BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana lawmakers ended a special session Saturday saying they were unable to agree on a new congressional map that includes a second majority Black district as ordered by a federal judge, prompting an angry blast from the governor.
U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick on June 6 had struck down the state's original U.S. House map approved earlier this year by lawmakers, one with white majorities in five of six districts. It retained a single majority-Black district currently held by U. S. Rep. Troy Carter, a New Orleans Democrat.
On Saturday, the Senate Senate spent two hours grappling with the remapping issue and then took an hourlong recess to see how proposed changes to a last-ditch bill might settle out. But the bill's sponsor, Sen. Rick Ward III, R-Port Allen, said none of the proposed amendments presented could muster the 20-vote minimum needed for Senate approval, The Advocate reported.
“When you’re dealing with something like this, every time you satisfy four people you lose four people,” Ward told the Senate. “When you satisfy six people you lose seven over here. It is a difficult task.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a statement later Saturday lashing out at the lawmakers for failing to come up with a new map. Since the Legislature did not devise a new map in the session, it now appeared likely any remapping of boundaries would fall to the courts.
“It is disappointing that after every opportunity to do the right thing and create a second majority African-American congressional district as ordered by the U. S. Court for the Middle District the Legislature has once again failed to do so,” Edwards said.
The Republican-dominated legislature and Edwards, a Democrat, have been fighting over the boundaries since February, when lawmakers initially approved their map. Democrats and the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus argue that the current map dilutes the political clout of African American voters and that at least two of the six districts should have Black majorities. Nearly one-third of Louisiana’s population is Black.
Dick, the federal judge, had originally ordered the Legislature to come up with a new may by Monday, which was the deadline for the six-day special session called by Edwards. On Friday, the judge then ordered attorneys to submit proposed maps with a second majority-Black district by June 22, with a hearing on the issue set for June 29.
Backers of the order said the Legislature had a duty to comply with the federal court.
Critics said the issue will ultimately be decided in the federal courts and possibly could rise to the U. S. Supreme Court.
Lawmakers had said for days that any hopes for agreement in the GOP-controlled Legislature appeared unlikely.
A House committee on Friday rejected three bills that would have added a second majority-Black congressional district. A Senate committee on Friday voted 6-3 against a plan by Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, to do the same after two days of testimony.
“There was no will from the Legislature,” Fields said after the session ended. “That is why we are where we are in Louisiana.”
The sudden end of the session finished a six-day roller coaster on the issue.
Dick on Thursday rejected a request by Louisiana Senate President Page Cortez and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder to extend her deadline for action until at least June 30.
The judge also had blasted the House for only devoting 90 minutes to the issue on the first day of the special session, and stopped just short of accusing Schexnayder of ignoring a federal court order.