A special citizens’ commission will draw political boundaries after the census under a bill passing the Unicameral.
LB 580 had to overcome a filibuster before passing on final reading on a 29-to-15 vote with four senators abstaining.
Opponents say the change is not needed, that the Unicameral is charged with redrawing lines after the U.S. Census takes its official count every 10 years.
They further claim efforts to rid the process of politics are futile.
Sen. Robert Hilkemann of Omaha accused supporters, during legislative floor debate, of pushing a plan that isn’t needed.
“In 1991, it was a bipartisan effort that changed an election process that wasn’t broken,” Hilkemann said. “We are trying to do the same thing today. We are using a bipartisan ‘quote, unquote’ solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.”
The bill creates the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to re-draw lines and submit the maps to the legislature for approval.
Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha rejected suggestions there is nothing wrong with the current system.
“Talk to the public, talk to the press that covered that process; the overall view was that there was a lot of problems with that process,” Mello said. “People felt that it was very partisan. People felt that the public’s perspective and views were not taken into consideration.”
Under provisions of the bill, the independent commission of citizens would draw the lines for the state’s three Congressional districts, state legislative seats, as well as positions on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, the state Board of Education, and the state Supreme Court.
The commission would have nine members with no more than five from a single political party.
The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Pete Ricketts.