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I am happy to report the first special session of the 107th Nebraska legislature has adjourned sine die. Nebraska has successfully completed its redistricting process. The Governor signed the six bills (maps) on the last day of September. Now other subdivisions of state government can finish drawing their precincts and other maps. Each bill had the emergency clause attached so they became law when he signed them. Unlike quite a few states who intend to wait until January to finish this vital work, we have got it done. It’s important to remember this process was made much more difficult by the federal government’s failure to provide the census information in April. States didn’t receive the data until August. The bottom line is we cannot have another election until this important work is completed, and I am glad it is.
As has happened in every census in living memory, counties in western Nebraska continue to lose population. Thirty-eight (75%) of the forty-nine senators in the body have at least a portion of the Lincoln or Omaha metropolitan area in their district. When I was in high school in the 1970s, the demographic center of Nebraska was a north-south line running through York. Half of the State’s population lived on either side of the line. As new population continues to concentrate in the eastern end of the state, now that line is about 27th street in Lincoln, and it continues to move east.
Nebraska’s constitution requires only legal residents and citizens can be counted in the census. This did not happen. The federal census bureau counted everyone including illegal aliens. I am deeply troubled by this but know of no practical way to remedy this issue.
Because of these population changes, every legislative district boundary had to change. Some changed a little; some changed a lot. The 36th legislative district (Sen. Williams) was moved to Sarpy County. This district was divided up so five different rural districts in western Nebraska could be preserved. The 43rd Legislative District which I represent was part of this realignment as well. It is now eleven counties instead of thirteen. It has grown in size to almost 18,000 square miles. It remains the largest in the State.
Like every other senator in the body who lost counties in their district, it pains me to say goodbye to so many great friends and supporters. The counties no longer in the district are Grant, Hooker, Thomas, McPherson, Logan, and the portion of Box Butte containing Alliance. Almost 12,000 Nebraskans in these counties will have a new Senator representing them. I am glad my friends Sen. Mike Groene and Sen. Steve Erdman will be picking up these counties. They are both excellent senators who fight every day for western Nebraska.
The new counties in the 43rd Legislative District are Custer, Garfield, Rock and Boyd. I will be planning town halls in these new counties in the months ahead. I look forward to getting acquainted with my new constituents and hearing about the issues they face in these new counties.