however, that the map approved by senators has problems and he doesn't think it would get much support in the House. He said one issue that was overlooked was the dilution of minority populations in western Kansas districts that would be spread over three districts instead of one. Such a map could be found in violation of federal civil rights laws, he added.

"That could be reason enough to do that map, even though it got 21 votes," the speaker said. "It may not be constitutional and we may not have a choice in the matter."

O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican, said the House proposal is similar to one drawn by Sen. Steve Abrams that would merge two districts in south-central Kansas instead of two in the west of the state. The Abrams plan got 19 votes in the 40 member Senate, two shy of approval.

"We're probably going to have to start over," O'Neal said. "This is a map that got 19 votes and probably has a good chance of getting 21."

Senators were quick to charge O'Neal with attempting a "power play" to control the redistricting process, threatening for force a delay in the June candidate filing deadline and Aug. 7 primary.

"The overriding issue is if it is appropriate for the House to reverse the majority vote of the Senate," said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat. "It's the first time in my memory that one house is trying to dictate to the other what it's map ought to look like."

Senators did acquiesce to House concerns about the map when they amended it to change the boundaries of two districts where House incumbents are trying to challenge Senate incumbents in the August GOP primary. The issue clouded debate since the session began in January over criticism that moderate Senate incumbents were intentionally drawing maps to avoid competition.

The new House map includes those changes approved by the Senate in Wichita and Johnson County districts.

Also Wednesday, the Senate Reapportionment Committee endorsed a new congressional redistricting map that adjusts the lines of the four Kansas U.S. House seats. The map could go to the full Senate debate later this week.

Among the issues resolved in the map is where to put Riley County and the shape of the 4th District, which centers on Wichita and Sedgwick County.

Riley County would remain in the 2nd District. The county is home to Manhattan and Kansas State University.

The 4th District shifts east, picking up additional counties in southeastern Kansas but shedding south-central counties that would become part of the 1st District.

O'Neal said he had problems with the new Senate congressional map and the overall effects on the 2nd District, represented by Republican Lynn Jenkins. He said the map wouldn't likely have much support in the House and would require further discussion with the Senate.

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