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The special session of the Nebraska Legislature for redistricting has now ended. The last three weeks of September have been filled with the most intense negotiations I have ever been a part of. Nevertheless, we now have new district maps which will apply for the next ten years.
It was very important for the Legislature to meet the September 30th deadline. Had we not passed this redistricting legislation in September, it would have had to wait until we could revisit it in January. Revisiting these district maps in January would have been disastrous for political candidates running for office. Passing these bills in January would have given our political candidates only three or four months to conduct their campaigns before the May primary election.
Legislative district 47, which is the district that I represent, has now changed. Banner County and Kimball County have been moved into district 48, while Grant County and all of Box Butte County, including the City of Alliance have now been added into district 47. While this was not my choice, I look forward to meeting all those who have been moved into district 47.
My vote against the legislative district map should in no way be misconstrued as a vote against Grant County, Box Butte County or the City of Alliance. Instead, I voted against the legislative district map because it took a seat away from rural Nebraska and added one to Sarpy County, giving more representation to the greater Omaha metropolitan area and worsening the rural vs. urban divide which already exists in our state.
Rural Nebraskans ended up losing a seat in the Nebraska Legislature. The new legislative district map dissolved legislative district 36. Custer County now belongs to district 43 and Dawson County now belongs to district 44. The dissolving of legislative district 36 happened in a very peculiar way.
The redistricting committee held a public hearing in the City of Grand Island in mid-September. Many folks from Custer County and Dawson County came out to testify at that hearing. In fact, the majority of those who came out to testify, testified against breaking up legislative district 36. Sen, Matt Williams, who represents legislative district 36, told the committee at the hearing that day that he would not allow the redistricting committee to dissolve or divide up the district. Two days later Sen. Williams put district 36 on the chopping block and allowed the committee not only to dissolve the district, but to split up the two counties between district 43 and district 44. It is strangely odd that Sen. Williams would oppose these kinds of changes and then agree to split up the district. Why would he do that? A map was drawn up that would have protected all legislative seats.
Several Senators from rural Nebraska had prepared a redistricting map which preserved each of the 49 legislative districts in their same general vicinity without dissolving any of the districts. Their map was clearly the best map available, and it would have preserved district 36. Unfortunately, this map was never considered by the committee as a viable option.
I believe in preserving the voice of rural Nebraskans in the State Legislature. Although the voice of rural Nebraskans continues to diminish, rural Nebraskans remain the voice of reason and common sense throughout our state. Please know that I will always serve to represent all Nebraskans, but I will fight to make the voices of rural Nebraskans heard in the State Legislature. I would like to formally welcome all who are new to Legislative District 47 and encourage you to call my office with any of your comments or concerns. My office phone number is (402) 471-2616.